‘Lust’ is the title of upcoming collaborative EP by KID MOXIE & NINA released by Italians Do It Better.
KID MOXIE is the musical vehicle of Athens-born LA-based musician and composer Elena Charbila whose most recent solo album ‘Better Than Electric’ was released in 2022. Meanwhile, Berliner Nina Boldt is best known by her mononym NINA as the “Queen of Synthwave” with two acclaimed albums ‘Sleepwalking’ and ‘Synthian’ to her name.
The union began from Charbila’s desire to cover ‘Waiting For Tonight’, the 1999 hit by Jennifer Lopez, in a downtempo retrowave style. Meetings took place in Berlin, Athens and Los Angeles to produce five tracks and three videos together.
The end result came to the attention of Italian Do It Better, best known as the home of CHROMATICS and DESIRE who appeared on the soundtrack to the 2011 movie ‘Drive’. After issuing ‘Waiting For Tonight’ on the ‘After Dark 4’ compilation alongside other acts on the roster such as JOON, MOTHERMARY, DOUBLE MIXTE, CAUSEWAY, DLINA VOLNY, LOVE OBJECT and GLÜME, the prestigious label signed the pair to release the ‘Lust’ EP.
From opposite sides of the Atlantic, Elena Charbila and Nina Boldt got together on Zoom with ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK to chat about their fruitful partnership, the making of the ‘Lust’ EP’ and becoming part of the Italians Do It Better family.
So who approached who?
Nina: Our manager Michael Pagnotta, who we’d both known for a long time individually, brought us together, he thought our voices would match really well together. He was right and it’s such a cool collaboration. I found our voices to be very complimentary.
Elena: Michael worked with ERASURE and that’s our mutual connection because Nina played some shows with them in the US… I was asked to do them too so we would have met then but I ended up doing a remix of ‘Sacred’ from their album ‘The Violet Flame’. Michael told me I had a doppelgänger in Germany and made the suggestion to do something.
At the time, I was obsessed with the idea of doing a J-Lo cover so when we started talking, it became apparent that this would be awesome to do as a duet and how sexy it would be to put a new twist on such a dance track, slow down the beats and make it sinister like Miami Nights 1984 or something. That’s how it started…
Your version of ‘Waiting For Tonight’ has this sensual anticipation of consummation… *laughs*
Elena: I feel the way it was, it was very clubby and commercial… we’re both obsessed with stuff like ‘Drive’, ‘Blade Runner’ and all those things, and they have this driving bass sound which is sort of like a trademark for both of us at this point. I felt we should bring it to that song. It has such a beautiful melody but I think the whole beat situation and Latin vibes don’t let that shine. I feel like in our cover and I’m very proud of it, I think we really accentuated the melody.
Did you know the Jennifer Lopez version of ‘Waiting For Tonight’ is a cover, the original was by 3RD PARTY?
Elena: I found out along the way! *laughs*
Nina: Chi, you’re doing your homework really well… even knowing that, I have a special fondness for J.Lo’s version as it was kind of a new millennium dance theme.
In terms of getting to know each other musically, was there a particular song by the other which convinced you “I want to work with this girl!”?
Nina: That’s a very good question!
Elena: When Michael mentioned Nina again to me, I started listening to her stuff and I became obsessed, like I know ALL the lyrics!
Nina: You were AMAZING! You were singing ‘Synthian’ really loud and knew all the lyrics while we were driving in LA! I was impressed!
Elena: I was obsessed! These songs are magical, they’re beautiful. There were certain songs like ‘Synthian’ for example that I found so ballsy, it could have been an 80s anthem, there was no holding back. I loved the idea of that, it was very courageous in a way and it was owned itself. That particular track for me, I was like “let’s f**king do it!”
What was it about Elena that convinced you to work with her?
Nina: I fell in love with her vocals, I love how sensual and smooth they are. One of my favourite tracks is ‘Big In Japan’ by ALPHAVILLE so when she covered that, I thought it was awesome because covers are difficult things to do and not everyone gets it or you don’t feel connected to it because you are so used to the original… but this cover, she made it her own just like she did with ‘Creep’. So before I met Elena in person, ‘Big In Japan’ was the standout for me, just because it’s one of my favourite songs…
Elena: It’s such a good German choice
So how did the Italians Do It Better connection develop?
