How Yasmin Haddad Brought Solo project NightNight to Life

Still from NightNight’s video for “Ashes” by Frank Coleman

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.

RSVP HERE: Sam Newsome Trio Plays In-Person Artists for a Free World Protest Concert

We are excited to be featuring an in-person, socially distant event for the first time since March! Arts For Arts, an NYC organization that is dedicated to the promotion and advancement of Free Jazz is hosting Artist for a Free World Protest Concert Series September 12th at The Clemente, La Plaza and September 26th in St. Marks Churchyard.

The headliner for this Saturday’s event is Sam Newsome Trio. Newsome is a soprano saxophonist, jazz improviser, solo performer, sound enthusiast, and music professor at Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus. Solo soprano sax has not been explored as thoroughly as other saxophones, allowing Newsome to pave the way with his creativity and sonic explorations. Newsome has a broad palette of sounds with experimental techniques such as prepared and modified saxophones. Newsome’s most recent 2020 releases, Sonic Journey: Live at the Red Room, and Free Wyoming (Sam Newsome Trio: Live at the Metro Coffee Co.) capture their live free-form abstract compositions.

This Saturday (9/12) you can catch Sam Newsome joined by Hilliard Greene on bass and Reggie Nicholson on drums live at The Clemente in La Plaza, 114 Norfolk Street. The Larry Roland Trio and Dickey Spell will also be performing at 3 and 4pm respectively. The event is sold out on preregistration, but they will accommodate walk-ups as capacity allows (approx 30 people). It will also be live streamed via Facebook and YouTube. We chatted with Sam Newsome about his favorite visual artists, musical routine and why jazz students should be awarded for getting it wrong.

AF: What led you to jazz and the soprano sax?

SN: I was attracted to the artistic freedom that jazz afforded me. Society often teaches us to be cogs in a wheel, to follow the rules, and to be good soldiers. Jazz challenges these expectations. Jazz musicians are encouraged to shake up the status quo, or sometimes simply move around it. As far as the soprano… because it’s the least explored of all the saxophones, I saw it as a blank creative canvas that allowed me be under-influenced by the music’s history.

AF: What are some ways you prepare and modify your sax?

SN: I have an expansive set of preparations that I utilize, that’s constantly growing—for better or worst. The ones most commonly used are my plastic tube extensions, my hanging wind chimes, the tin foil that I attached to the horn’s bell, the balloons stuffed with bells that I attach to my fingers, the noise makers that I place inside of my instrument, and lately, I’ve been experimenting with attaching a dishwasher drain hose to the neck of the instrument. It’s a pretty wild sound. My creative process is guided by the simple idea of altering the way that air enters and exits my instrument.

AF: Are you inspired by any non-musical mediums?

SN: Absolutely. Picasso, Pollack, Yayoi Kusama, and nature are huge sources of inspiration. Simply put, I’m inspired by things of beauty.

AF: Has the quarantine affected your musical routine?

SN: Most definitely. I did not practice as much in the conventional sense. With few opportunities to play, it’s pretty understandable. Actually, I spent more time outside enjoying nature: hiking, camping, bike riding, ziplining, all the fun stuff I normally don’t make time for. But now I’m getting back to practicing in a more rigorous way. It feels good after so many months of laying off.

AF: What have been some of your favorite records to listen to over the past few months?

SN: Oddly enough, I don’t listen to a lot of music. I do listen to things every day, but only in small doses. Just hearing a few bars sets off my creative juices like a flowing river, then I’ll to have to turn it off so that I can deal with my creative thoughts. It’s one of the curses of being an artist. My wife, Meg Okura, is prolific composer. I’d say I probably listen to her music more than anyone else’s, just from being in such close proximity.

AF: You’ve taught jazz for many years. Do you feel there’s an approach to teaching that achieves more innovative and creative playing?

SN: For sure. Innovation and creativity only flourishes when students take chances and fail. However, they won’t go out on a limb if they’re punished for it. If we started awarding students for getting it wrong instead of only patting them on the backs when they get it right, we’d see a significant change in students’ creative output. When need to start giving A’s for fucking up. Make wrong the new right.

AF: What has been your favorite live performance experience and why?

SN: They’ve all been special in their own way. Any time I’m able to simultaneously connect with my instrument, have synergy with other players, and play for an appreciative audience, it’s nothing short of magical. It’s an enlightened state that can’t be judged, only experienced.

AF: Have you done many socially distant shows?

