Nia Archives is all vibes, curls bouncing, megawatt smile, and jamming out to the frenetic breakbeats of her jungle music idols.
As she preps for her upcoming ‘Junglist Down Unda’ tour, teasing fans on Instagram ahead of her Laneway appearances, one thing is clear: whether she’s hyping up a massive crowd or, in this case, busting moves solo in her kitchen, this London-based, Bradford-born artist and DJ knows how to bring the party wherever she goes.
“I haven’t played since my Manchester show in December, and I’ve been battling boredom!” Nia laughs during a Zoom chat that same day. “All I’ve been doing is collecting music on my laptop and turning them into little jungle riffs for my sets. I’m so pumped to come back, and I’ll be testing out some new songs on stage too.”
It’s an exciting return for the rapidly rising star, who has soared since her string of 2022 shows following the release of her debut EP, Headz Gone West, which featured her breakout hit, “Sober Feels”. At just 24-years-old, Nia has notched up countless accolades, including a BRIT nomination, all while delivering electrifying DJ sets at major festivals like Coachella and Glastonbury and opening for Beyoncé in London. And that Manchester gig she casually mentions? That was a massive sold-out takeover at the city’s Warehouse Project, which pulled in a mighty 10,000 fans.
What sets Nia apart is her unique style – a “new-gen junglist”- that injects a fresh attitude into jungle and its successor drum and bass, electronic dance music subgenres forged in late ’80s and early ’90s Britain. Three decades later, she’s at the forefront of a new wave of female artists, especially black women, taking those genres to new heights and new listeners. (Sherelle, PinkPantheress, and Bambii are also part of this movement, seamlessly weaving drum and bass loops into their songs.)
Nia’s soundscapes, an infectious fusion of emotive vocals and diary-like lyrics, riding over those blistering, nostalgic yet future-forward beats, is resonating globally. “The way I write comes from personal experiences in my life, and that’s sometimes really emotional or melancholic. But singing sad songs with sad music feels too much. That’s why I love jungle – it’s super energetic and makes you feel good,” she explains.
In 2024, Nia’s momentum keeps rolling. Fresh releases follow summer hits like “Off Wiv Ya Headz” and “Bad Gyalz”, along with her well-received second solo EP, Sunrise Bang Ur Head Against Tha Wall, dropped last March. The introspective “Crowded Roomz” gets personal as Nia reflects on feeling lonely and dealing with social anxiety during her tours. Set against a skittering jungle drumbeat, she soulfully sings: “I feel so lonely, especially in crowded rooms / It’s a facade, my persona is my costume/ No one to turn to, they don’t understand my blues.”
“It’s about always being around people but not having those you can truly be yourself with. It’s me being real, and a lot of people have said they totally relate to it,” Nia says of the latter track.
Nia grew up in Leeds surrounded by a mix of reggae, disco, hip hop, and Rage Against the Machine. A move to Manchester at 16 plunged her into that city’s pulsating rave scene, cultivating her determined spirit away from London’s influential dance scene. Reflecting on her Northern upbringing, she notes, “You had to do everything DIY,” attributing her eclectic style to her feverish quest for music, especially her cherished jungle. “I draw inspiration from a lot of the original jungle producers in the ’90s like Goldie, Roni Size, and Lemon D. I just love everything about it,” she enthuses.
Expanding beyond her music releases, Nia has shaken up the rave scene by introducing her ‘Up Ya Archives’ curated club nights, which started last year. These events offer a “new-gen junglist experience,” providing a safe space and aiming to embrace and welcome women under 25 into the fold. Nia wants to shift away from the typical crowd, often dominated by middle-aged men nostalgically reliving their youth, according to her.
“’Up Ya Archives’ started as a silly party idea between me and a mate… we’ve since taken it all around the world to Ireland, parts of Asia, and North America, selling out shows in New York and LA. It brings in diverse and inclusive crowds, really young too, and about 60% women which is super rare for the rave scene.”
Nia is set to bring the ‘Up Ya Archive’ party experience to two special sideshows in Sydney and Melbourne, adding an extra flair to her full sweep of Laneway shows. Audiences can anticipate a fully-loaded DJ set, with Nia spinning her latest remixes before stepping in front of the decks with a mic to perform her own tracks.
“Expect heaps of high energy, festival summer sounds. It’s gonna be so fun,” she sums up. She offers a quick shoutout to her friends on the lineup too. “I can’t wait to see horsegiirL and also Skin on Skin on his home turf. They’re both friends of mine and are playing before and after me, so come early and stay late!”
She anticipates “looooads of new music” in the coming year, but for now, she’s packing her beats and heading back Down Under.
Nia Archives’ new single “Crowded Roomz” is out now. More information about Laneway 2024 can be found here and additional sideshows here.