Nina: A while back, Megan featured my cover of Blondie’s ‘Heart Of Glass’ in one of her mixtapes. Being a huge fan of DESIRE, this was a great honour for me, so I reached out and we started talking. She was so supportive of my first independent release ‘Carnival Night’ when it came out, which I really appreciated. I got to know her a bit better and after meeting Elena, we both realised that we felt the same way about Italians Do It Better, so it was an obvious choice for us to go with them.
Elena: We really wanted to be adopted…
Nina: We were both free and it was like “Take us, we love you!” *laughs*
Let’s talk about the title song of the EP. I thought it was interesting that there is the obvious English meaning which is more erotic but ‘Lust’ is the German word for “Pleasure” in a more innocent manner… was there any deliberate choice of that word?
Nina: That’s interesting, I never actually thought of it like that! I had this lyric “lust is a crime” and I just wanted something about open love and excess which we both felt the same way about. We originally thought about calling it ‘You & I’ or even ‘You & The Night’ early on, but I think it was Johnny Jewel who suggested ‘Lust’.
How did the title track develop musically?
Elena: It was the second or third track musically that came together, ‘Waiting For Tonight’ was first and sprung the whole idea of the EP, then ‘Devotion’ and ‘Electric Kiss’ were respectively the darkness and the light. ‘Electric Kiss’ was the carefree ride and ‘Devotion’ more the sinister ride *laughs*
‘Lust’ actually came last as a compliment to everything that was going on sonically, like a bridge… it was like we needed something soft yet deep because ‘Electric Kiss’ carries the emotion of sweet connection but there’s no actual love or devotion.
For the most part, the music was made in Athens with Hristos Lainas aka Franklin producing the project. I was writing it and sending it to Nina and she would give feedback, we would bounce back our vocal ideas about it and it went from that.
Then there’s the video for ‘Lust’…
Elena: The video is pretty sensual and erotica, now that I think about it, there’s different kinds of love in every song… in Greek, there’s different words for each kind of love, it’s not just “love”, there’s “eros” which is the erotic love and there’s the devoted deep love… ‘Waiting For Tonight’ is maybe our anticipation for new love in my head.
Nina: ‘Lust’ for me is like a deep connection, that excess and passion…
Elena: It’s that going back one more time, something that’s unfinished, it has that cyclical feel to it musically and lyrically that it keeps going back. For me, it was like my personal favourite, I immediately had such a connection to that particular track. Which one is yours Nina?
Nina: They all have something special but if I have to pick one, it’s ‘Devotion’ because I really love that spoken word mixing with the sensual vocals and it’s a bit more playful and there’s anticipation there. I think it’s interesting also that Hristos did that bendy synth sound…
Yes, I really like that bendy synth sound on ‘Devotion’, it’s as though it’s illustrating the risk of driving into a forbidden relationship?
Nina: There’s a lot of that, but with ‘Electric Kiss’, it’s more sweet and innocent, that’s more a “drive into the sunset” kind of song, I feel that contrast. It feels a lot more 80s in a way, Synthwave fans will hopefully enjoy that track as well. RADIO WOLF does that dreamy guitar sound which I’m a big fan of.
The EP’s palette is quite varied, you have pacy songs, slow retrowave, covers and ‘Crime’ has this “saxiness”…
Elena: It was supposed to be called ‘Sax Is A Crime’ but you know, people just said “use one word, ‘Crime’”!
Nina: The sax for ‘Crime’ was a bit of a surprise when I heard it in LA and that prompted some sexy spoken words. Our approach was ‘Blade Runner: The Erotic Cut’! Haha! For the EP as a whole, since we wanted to express ourselves in new ways, we incorporated unexpected musical ideas. That’s why the mix of lush guitars, warped bass notes, and cut up vocal FX are built in. They aroused our creativity..