SN: Quite a few. I just returned from playing the 2020 Detroit Jazz Festival with a Afro Horn, a high- energy Afro Cuban-influenced jazz ensemble I’ve been working with for several years. They flew us from New York to Detroit, and we played on a big stage for no live audience, just tech and camera crew. All of the performances were streamed via their website and YouTube. It was very bizarre, to say the least. However, it was a sign of progress. This would have been unthinkable back in April.

AF: How did you get involved in the Artists for a Free World Protest Concert series and what can we expect from the performance?

SN: I’ve been involved with them for at least five or six years. I admire the work that they do. We need more people like them out here trying to make a difference. On Saturday, I’ll be performing with my trio with Hilliard Greene on bass and Reggie Nicholson on drums. And we’ll do what we do, which is take ourselves and the audience on a sonic journey. Hopefully, we’ll all come out on the other side in a better place.

AF: What are your plans for the rest of 2020 and beyond?

SN: My plans moving forward are simple. Enjoy life, stay safe, and create.

RSVP HERE for Sam Newsome trio, Dickey/Swell, and Larry Roland Trio at The Clemente, La Plaza 3pm ET on 9/12.

More Great Shows This Week…

9/11 Black Faces, White Spaces via New York Botanical Garden. 11am ET, RSVP HERE

9/11 Armenias in Film: The Stateless Diplomat. RSVP HERE

9/11 + 9/12 Lucero via Veeps. 9pm, RSVP HERE

9/11 – 9/13 Punk n Roll RendezVous Online Festival via The Unicorn Camden Live. 2pm EDT, RSVP HERE

9/12 Godcaster, Threesome, The Eclectic Method via Undercover. 8pm, RSVP HERE

9/13 Improvised Tarot Readings: A Hilarious Evening via Zoom. 8pm EDT RSVP HERE

9/13 Delta Spirit via 9pm, RSVP HERE

9/14 Blitzen Trapper (record release) via In.Live. 10pm, RSVP HERE

9/15 The Killers via Pandora Live. 8:45pm, RSVP HERE

9/17 Kevin Morby (plays Still Life) via NoonChorus. $15, 9pm EDT, RSVP HERE

NEWS ROUNDUP: Changes at MTV, Rodents + Rush & More

  • MTV Ends Its “Era” Of Longform Journalism 

    The site has laid off a sizable portion of their editorial staff in a (possibly misguided?) effort to give millennials what they really want, a.k.a. “short-form video content.” An in-depth article by Spin breaks down this shift, and reveals MTV News’ troubling loyalty to artists over its writers. Inside sources state that lukewarm reviews of Chance the Rapper and Kings Of Leon were removed from the cite after complaints from the artists’ management. Read the whole thing here

  • Meet The Capybara Babies Named After Rush

    Naming animals after rockstars is the best trend to come out of 2017. The latest species to get the eponymous treatment is the freakishly adorable capybara, the world’s largest rodent from South America. The triplets of two well-known capybaras named Bonnie and Clyde, who gained fame after running away from their Toronto zoo for 36 days, were recently named after Rush’s Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart. Look below for what you really came here for: videos of the huge rodents doing cute stuff. 

  • Listen To She Keeps Bees’ Healthcare Protest 

    It’s a somber but fiery track, delivered by She Keeps Bees at a very appropriate time as Republican leaders decide to hold off on voting on the health care bill until after the July 4th holiday. Rather than go the subtle route, “Our Bodies” ends with a very literal, unmistakable message: “Our bodies are our own… don’t control me, we demand autonomy.” Listen below.


FESTIVAL REVIEW: Highlights of Governor’s Ball 2016

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Mother Nature rained heavily down on this year’s Governor’s Ball, which took place on Randall’s Mud Pit Island.  It was a test, and us New Yorkers proved that we sure have some spunk, staying true to the festival’s slogan:  “You’re doing great!”

I earned personal emblems of a successful music festival: purple bruises made to look like sunsets on my skin, irreparably damaged white Air Force Ones, and an inevitable cold from being wet for the duration of Saturday.  The last one, I deserved. That morning, the weatherman and I were adamant that I wouldn’t need a jacket.

Then, there was Sunday’s disappointing full-day cancellation that left legions of fans angry because they traveled x amount of miles to see Kanye or Death Cab for Cutie. When I got the news, I remained motionless on the couch, silently crying the tears I’d have shed at Death Cab’s closing set.

And the biggest curse of a festival, as always, is not being able to be in two places at once.  I was sad to have missed Big Grams or another fun show from Matt and Kim because I parked myself at the main stage all of Friday. And even on Sunday while I was camping out for a last-minute Two Door Cinema Club ticket, I was also committed to missing two surely phenomenal performances by Courtney Barnett and Prophets of Rage, both just a walk away.

But I digress. Let’s end this one with some highs, shall we?

