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Nico + Vinz Interview: ‘Am I Wrong’ Singers on Originality, Hippos + the Spice Girls [EXCLUSIVE]

Nico Vinz
Sara McColgan

A hippo halted the album-writing process for Nico + Vinz. But what else do you expect when you’re working out of a homemade studio nearby a delta in the Republic of Botswanna?

It’s happy accidents like these that capture uplifting vibe of ‘Black Star Elephant’ — and remind the duo how fortunate they are.

“It was one of those moments you cherish so much,” Nico Sereba recalls. “Like we’re in Botswana making music, this is wonderful.”

Even as the conversation segues away from hippo-related interruptions, Vinz Dery and Nico are charmingly enthusiastic as they discuss the success of their hit song ‘Am I Wrong,’ Pharrell and yes, even the Spice Girls.

Check out PopCrush’s interview with Nico + Vinz!

‘Am I Wrong’ was one of the biggest songs of the summer. Is that still sinking in?

Nico: I think it’s somehow still sinking in. I feel like this song, to us, is more than just a song that “made it.” It’s a song that opened all of these doors and the gateway toward our dreams and our goals. It’ll always have a really special place in our hearts. Every day we experience something new with it, something new and big because of the song, so sometimes it’s hard to – it doesn’t feel like it’s over for us, the song. It feels like it’s still going strong.

Was there anyone you really admire who you found out was a fan of the song?

Vinz: I heard Pharrell liked the song. We actually met him once and the manager later came to us and was like, “He really likes the song,” so that was a cool thing.

That’s amazing! Did you guys talk about working together down the line?

Vinz: The thing was, we met really briefly so we didn’t to talk, but I mean, he’s definitely one of the people who we’d like to work with somehow and just try to mix our sound with whatever he does and see what comes out of it.

Nico: I think he has a great talent of implanting an artist’s energy and sound and really trying to enhance it and mix it with what he does. I think it would be a cool mix.

"I think we sometimes underestimate ourselves or underrate ourselves in the fact that our flaws and whatever we are is what make us so special. We don’t often see that we are the best [when we’re] original."

Do you have one standout memory from recording the album?

Nico: We shot the music video for ‘Am I Wrong’ in Botswana and then we stayed there for another week to make some music. That was a great experience. We recorded many of the songs in very small studios in people’s homes in Botswana. We just went around. It was a beautiful and rewarding experience to create music in that environment. Sometimes we were in the capital of the country, which was more urban, but we also did something outside of the savannah – or the delta, as they call it – outside of the water. One time we were in one of the studios and we built this studio ourselves with mattresses and stuff to create a soundproof room and record and all of the sudden we heard this big blowing noise from outside. We didn’t understand what kind of noise it was because we’d never heard it before, but we went out and looked into the delta, into the river and saw a hippo. A huge hippo outside of the studio while our music was playing in the background. It was one of those moments you cherish so much. Like we’re in Botswana making music, this is wonderful.

Did you capture the hippo’s noise while you were recording?

Vinz: I remember we were in the process of writing [the song]. I think the beat had just started coming about. It’s actually the song called ‘People’ on the record, on ‘Black Star Elephant.’ That’s the song we were doing at that time. We were just freestyling melodies and all that stuff, so when that thing happened, we just took a moment to just step out, sink in and then we went back to writing it.

You’ve said it’s important for you to inspire. If you want listeners to take one thing away from the album, what would it be?

Vinz: I think a lot of things we talk about on the album also accumulate down to the fact that being yourself is some kind of underrated in today’s society. I don’t think people – we look to other people because we think they’re cool, we think they’re beautiful or whatever, but I think we sometimes underestimate ourselves or underrate ourselves in the fact that our flaws and whatever we are is what make us so special. We don’t often see that we are the best [when we’re] original and it’s cool to be an original and not copy somebody else.

I mean, it’s cool to strive to be somebody else, to strive to be something more. Become a better person or do better things, but I think first and foremost it’s really cool to just pinpoint your qualities and your flaws and be who you are and have that as a mentality. Especially young people, and I’ve been there too, I’ve been at the point where I’ve sort of wanted … I didn’t understand the value of myself … I think that’s really important in today’s society. We talk about identity in the album as well.

You guys both seem so positive. How do you pick yourself up when you’re having a bad day?

Nico: I think like you said, we all have bad days, as human beings it can get a lot worse if you allow yourself to focus on what’s negative or what’s bad. I think that anytime something is going the wrong way, you have two choices. You can either learn from it or you can sit and be sad about it. I think you have to force yourself not to be sad about it, try to take it as an experience and move on or not focus on it if that’s a better way for you. I think me personally, I try to chill that thought and use the power of my mind to change it into something positive.

Vinz: I think a good thing also is just to be aware that life has it’s ups and downs. Once you realize that there will be good times and there will be bad times, you’re much more able to handle those situations where you’ve got to pick yourself up from the ground a little bit.

What’s one of your guilty pleasures?

Vinz: One of Nico’s guilty pleasures … So Nico’s got this Spice Girls guilty pleasure going on. I don’t know. Nico, I want to say just for the record, has the broadest, most diverse music taste I’ve ever heard of ever in my life. Dude is walking around the house listening to ‘The Lion King’ soundtrack … Then going on to listen to Norwegian folk music, then go on to listen to classical music. His music taste is the broadest. One of his musical tastes is the Spice Girls.

There’s no shame in that!

Nico: It’s good, right? I used to listen to them when I was younger. Then it’s all right, when you’re young and you’re a kid and you listen to it. But then I listened to it again when I was grown up, like 10 years later, and I was like, “This is actually good!” So I didn’t leave it alone.

Vinz: I’ll be honest. There’s a couple Backstreet Boys songs too I gotta listen to. And it was kind of good. It was kind of dope.

Okay, so outside of music, can you share what’s on your bucket list?

Nico: I think I actually just started writing one two days ago. I put down two notes … What was it? I know that I have one that’s “direct a movie” that I really want to do. I really want to write and produce a movie.

Vinz: And I really want to be, I want to have a role in a movie.

Nico: Perfect!

Vinz: So I was just thinking, as far as Nico put that in the open, that I would be the lead character in his movie for sure.

Watch Nico + Vinz’s ‘Am I Wrong’ Video

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