Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Nico & Vinz: The Right Stuff

Nico & Vinz
Nico & Vinz Nico & Vinz Nico & Vinz Nico & Vinz

Having shot to global stardom earlier this year with the international chart-topping success of their irrepressibly-melodic, lyrically-inspirational breakthrough single “Am I Wrong”, Norwegian-born-and-raised singer/songwriter duo Nico & Vinz this month deliver their musically-eclectic new album “Black Star Elephant”. Which in turn finds the African-rooted twosome effortlessly blending elements of soul, R&B, reggae, West African dance, hip hop and rock with a radio-friendly Scandinavian pop vibe to create an engaging collection of well-crafted songs enhanced by soul-stirring messages of optimism and hope for the future.

Indeed, featuring production from such seasoned Scandinavian studio bods as William (Will IDAP) Wiik Larsen, Thomas Eriksen and the world-conquering Stargate, “Black Star Elephant” boasts a decidedly-diverse array of musical moods ranging from the hook-laden, inspiring European single “In Your Arms” and soulfully-pounding, anthemic “When The Day Comes” to the joyously-skipping, African-guitar-and-percussion-driven “Last Time” and hauntingly-buoyant, African-folk-tinged “Homeless”.

Comprising Nicolay Sereba (of Norwegian-Ivorian origin) and Vincent Dery (of Norwegian-Ghanaian origin), the twosome now known across the globe as Nico & Vinz initially came together in their home town of Oslo, Norway in 2009 under the name “Envy”. Though it wasn’t until 2011 that they would attain their first taste of domestic success with their Top 20 debut single “One Day”. Which - going on to earn a Spellemann Award (Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy) would the following year result in the arrival of their Norwegian Top 40 debut album, the intriguingly-titled “The Magic Soup And The Bittersweet Faces”.

Meanwhile, it was following the initial April 2013 Norwegian release of the aforementioned “Am I Wrong” and its ensuing pan-Scandinavian chart-topping success that in early 2014 - on signing to Warner Bros. Records in the USA - the twosome would eventually end up changing their name to “Nico & Vinz”. After which said trailblazing single would in the coming months go on to prestigiously top the charts in no less than 41 countries (including both the UK and US) while equally-impressively holding down the Number One position on the worldwide airplay chart for a consecutive eight weeks.

All of which brings us conveniently back to today As, on the eve of the release of their aforementioned new album, a friendly and upbeat Messrs. Nico & Vinz take time out during their first-ever UK promo trip to enjoy a bright’n’breezy introductory chat with “Blues & Soul” Assistant Editor Pete Lewis.

Titling their new album “Black Star Elephant”

NICO: “Well, Vinz’s parents come from Ghana - where they call themselves ‘The Black Stars’ - while my dad comes from The Ivory COAST, where we call ourselves ‘Les ELEPHANTS’! And so for the album title we decided to create this character called ‘Black Star Elephant’ whose life story we describe throughout the record on the Interludes where we actually have my father and uncle telling his STORY. You know, we talk about how it all started with him setting out towards his goals and his dreams from a small village - which symbolises NORWAY, where WE’RE from - right up to where he is right NOW, which symbolises where WE are right now... So yeah, we sing a lot about IDENTITY, a lot about things that we SEE every day, and just stuff in general that two 23-year-old boys have GONE through. Which is why I think the topics on the album are very universal and very RELATABLE, because I think everybody at one time or another has been through most of the stuff we’re TALKING about.”

What they primarily wanted to achieve musically

VINZ: “I think we just wanted to make something that felt like US and that showcased our INFLUENCES. Like there’s rock influences in there, there’s African music influences in there, there’s hip hop, there’s pop... And really I guess the whole mentality behind it basically just came from us sitting there in Oslo in our studio a couple of years ago thinking ‘How can we make people NOTICE us and how can we get people’s ATTENTION?’… You know, because there are so many musical artists in the world we knew that we needed to be UNIQUE. And so to do that we decided we needed to pinpoint what was SPECIAL about us - like having African roots and being born in Norway to parents that were immigrants and the very different point-of-view of the world that can BRING… So yeah, we basically just put all that down and blended it into the MUSIC. And so musically the album is basically just the OUTCOME of all that.”

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To read more from our interview with Nico & Vinz, including the full story behind their breakthrough global smash “Am I Wrong" …pick up a copy of the latest Blues & Soul magazine at your local magazine retailer, inc; WH Smith, Menzies + selected Euro Foods, Cost Cutters and a plethora of independents everywhere… if they don't stock it, ask for a "B&S shop save" and they will get it for you.

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