I had the pleasure of interviewing Aaradhna earlier this year after having a sneak preview of her album, Treble & Reverb. As you’ll find below, she was very open and candid about her long absence from music. She had in fact quit music altogether by 2007, and was just doing, as she put it, the ‘girlfriend thing’ with her partner Leon in Romania, who was there to play basketball.
It was only when she made a youtube channel, out of boredom and to fill her days while Leon was at training, that she began to write music again, and realised people were still listening out for her. Check my interview, and more stunning photos, with her below:
You told me that you’d quit music. What brought you to that point?
When I quit, I did it because I just didn’t wanna do music anymore. I quit because I couldn’t take criticism. I was real sensitive. Anytime anyone said that I sucked, I really took it to heart. That’s why I quit, because I couldn’t handle all that stuff. When I started making music again, the true fans were still checking up on me and wanted to hear more stuff from me. I thought ‘Oh, I should do it for all the people that want to hear my stuff, plus, music is what I wanna do.’ I shouldn’t have let negative people stop me from doing what I really love doing.
Did you remember that you actually really enjoyed it too, when you started doing it again?
Yeah, it was a release for me because I didn’t write music for a while. When I started writing music, there was nothing else I was doing at the time too. Whenever I finish writing a song, I always feel complete, it’s like, ‘ahhhh,’ it’s hard to explain.
It’s like nothing you get out of anything else you do in life?
Yeah, it’s like people get excited about riding roller-coasters, but that’s [writing music] what I get excited about. When I finish a song and I really like it, it’s like ‘I gotta use this song for something.’ That’s how I feel, ‘I gotta use this song for something’, I can’t just keep it to myself.
I thought it might have been when you went to the States, that might have put you off a bit?
There was a whole bunch of things. When I went to the States, all the criticism, that was all in my head as well. But I thought, America, I’m gonna try and do something and get over all that stuff. I thought something was really gonna happen, but it didn’t work out. The people I was with, they were all good people and they had good intentions but it just didn’t work out the way I wanted it to work out. That’s when I started getting homesick as well, I started missing my family. It was just me and Leon, and it’s just a different world over there, it’s too fast.
You kind of need a group of your own people around you ay? To get your jokes and stuff.
Yeah, to talk to. So I kinda felt alone. There were heaps of people we came across that talked a lot of shit too, and I got tired of that, because it was hard to meet someone who was actually real. If they say they like your stuff you don’t know if they really do.
I went to the States, and I thought, this is gonna be the one. We went there and nothing picked up. I did get to meet heaps of cool people and record a few tracks, but nothing happened with that. I felt like, I did all these interviews with people, saying I’ve got this project coming up, and then it didn’t happen. I felt kind of embarrassed coming back. I went back to NZ, stayed at home in Wellington. I was depressed to the days. I’d just drink and go out with my girls. I’d do that and then I’d go home, and I’d just stay in my room, and just do nothing.
And you were just angry as well?
Yeah, I was a really moody person, I felt sorry for my brothers and sisters, and Leon, and my parents. I felt sorry for them because they had to deal with me and my moody as attitude. I think back at it, and I think, man what an idiot. Oh man, I was just dramatic.
New Zealand is a tough place to be in though, it’s too small. Was that part of why it was an easy decision to go with Leon to Romania?
I didn’t wanna be away from him. He went to Romania first for around 2 months and then I went over. I thought it was pretty cool, I enjoyed my experience in Romania, in a different country, just relaxing. Just not thinking too hard about stuff. I just went on about my day, and I think that’s when the music, the hunger came back.
I guess when there’s not all that pressure, you just get to relax and let it come naturally.
Yeah, I didn’t force it out. I didn’t stress about it, I just let go.
I remember watching ‘Crying Like a Wolf’ on your youtube channel, and I see that’s made the album. At what point did you realize that you had enough to make an album, or you were like, hang on, I’m gonna be an artist again?
It would have been near the end of our stay in Romania. That’s when I was like, I need to get me recording equipment when I get home. When we got home, I had this plan, ‘I’m gonna record all this stuff, I was thinking to do it independently – I kept writing, and I got all the pro-tools and stuff. I think in the end of 2008, that’s when I emailed Andy (YDNA of Dawnraid) telling him I’ve got some music, and I was thinking of coming back to the label. We had meetings and I showed them my music, and they were interested in me coming back, they wanted to make sure I had the right mind-set for it. They said to keep on writing because I still didn’t have enough music. I kept writing from the whole of 2009 and 2010, that’s a long time.
At what point had you realized that you wanted to go in this 50’s, 60’s doo-wop style. At what point did you say, ‘this is the style I’m going to do every song in’.
I’ve always been into this style of music.. My first album definitely had the old skool influence, it was just more subtle, like ‘Downtime’ with the doo-wop style backing vocales, ‘Please Say You Do’, ‘I Love You Too’, ‘Shake.’
