Singer-songwriter Ilgen-Nur‘s EP “No Emotions” (2017) and her single “Matter of Time” (2018) focus on the intimacy of her honest and personal reflections of her fears, vulnerability and self-discovery during her teenage years up to the present. Before her show at schon schön in Mainz, April 16th, we asked her a few questions about her music influences, the German music scene, and her relationship with social media.
Many of your songs deal with your teenage years and were written for yourself. How would you describe your teenage years looking back on them in a few years from now?
I’d describe my teenage years as mostly awkward but also exciting. It was a weird mixture of switching school and not having friends to like having friends but mostly being on my own in my room and spending a lot of time on the internet, tumblr and youtube to be specific. The memories I find the most special were discovering films and music that I really loved and still love for the very first time and like really obsessing over them (Nirvana, Hole and Bikini Kill were the big ones!). And also just like having a hard time in school and just daydreaming in class about things I want to do as an adult like moving out and playing music and traveling and actually having friends lol.
You have stated earlier that along Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black”, Kate Nash’s “Made of Bricks” had a huge influence on your EP. What was your biggest inspiration with these two albums?
Well both of these artist weren’t a particular influence on my EP but definitely on me as a musician. Amy Winehouse’s „Back to Black“ alongside with a Beatles and Bob Marley album and probably Robbie Williams were the only American/English CDs my parents had laying around when I was growing up so they really stuck with me. And „Made of Bricks“ by Kate Nash was like one of the first albums I got for myself when I was like 11, and I remember listening to the entire album and knowing that I’ve wanted to do music and immediately started writing songs. Kate Nash has been a great role model and inspiration from the beginning cause I really like her honest and funny and sad and direct almost diary like songwriting, and also she’s been really vocal about feminism and being a woman in the music industry.
Kate Nash once said that “it is important to push boundaries, to try new things, and not to re-create”. Which direction will you go when working on your debut album?
I don’t think I specifically pushed boundaries or taken any major risks with the album but I was definitely more experimental as in it has more slow songs but also more fast songs on it and I really opened up on some of the songs lyrics. I definitely re-create though, and I believe every musicians does because we’re influenced by so much music all the time and use that as an influence if we like to or not. It’s really hard to create music that hasn’t been done before but also everything you do is really new in some way because every songwriter is unique in some ways but also a lot of songwriters sound really similar. So yeah I really have mixed feelings on that and I do partially agree with the statement but also don’t.
“17” or “Cool” focus on the state of searching for one’s identity. To what extend do you think that this search for one’s self changed throughout the years, with social media and all?
I believe I’ve gotten more confident with my search for identity but obviously it’s still a huge thing that occupies my mind and that I still write songs about but it’s not as bad as when I was 17 I guess. Social Media certainly helped me with that, just following and seeing people on instagram that are interested in the same things and have the same ambitions and interests made me feel less alone and also less like a weirdo which is good. On the other hand it’s super frustrating cause you start to feel very comfortable in your bubble and start to blend out reality, especially when you are on instagram all the time and start hanging out with artists and start touring which is amazing but for example it’s really hard to go back to day time jobs or university or like small German cities where people are really shitty and you start to remember that that is still present but also a part of your past and that you should be super grateful for the situation that you’re in. Also having a super supportive warm group of friends helped me out a lot, just surrounding yourself with people that push you forward and give you comfort and that really get what you’re about and are supportive is like the best thing ever.
“You’re strong, you’re stubborn now / In an endless symbolic war” are lines that you may have heard before. What’s your war and how do you fight it?
I love a good Elliott Smith quote so thanks for the reference! Well I’m an aquarius, so being anti and a rebel without a cause is in my nature lol. But also being a humanitarian and caring about morals and lgbtq+ and feminist politics a lot is one thing I’m like all here for. That’s just one thing i’ve been really really passionate about ever since discovering feminism as teenager. There’s some really fucked up stuff happening on the planet right now, I don’t even know where to start like wars and climate change and all that and obviously I’m in a super privileged position living in Germany but there’s also some really fucked up stuff happening within my community that I’m trying to be aware of, just listening to people and trying to be a good ally. But on a more personal level I’m obviously constantly in a war with myself and sometimes really at peace with myself and other times just straight up confused and feeling like I’m too much but also will never be enough at the same time (a classic).
You’ve been all over the place with your music and we think you deserve all the attention and the big stage. It’s quite refreshing to have a German artist who could have also come out of a British or American indie music scene. How would you compare those different music scenes, the American, British (maybe also the Swedish) and why is it so hard for German bands to be the next Arctic Monkeys or Mando Diao?
Well first of all thank you! That really means a lot. I mean I’m definitely no expert, especially when it comes to the British and American music scene. But I just recently had this conversation with a friend that I met in New York and she’s in this New York based band called Wooing. And we were talking about how they really want to tour Europe and how I really want to tour the US and basically how difficult it is to get an audience outside of the country you’re based in but also playing shows outside of the country you’re based in, it’s just super frustrating but also keeps you going at the same time? I don’t think that it’s impossible for a German band to play outside of Germany but it’s really really hard and also a lot of work, especially in the beginning or at a point where I’m at right now. Obviously I’d love to play the US but I don’t really have an audience over there right now and also just booking shows and touring for the sake of it would financially ruin me haha so I’m trying to appreciate that it’s working out for me pretty good in Germany right now — but obviously one of my biggest goals is to be playing outside of Germany a lot but I have to be super patient, work really hard and also be super lucky. There’s just lots of things that have to work out for it to happen, even like getting an American magazine to write about a band from Europe isn’t that easy because they are already so overwhelmed with amazing bands from the US to write about so why should they care about some small indie bands from Germany? Obvisouly I’m dreaming about it and working on it but also I try to be in the moment and be thankful for what is happening around me right now and let’s see where the album will take me.