Interview: Noana on His Latest EP, Sound Design, Future Projects & More

Youth Control continues to sign up the most talented electronic producers from the scene across Finland, more recently with the Helsinki-born Noana and a pair of hot new tunes that show off his mastery of synth-heavy dance sounds. ‘Afterlife’ and ‘Polaris’ are meticulously designed house tracks with unforgettable melodies and lasting emotional impact. Offering two very different sounds, it’s no surprise they’ve received early support from a broad palette of tastemakers, including Jamie Porteous, Future Class, Galoski, SonnyJi, Vicki Martin-Smith (Radio Metro), Aldor and Roisto. Stream/download here:

Noana had his first release aged just 17 and has reached ever higher heights since then. The drummer grew up with a jazz musician father and is a genuine studio wizard who works as a sound designer, sound editor and composer for TV and film. He always brings a cinematic quality to his work, and, as one-third of Leu Leu Land, an act signed to Sony Music Sweden and supported by Steve Angello through to Above & Beyond, he has remixed the legendary Giorgio Moroder and Britney Spears. 

We caught up with Noana for an immersive chat about his new EP on Youth Control, sound design, influences, the future and more: 

Can you tell us the inspiration behind your latest EP, “Afterlife”, and how it differs from your previous works?

Being the first debut release under the name Noana, I feel that this EP is certainly more honest than my previous releases. In some sense, this time around, starting from a clean slate, I felt that I had less self-made pressure to give something that was based on external expectations.

As I felt certain restricting boundaries might have restricted my creativity before, I feel like this EP was born at the turning point of letting myself write new music without thinking too much about external expectations. It felt incredibly freeing! For me, Afterlife is me just letting go of restrictions to express myself in a way that is true to me and as honest as possible at this point in time.

Also, I started to use more hardware synths than before on this EP, which changed my ways of working quite a bit!

How did your collaboration with Youth Control Records develop, and how has it influenced your music?

Youth Control has been very supportive about letting me express myself in a way that feels true to myself, which has been incredibly freeing. Their trust in my vision means a lot to me as I feel free to trust my intuition. I think it’s important not to let external expectations take over too much, yet an objective external opinion is very welcome as you might get sucked up in your own bubble working on something alone for too long of a time. I find that Youth Control has given me a good blend of these aspects!

What was your creative process like while producing the tracks for “Afterlife”? Any particular challenges or breakthrough moments?

A breakthrough moment for Afterlife must have been when we recorded the vocals for it with my sister Wilhelmina. I didn’t feel that I had so much space in the mix to fill up in the early stages when I was working with a demo vocal I sang myself. As I started working with my sisters’ vocals, I felt I had more space to fill up around it with powerful elements, as her voice was strong enough to be heard. I turned around the old 4/4 beat to a half-beat/breakbeat inspired, which was quite a turning point for me. I hadn’t really been doing much half-beat stuff other than in the composing work I did for film/tv contexts. So kind of telling myself, “Hey, you are allowed to do something else than just four on the floor stuff”, was kind of a revelation for me, giving me more freedom to explore something that still is kind of “new” and unfamiliar to me.

The Down pressure version came out quite naturally as I was working on a version to try out how the song would turn out if I backed up on being “massive” but still keeping the same kind of half-beat-groove. The version was screaming for a saxophone solo in the ending, and luckily, our father Artie was totally in for giving it a go, and he delivered some great licks for it. We made the version thinking of how the song would sound if we imagined hearing it at a beach party as the sun would be rising after a long night.

When I initially made the first version of Polaris, I was sound designing this thing that was kind of a sound experience for which I got to create a soundscape combined with a set of poems for a festival, and one of the poems I got caught by was this one poem that was about butterflies. A man was struggling to write a poem about butterflies, yet the poem ended up being just about butterflies. So after working on this soundscape, hearing the poem over and over, after one day of working, I just started making music imagining butterflies flying around. I relied exceptionally much on an old analogue synth recording I had done a while before, chopping up parts of it to form the lead melody, and even the atmospheric notes in the background are made of that same analogue arp recording, just with loads of effects on them to make them sound like pads. Relying so much on one analogue recording was something different to my way of working, which I guess made them stand out as a bit interesting for me.

Could you share insights into the themes or emotions you aimed to convey through the EP?

I might not have known what I was expressing at the time, but analysing everything afterwards, “Afterlife”, for me – is a positive answer to the question if we will have a chance to see and connect with our loved ones in the life after. For me, I think I might have wanted to express something close to breaking free of shackles and being sent to a new world where you are free to do what you wish. 

Polaris was sonically inspired by the idea of some great modern LOFI house tracks meeting a vibe of melancholic atmospheric synth pieces. Originally inspired by the idea of someone writing a poem so I kind of imagine the lead synth being the moments when you “write”, and the pauses between the melody parts are when you take in what you just wrote or read. 

Through the EP, I think the emotions are quite melancholic with an undertone of positivity. Kind of happy sad could be my way of describing it. I think I might have aimed to make at least some parts or elements of the songs feel “bigger than life”, etheric or holy in a way.

How has your musical style evolved, and how does “Afterlife” reflect this progression?

I might have started to explore more depth of field in my music than before. Playing around with having stuff move around, come close and go far away is something that has become really interesting to me. Also, letting myself do something other than just strictly four-on-the-floor stuff is a big one for me also. On both songs, I played around with the focus between elements far away and close-up, and Afterlife must be my first non-4/4- song intended for release as an artist!

Is there a particular track on the EP that holds special significance for you, and if so, why?

All songs are really significant for me, but Polaris holds up a very special place for me. I think it has something to do with the lead melody and the pauses between the melodic parts in combination with the arpeggio. When focusing on them together, I find it easy to transcend into a meditative state that might have been similar to the state I was in while making the song. 

What are your upcoming projects or collaborations, and how do you envision your musical journey unfolding?

I’m excited for some new songs to come out together with my sister Wilhelmina. Also, a song featuring a vocal that I received from some fellow Swedish friends ten years ago, which I finally reworked into a new song. I’m looking forward to starting to play more gigs and continuing to release more music 🙂 

Stream/download Noana’s “Afterlife” EP now

Follow Youth Control

Follow Noana