Elena: We’re both obsessed with ‘Blade Runner’ so when I recorded it here in LA, I had this view of the skyline and I had one of my best friends Skylar play that particular sax line. I didn’t know if we were going to put vocals on it or have it as an outro to the EP to add to the cinematic element of the other tracks. When Nina and I heard it together, Johnny Jewel felt it needed to be like ‘Blade Runner’, sultry like ‘Tears In The Rain’ but as it’s androids, its devoid of sexuality, whereas ours, it’s very human and very inviting, it’s inviting “one night with you”, we’ll make your dreams come true.
We’re creating a fantasy world cinematically, sexually speaking. People can think whatever they want about ‘this’. Are we singing this to each other? Are we singing it to your man, my woman? It’s up for your interpretation; we’re not going to feed it to you. It’s just going to be a warm dish, you can eat it however you want.
Are there any more videos planned?
Elena: There’s one for ‘Crime’, it’s definitely in line with the song, it’s hot and very inviting, and it’s very red and black! *laughs*
Nina: There’s sexy silhouettes…
Elena: And there’s one for ‘Devotion’…
Nina: Yes, it’s a bit more of a driving song so we have a car in there. It was filmed in Los Angeles and it’s got lots of neon lights, very sexy and colourful, I don’t want to give away too much… it’s quite different from ‘Lust’ which is nice…
Elena: …it’s probably the most ‘Blade Runner’ influenced because of the location amongst the tall buildings. There’s a chase and as our most dangerous sounding song, it has some Theremin in there as well. There’s a universe where ‘Devotion’ is the track of being chased, but whoever is chasing us doesn’t want to do anything bad to us. *laughs*
Now although you are on different continents, you have met up a few times in Berlin, Athens and LA… which meet-up was the most fun?
Nina: It’s hard to choose. So many great memories but meeting in Berlin was exciting because it was our first encounter. We just gelled together so well. I’m so proud that we managed to write five songs in only two days, that was incredible. Also to me personally, after COVID and all that, things had been difficult so it was a real escape just being in the studio making music.
Elena: I feel like Berlin was basically finishing the EP, putting down all the vocals and writing the lyrics, I’d never co-written lyrics before… co-writing can be such a “back-and-forth” thing and can take f**king ages, but this was, and I kept joking about it, like German efficiency… cos Chi, you know, Greeks, when you leave them loose on their own, they ain’t efficient! *laughs*
So Berlin was like hankering down to finish the EP but then LA was about putting the visuals to the music with a video directed by Joe Rubenstein for ‘Devotion’. It was like fleshing out the universe of ‘Lust’ as it does have themes of old Hollywood with images of palm trees, glamour and driving luxurious cars at night… it has a mystique.
Then in Athens, we shot two videos with director Paige Von Bank, it was so crazy because we did them both in a day. They were filmed by George Geranios of FOTONOVELA who you know and Sophie Sarigiannidou from MARSHEAUX did our make-up, it was all such a family affair… and then we feasted at George’s family tavern after the shoot
That does explain the creative tension in this collaboration which does have this urgent feel about it, there’s no “mañana” about it …
Elena: yes, for me, it was the first time we crammed so much in a “pop” or song-based project of mine. With the soundtrack stuff, I am more used to the pressure of “deliver this now” which feels very stressful always, but for this, it felt like the good kind of stress that you are going to be so productive and you have this challenge. I feel like we made it every single time with Nina. Usually, it’s just “I’m just writing a song, it could take however long” but this time it really worked for me.
So what is the future of your creative relationship? Are you going to do a second EP?
Elena: I would love to do more stuff and I’m sure we will, but we are working on our own individual projects at the same time so it’s an open door.
Nina: That would be great! I think collaborating is a wonderful way to learn new things and push the envelope. I’m always open to it.
Are live shows a possibility or is that really not practical or cost-effective?
Elena: I mean, it’s not easy but we both want it and hopefully we will make it happen.
Nina: It would definitely be an adventure that everyone would enjoy, so I hope we can make it happen. Where there’s will there’s a way!
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to KID MOXIE & NINA
‘Electric Kiss’ is available as a single on the usual online platforms, pre-save link at https://idib.ffm.to/electrickiss
Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by George Tripodakis and Paige Von Bank
2nd March 2023