The Strokes covered “Clampdown” for the first time since 2004
To be fair, I could peg the whole set as my favorite part of the festival. When I was 11, I used to blast this Clash cover on my iPod, fantasizing that I might one day hear it live. That, and “Red Light,” which they performed for the first time since 2010. Everyone and their mothers know that The Strokes are my favorite band, but even I can objectively say that lately, they haven’t been at their best. However, on the heels of a new EP whose songs fit seamlessly into their set, New York’s finest garage rockers showed that they’ve been revived with a new positive energy.  The best feeling was watching the expressions as all five of them performed with unrivaled mastery, looking truly happy to be together.

Getting intimate with Two Door Cinema Club
Though it’s been a minute since their last album (almost four years, but who’s counting), 15-year-old me would’ve never forgiven present-day me for skipping Two Door Cinema Club’s make-up show at Music Hall of Williamsburg.  Adrenaline distracted me from the cold air and the rain drenching me through my flimsy windbreaker during the four hours I waited out (tip: phone a friend who’d be willing to bring you a lox bagel while you wait. You’ll need it). It proved to be worth it; there surely is no better venue to see a favorite band than one where from every angle, you feel like you’re in the front row.  Plus, even through moshing with grown men and crowd surfing during the encore, my glasses survived the night.

Beck being Beck
A live Beck experience was yet another realized fantasy from my fleeting youth, ignoring the fact that his breakout hit “Loser” is a couple of years older than me, and “Where It’s At” is less than a year younger; in any case, they all fit seamlessly into one animated set.  And during “Hell Yes” I couldn’t help but laugh, overhearing the guy next to me ask, “Is he rapping?” And it’s only been two years since “Blue Moon” reduced me to tears, and only a little more than a month since Prince’s tragic passing. Beck recalled accepting his Album of the Year award and a hug from The Artist himself, which he described as one of the “strangest, most amazing moments.” His cover of “Raspberry Beret” was easily the best of myriad Prince tributes this weekend.

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Beck at Governor’s Ball 2016. Photo by Ysabella Monton for AudioFemme.

Este Haim getting wet with the crowd
Midway through Haim’s set, rain came down yet again. Gratefully, the Gov Ball NYC stage was on cement rather than grass, so mud was the least of our concerns, but that didn’t stop some people in the crowd from seeking shelter in lieu of enjoying the music. Este, the oldest of the Haim sisters, stepped out in between songs to pour a full bottle of water on herself in solidarity before continuing a stellar set that culminated in another fantastic tribute of Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U” and a wild drum finale.

Easy afternoon with Catfish & the Bottlemen
Being the perpetually late person that I am, I had to sprint not only across the bridge, but to the complete opposite end of the island to make sure I didn’t miss a minute of Catfish & the Bottlemen on the main stage.  They drew a much larger crowd, with more than enough energy to wildly dance along, than one would expect for a 3 pm set. Their set encapsulated exactly what it would’ve felt like to see Blur at a hole-in-the-wall venue in the early ’90s.

A rainy rave with Miike Snow
Just after receiving a notification from the official Gov Ball app that the worst was behind us, rain came down yet again for Miike Snow, weeding out the weak and prompting we, the thick-skinned, to go all out.  Everything I owned was drenched.  The cash in my wallet is still damp as we speak.  With feel-good music, a brilliant lights show before us, and nothing to lose, we embraced the feeling of wet skin on wet skin as limbs flailed in the muddy flood. Missed connection: the guy in the tropical print shirt who came back into the crowd with a slice of pizza and let everyone within three feet have a bite.

The best moves from Christine and the Queens
I caught Christine and the Queens completely by accident as I made my lap around the island on Friday and saw that someone happened to be getting set up on stage.  I’d never heard of her before, but “WOW” wouldn’t even begin to cover my reaction when Christine (real name Heloise Letissier) and her Queens (four male backup dancers) took the stage in trousers and tees, performing synchronized dance routines and tossing flowers into the crowd.  Now that’s what a festival performance should be.

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Christine and the Queens, via

Nostalgia with The Killers
Wrapped in a wet blanket as my only protection from the cold, I was about to head home midway through M83 as I could feel a sore throat coming on. But, as I made my way out, I could faintly hear The Killers from across the park, and I knew I had to catch a little bit, even if I wasn’t going to immerse myself in the crowd.  I was more than happy to dance in the middle of the field with several hundred strangers, singing along to “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” off of 2004’s Hot Fuss and admiring the fireworks behind the stage to round it all up.

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The Killers Gov Ball
Fireworks and “When You Were Young” by The Killers.  Photo by Ysabella Monton for AudioFemme.