Neila Talks Aliens, Influences, and "Bite Me" EP
Born in South Florida and based in Atlanta, Georgia, Neila blends pop and R&B like nobody else. With a stage name inspired by aliens in outer space (Neila is alien spelled backwards), it's no surprise that her sound is out of this world. Her latest EP, Bite Me, embraces experimentation of both sound and the self in a chic nine-song collection.
With influences ranging from Frank Ocean to Missy Elliott to cosmic manifestation and Caribbean sonics, Neila's latest release is fresh, dynamic, and confident. Bite Me compliments the artist's bold personality perfectly. The EP truly has no skips, with each track bringing something new to the table. "I Need" stands out for its deep rhythm pocket, which is sure to have listeners bouncing and swaying along within seconds. Neila empowers with "My Body", the anthem that calls for self-love and bodily autonomy. "Princess Cut" shares the same sensual energy with the addition of a stand-out hook. The closing track, "Bite," comes straight from Planet Suave; Neila's flow and creative lyricism will have you listening to the song on repeat. If Bite Me is any indication, the stars may be aligning for Neila and her music career.
We spoke with Neila about her influences, creative process, and Bite Me EP. Check out the full interview below and listen to the EP.
Who or what first inspired you to pursue music?
I knew I wanted to be an artist from a very young age. I remember specifically writing my first song at around seven or eight years old. I was super young, but I used to love watching the 106 & Park countdowns and just imagining myself being there one day. When I was younger, I probably did like five different projects in elementary school about Beyonce and artists like that. I think that really growing up with the capability of seeing artists on TV and realizing that I could sing was where I started off, but I've been on this path for my entire life.
Who are your main musical influences?
I am Caribbean American–I'm first generation American, so my parents are immigrants. My dad's from Jamaica and my mom's from Barbados. I grew up with a lot of Caribbean influences, as well as music from when my parents came to America. Originally, they were in their teens and they settled in New York. I grew up in Florida, but my parents introduced music to us that was Caribbean. It was what they grew up listening to. There was a lot of Michael Jackson on my mom's end and a lot of New York-influenced music like Biggie. I had a moment in sixth grade where I went through an obsession with Michael… My dad was also into classic rock and got me into bands like the Beatles.
I have a lot of influences, but I think some artists that I really look up to were cut from the same cloth. I would have to say some of my biggest influences are Missy Elliot, Tyler the Creator, Timbaland, Ludacris, and I love Frank Ocean. I’m into those musicians that are a little offbeat and innovative. They bring something different to the table. I like really weird sounds; my brand is a little offbeat.
What inspired your new EP, Bite Me?
I have two producers that I work with. Spree Wilson is a producer I've been working with for years and he's the yin to my yang musically. I've been working with him for forever. A more recent addition to our musical team is a producer named Ayaana Nash. I sent them a playlist with a whole bunch of inspirations when we were starting the project just to establish a vibe. I booked us a cabin and we ran away for like four days to create a whole bunch of demos.
I got the idea for Bite Me because I wanted a project that kind of said, “fuck you”... but I can't name a project “fuck you”, so instead it’s Bite Me. That's how I (and the music) felt like that music felt very rebellious. I'ma do me, like an inspirational mutant…people can take it or leave it.
"I'ma do me, like an inspirational mutant…"
Tell us about your creative and songwriting processes.
I write all my own songs, but my first collaboration with writing was actually with Ayaana on “Impatient”. She's Jamaican as well and makes Caribbean music, so she helped me write that song. We kind of just let it flow.
I'm very spiritual and when I write, I like to let things go places naturally. I have an atypical personality. I'm super organized in like every aspect of my life… minus when I create. We just went to the cabin and listened to the playlist. We vibed out. I have some ridiculously talented producers too, and we just all respect each others’ creativity. I know what I like, so I'm really good at doing my own beat selection. From there, we just played off of each other. It was honestly fun. It was just like hanging out and doing what we do all the time, but together.
Do you have a favorite track on the project?
I don't have a favorite track. I know this sounds so corny, but I usually don't listen to my music after it’s released. It’s not that I don't listen to my music at all, but it's not like I'm playing Beyoncé’s album on repeat. I really, really, really loved this project. I am so happy with how everything turned out. I guess if I had to pick a song that was definitely going on the project from the moment I wrote the first hook, it would have to be “Princess Cut”. Before I even knew the project was called Bite Me, or I even had a full direction creatively or visually, I knew that that song was gonna be a part of it. I'm just amazed that we were able to make something that is such a great representation of who I am as a person, as well as who I am as a creative.
If you could go back in time to when you were starting out and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
I go back to my parents' house sometimes and I still have my childhood bedroom. I was manifesting from when I was little and I didn't even know what that was at the time. I never wiped anything off the mirrors, but I wrote in red lipstick and for whatever reason, spiritually now I'm like, “okay, red is a very powerful color for me.”
At the time I had no idea, but I was writing these little manifestations on the mirrors. I would print out contracts with myself that said, “you're gonna be one of the biggest artists.” If I could go back in time, I would just tell myself to keep doing that. It’s something that I've always done throughout my life and a lot of those things that I've written down have already happened or are currently happening.
"I would print out contracts with myself that said, 'you're gonna be one of the biggest artists.'"
Is there anything else that you'd like people to know about you?
I would love to give some background on my name because I think it would help people understand my brand a little more. Neila is “alien” spelled backwards. That's why everything has a very alien-esque vibe. On my last EP, I was blue in every single one of the visuals. It was based on the idea of coming into my true self. The cover art is almost like you're opening up to like your alien side–your inner true higher self.
I'm someone that is very adamant about people being and doing whatever it is they feel in their hearts that they need to do, as long as they’re not hurting anybody else. If you wanna be a fucking fairy, be a fairy. I love astrology, anything space alien, anything multidimensional. I was like, “you know what? I'm gonna take something that's so dear to me and show people that you can literally do whatever the hell you wanna do.”
"If you wanna be a fucking fairy, be a fairy."
What's next for Neila?
We have some remixes coming, as well as something exciting that we haven’t announced yet! We have some music videos coming that are dropping in the next couple of weeks. It’s a lot, but I'm super excited to see how everyone receives everything because it's been awesome so far.
What are some of the sonic elements that you hope to experiment with next?
One of the sound elements that I've always wanted to try is using frequencies in music. The idea came to me at the beginning of my spiritual journey and I felt like I had a lot more to learn. I'm now at the place where I can actively and correctly play certain frequencies to add to the experience of listening to a song.
That's something that I definitely want to play around with in the future. I also want to focus on being louder with my confidence and helping other people find that energy because we're all not confident all of the time. If you can turn on my music and it makes you feel like a bad bitch, it makes you feel good, and it makes you feel like you can do and be whoever the hell you wanna be, then my job is done.
Listen to the full EP below, and keep up with Neila on Instagram @neilaofficial.