With Treble & Reverb, I feel like it shows that my song writing has progressed more into that style. As I got older, this style feels natural to me. Amy Winehouse’s album ‘Back to Black’ is the album that taught me to be more honest with my lyrics. She played a big part in helping me to be more open with my words. The people who contributed to the ‘Treble & Reverb’ sound are people like Ruth Brown, she had attitude and you could hear it in her songs, Lavern Baker, Otis Redding, Millie Small, Calvin Richardson, Monica, Sam Cooke, Richie Valens, The Capris, Rosie & The Originals & Little Anthony and The Imperials.
The last time we heard you singing your own stuff, you were sipping lemonade under a big oak tree, and now you’re talking about cutting a guys dick off and shit.
(laughs) Oh yeah, that’s weird. That was before all that stuff, all the drama. That was nice Radz. That was me before all the real stuff. Before…
Well it’s been six years, I guess before you started living.
Yeah, cos back then I was still young, dumb, and I was like hoping to get a boyfriend or something. I was real naïve. The innocence is gone now. (laughs) It’s gone forever.
Do you think people used to view you in a way that wasn’t really you?
Yeah, cos back then I did have my ideas, I’m still a nice person and stuff, but I wasn’t goody-goody, I just never spoke my mind. If I didn’t like something, I still said ‘yeah’, even when I should have said something else. Now I say what I want and make sure that I have it that way. And I know what I want more now, I had to grow up to know what I want. I had to go through all that drama, all the crappy moments, to know what I wanted.
I like how you can say some ruthless things, but it sounds nice. They’re real happy kind of sounding, but when you listen to the message, there’s a little bit more going on there.
Yeah, it’s twisted. I remember recording the first version of ‘Miss Lovely’ in the States, a few of the guys and were like, ‘I like how you say it, you’re saying it real nicely, but you’re telling her you’re gonna smash her up’. I just clicked that I always seem to do that. I say it politely, but I’m saying, ‘I’ll kill you’.
When you wrote ‘Sit With A Slouch’, did you start to feel like you were beginning to deal with criticism at that point, or were you trying to teach yourself to deal with it?
That was a little bit after the worst phase, after the really bad phase, I was at the end of it. That’s when I started writing about what happened to me before. I can’t write a song when I’m in it, because it’s too much. I just wait awhile.
‘Wake Up’ – was that your call to action to yourself? Were you coming out of depression at that time as well?
I made it before I went to Romania, that was me trying to tell myself to wake up.
Did it work?
Nah, I was still lazy. I was still writing music, I wrote that song because I was talking about trying to get up and get out and do something with my life, but I put that song to the side, I didn’t know if I was gonna use it or not. I went to Romania, wrote some other songs, and came back to it.
People are probably gonna wonder about the ‘Lorena Bobbitt’ song, if that’s inspired by true life. I mean, I don’t think you actually have done that…it’s a nice little warning there.
Yeah, it’s like a warning. I’ve been with some guys that have messed me over and stuff, and I really liked them at the time, and it really pissed me off to the point, I can’t do anything about it, and while I wouldn’t do that, that’s how angry I would get.
That’s gonna be the thing girls start saying to their boyfriends now, ‘have you heard about that girl Lorena Bobbitt?’
Yeah I get so mad, I just turn into another person, I think Lorena Bobbitt is the best person I can describe.
Do you think these songs showcase your personality a little more, they’re cheeky and sarcastic, it’s not all sweet and sugary.
When it comes to social situations, I don’t show myself completely. I’m usually quiet or shy. I always show all of myself through my songs, that’s the best way I can express myself, that’s the only way you can tell what I’m like, through my music.
What do you think some of the songs are telling people?
I’m cheeky, psycho…nah, sensitive, yeah.
My personal favourite is Lorena Bobbitt, only cos of the style, I really like that old school style of music and I feel like that goes right in there.
Ruth Brown would talk about heaps of things, I liked the stuff that she talked about. She was real random, she’ll express everything in her music. She has this song called ‘Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean’, and everything she talks about is pretty different. That made me wanna talk about all kinds of stuff as well.
‘Bob’s your Uncle’ – that was unexpected. It’s funny, it’s cheeky…
I told some of my Island cousins that I have a song called ‘Bobs Your Uncle’, and they were like, what the hell? I always make my titles first, I was like ‘Bobs Your Uncle’, that’s cool.
Cool Shoes is another one of my personal favourites, I wrote that song after I went to the club one time. I went to this club and the bouncer was letting in other people, and I had my ID and stuff, but he was like, nah we’re closed. And I was like, but you just let other people in. But he was like, ‘nah, we’re closed’. I was so pissed off, I’ve seen him before, I’ve met him before, but he was acting like a real cool guy. It’s just about the people that think they’re too cool for you and the girls that think they’re too cool to talk to you or hang around you and stuff and just gossip. It’s just not being cool enough to hang out with the guys with the cool shoes.