On Love Decayed, her debut album as NightNight, Yasmin Haddad digs into dark sounds and introspective themes. “It’s not a very happy record,” she says by phone. “And it comes from a place of being very isolated. This was before COVID, but moving around as much as I did, there’s long periods of time when you don’t know anybody.”
Haddad grew up in Las Vegas and later moved to Seattle, then to Los Angeles. She headed to New York for a job producing radio shows after finishing the album.
But, it was more than the moves that inspired the album. “Also, there were a couple of relationships I was in at the time that were really not healthy,” she adds. “So, beyond being alone, because you’re just not around people, there’s also that extra aspect of being isolated because you’re attached to somebody who’s very negative and who doesn’t want you in contact with other people.”
With these experiences in mind, two themes developed as Haddad was writing Love Decayed. “There’s one theme of this longing or wanting for a person who doesn’t really exist or isn’t available,” she explains. “And then the other half is talking about the situation you’re in right now, which is like a trapped sort of isolated situation. So I would say it started with the trapped isolated situation and then morphed into the dreaming longing of a different situation.”
Her songs begin with world-building and imagining different scenarios. “I’ll start with something and then that will remind me of being on a train,” she says. “There’s one example that will remind me of being on a train sitting by myself and looking over at somebody and then that whole concept will get that song going.”
Haddad likes to use unusual elements, like found sounds, in her music. “There’s a lot of things like actual noise from the environment,” she says. “There’s a lot of synthesizers and sounds that I create to give the feeling of being in the place that I was in. That’s kind of how I go about I go about it, like seeing it in my head and then making it sound like it matches that place.”
Despite this being her first album as NightNight, Haddad, who also plays bass in Brooklyn-based band The Wants, has been making music, and working in production, for a long time. A violinist since childhood, she played in youth orchestras and, later, a college symphony orchestra. She also played with bands on the Las Vegas Strip and did session work, notably, on The Killers’ album Sam’s Town. “I was always a fan. When I was really young, we used to sneak into clubs to see them,” she says of the band. “We used to make fake IDs to see them.”
But, the most fortuitous thing that came out of her session with The Killers was some advice she received from the album’s producer, Flood. “I asked him about going to college for music production. I asked him if it was a good idea because I wanted to move to New York and go to college to be a music producer,” Haddad recalls. “He told me that’s not how it works… no one is going to care that you went to college because that’s not how this profession is. You need to start doing it.”
Haddad took Flood’s advice and got to work. She landed an internship at a studio in Las Vegas. “It was a big, world class facility. I was the person wrapping up cables and writing down charts,” she says. “I was not the person doing the sessions.”
Eventually, she moved to Seattle, where she worked at Clatter & Din Studios. “By that time, I had enough experience to start recording other people and in that studio, I ended up being the music studios manager after a while,” she says.
Haddad never stopped making music, though. In Seattle, she tried to start a band, but nothing materialized. That’s when she began writing on her own. After moving to Los Angeles, she decided to produce that music on her own, too. She passed a few completed songs along to some friends, and through one of them, her music ended up catching the ear of Schubert Publishing, who wanted to release it. “This wasn’t ever really supposed to be put out,” she says. “It’s just my demos. It was finished, but I thought that it could be better.”
As it turns out, Haddad would have another fateful encounter when a pal back in Seattle got her in touch with the legendary producer and engineer Sylvia Massy, known for her work with artists like Tool and System of a Down. “I looked up to her as a little girl for sure,” says Haddad of Massy. “There weren’t that many examples that you saw all the time of women doing that job. I remember seeing her specifically doing the Johnny Cash sessions at Sound City when I was a kid, and thinking that is so cool. This woman is amazing.”
Massy then came in as a producer for Love Decayed. “Sylvia added her crazy, magical touch to everything,” says Haddad. “We worked together with the engineer there and brought everything to life, from something you do in your bedroom by yourself to something you complete in the studio.”
Follow NightNight on Instagram for ongoing updates.