Photography by Sequoia Ziff

100% Aziya: Hackney’s guitar-shredding songwriter

With co-signs from the likes of Grimes and H.E.R., the BRIT school alum has dropped her debut EP, We Speak of Tides.

When it comes to making music, Aziya has been putting in the graft for years – almost half her life, as it turns out. The 21-year-old first picked up a guitar aged 10 and, since completing a two year course at the BRIT school in 2018, she’s been relentlessly practicing demos from her cosy, pleasantly cluttered room in Hackney, East London.

Aziya’s debut EP, We Speak of Tides, is out today and it’s been a long time coming. The album’s name was partly inspired by Talking Heads’ 1982 album Speaking in Tongues, but mainly by the concept of tides as a language, ebbing and flowing as a means of communication with family, friends and acquaintances.

The five track project charts Aziya’s journey of musical self-discovery, one smouldering, high-octane track at a time.

The head-banging, gig-ready Slip!s demonstrates Aziya’s knack for heavy riffs and emotionally raw lyricism: No I don’t want it/​But I let you get to my head. Slay the demons/​That try to haunt/​But you make the damsel in me distressed,” she sings passionately. Meanwhile, Heaven For Mes psychedelic, booming bassline and no nonsense lyrics speak to the push and pull of being with someone who isn’t necessarily good for you.

Her latest single, Blood, came out a month ago and it’s a track that’s sure to get venues shaking come Freedom Day. “[It’s] a song that attempts to remind a family member that we are literally blood related,” Aziya explains. It explores my frustrations in realising that there are no loyalties or sense of bond between us and how confusing that is. I wanted the track to highlight the intensity I was feeling when this particular loved one felt so distant.”

You can catch Aziya smashing it at her debut show in London on 21st July, but until then, get your 100% fill below.

10%: Where were you born, where were you raised and where are you now based?

I was born in East London and I’ve lived there ever since. I’m still here, in Hackney, and I’m still at [my family’s] home, which is amazing, as I can just focus on making music.

20%: Love, like, hate?

I love vinyl, I like streaming platforms and I hate skipping through albums.

30%: If you’re cooking to impress someone, what will you make?

I would say I’m a better baker, so I’d do something simple like a pasta dish or a mushroom risotto. Then I’d whip out a big fat chocolate gateau or something. I found out that was my specialty the other day. I surprised myself.

40%: What kind of emotions and experiences influence your work?

Love, frustration and confusion, which usually stem from encounters in a really sweaty gig venue, an intimate house party or even a family gathering. The whole EP is based on my interactions with lovers or family members, or me writing from the perspective of someone else and their interactions with other people.

50%: When did you realise you could do what you loved for a living?

I’ve never seen myself doing anything else. It was this or nothing.

60%: When did you find your confidence as an artist?

The first time I soloed at my gig. Prior to that, I’d always been afraid of stepping out of my comfort zone and trying stuff as an artist. When I was like, fuck it, I don’t care what anyone thinks” and started to solo in front of the entire audience, everyone was really reactive to that. For me, that was a solid moment. People always think I can hide behind my guitar, but I grew up as a singer and guitar was secondary to me – I almost feel safer just singing. Me pushing myself and wanting to get my love for guitar to the same level is really important to me.

70%: Biggest pet peeve?

When you’re in the cinema and someone’s kicking your chair.

80%: How did you celebrate your last birthday?

I had dinner at a big Chinese restaurant in Marylebone. Then I went to a drive-in cinema and watched Joker.

90%: What can artists do to help save the world?

I think it’s really important that artists know what they stand for and that they have a message going into it. All of us love our craft, we all have something to say, so it’s really about being true and strong in your beliefs and your ability to help heal people.

100%: Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Know yourself as an artist, because if you don’t, how can anybody else? That’s kind of taken from Ru Paul.

We Speak of Tides is out now via Osmo-Sis.

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