Ahead of her performance at Wide Awake Festival, the musician speaks to Dazed Club member Rosa Macvicar about her latest EP Machine Like Me
Nuha Ruby Ra is an electrifying force to be reckoned with. This weekend, the rising avant-punk star will take centre stage at Wide Awake Festival in Brockwell Park, an annual event that has become a mecca for emerging musicians. Uncompromising, and unforgiving, Nuha’s latest EP Machine Like Me is not a call to arms like her previous record, but a journey through purgatory.
“I was writing most of the EP during lockdown, so I was in this quite isolated place while I was writing it,” Nuha tells Dazed. “I wasn’t going out playing shows. I wasn’t seeing people. I wasn’t doing any interviews in person. Tracks like ‘Self Portraiture’ are almost like introducing myself to everyone that I haven’t met yet, being in my own head and exploring such an inquisitive and surreal place.”
Nuha’s music can be described as ‘post-punkdemic’ – which, for those unfamiliar with the genre, embodies a new understanding of what it is to be isolated and perpetually online, and encapsulates a longing for community – one that has been heightened by the never-ending rat race of life under capitalism in the 21st century.
As Nuha embarks up the European festival circuit this summer, as well as performing many in the UK, she will be taking her manifesto of self-expression out of isolation and into the public space. Always being the renaissance woman in her previous bands, punk is a spirit that Nuha embodies wholeheartedly. “Punk for me is not to do with the sound,” she says. “It’s to do with an ethos; how you go about doing things. It’s not about how you dress or what your music sounds like. It’s about your spirit, how you approach your work, painting outside the lines and finding your own way.”
While punk isn’t all about the aesthetics, her favourite fashion designers are unavoidably punk. Given the choice to be dressed by any designer, dead or alive, it’s not surprising that Nuha’s first choices are Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen. Day to day though, Nuha describes her personal style as “a mixed salad bag”. “It’s much like my music. I fancy this thing and that thing – technically they don’t go together but oh well, I like them.”
Visually and audibly, Nuha’s work deals with a vast range of emotions. “When it comes to music, I don’t actually have any beliefs where I’m like, ‘I die by that statement!’, but I think the more proficient and well taught you are from the beginning, the more you can potentially limit your freedom of imagination,” she says. But while a lot of art is born from complex feelings and difficult beginnings, she feels that the tortured artist trope can be glamorised and stifling. “[A lot of people] say, ‘oh, you know, great art comes from being super depressed and fucked up’. – I do think that you can get a lot of material from those times, but you need to be coming out of it to be able to actually work.”. Of course, great music doesn’t require artists to suffer...
When she’s not working on her music, Nuha has plenty of other ways she likes to spend her time. “My perfect Sunday would ideally be waking up with a hangover, but happy, going to the Columbia Road Flower Market for a bit of a look around, getting some oysters from the oyster man who’s down there, stopping at the Royal Oak for a pint of Guinness, then to the Prince George for a roast and yeah, just being just being in the pub with loads of mates.”
As we wait for Nuha Ruby Ra debut album, keep an eye and an ear out for Nuha at Wide Awake Festival this weekend and stream Machine Like Me now.