Nullifi - "One of the biggest driving forces for me as an artist is becoming the South Asian representation in the music world that I wanted to see as a kid." - Stereo Stickman

Nullifi “One of the biggest driving forces for me as an artist is becoming the South Asian representation in the music world that I wanted to see as a kid.”


Creative producer and artist Nullifi has released a handful of strikingly original tracks in 2023, the likes of a hard-hitting yet dreamy and exotic INTOXICATED marking a fine example of the artistic freedom brought to the stage.

We caught an interview with Nullifi, prior to release of another new track, to find out more about the journey that led to here, how the music comes about, and what the future may hopefully hold. Here’s the conversation in full.

* * *

Hi NULLIFI – a pleasure to chat, thank you! For those new to your music, where are you based, and how would you describe your sound?

I appreciate the opportunity. I am from California, and if I had to describe my music, I’d say haunted pop, a blend of electronic beats inside a world of decadence, love and glamour.

You often set-up your tracks in uniquely creative ways – from guitar and keys to retro rhythms, synths, vocal layers and plenty more. What’s your musical background, and who or what first inspired you to write and produce songs?

For as long as I can remember, music has been my passion, my first love. I grew up surrounded by musical influences. My inspirations stretch across multiple time periods and places around the world and I usually incorporate elements from all of those things to create my instrumentals. Beyoncé, Michael Jackson, The Weeknd, and BUCK-TICK are some artists that have been a consistent inspiration for me.

Bollywood music from the 2000s was also a huge musical inspiration for me. My dad was a DJ in college, and as a kid I used to listen to a lot of his Bollywood/Hip-Hop fusion mixes. I think over time, I naturally started using elements of it in my creative process. However, I hadn’t quite found my sound until a few years ago when a significant shift happened in my creative journey. One day I came across one of BUCK-TICK’s live performances. This was the first time I discovered them and it was the song Kiss Me Goodbye from their 1992 ‘Climax Together’ show. While I was watching them, I realized that there is no such thing as a “perfect song”. They were a shining example of a band that literally made whatever they wanted to make and it was unique and successful.

It was amazing to watch. I think that mental liberation was the catalyst for me developing my sound and it’s incredible to think that just coming across a video one day could change my life so drastically.

One of the biggest driving forces for me as an artist is becoming the South Asian representation in the music world that I wanted to see as a kid. I loved music so much and I always wanted to see myself reflected in that world so one day it was like, “Why don’t I just do it myself?” That feeling only became stronger after my younger sister was born. I wanted to be someone she could look up to, that would make her feel empowered and proud of her culture as a young South Asian girl.

“I ultimately want to use my music to be an example for girls to follow their passions and be creative and unapologetic about their body, their emotions, their background, and who they are as a person. I always told myself, “I’m going to be the icon I wish I had”.”

INTOXICATED is the new single, an enchanting dance anthem with a unique stop-and-start progression. What was the creative process like for this?

The backstory of this song is honestly hilarious to me because it started as a joke, and has since gone to fashion shows and raves, becoming my most streamed song. Originally the concept of this song started when my friend said “Don’t you dare write a song for Kisaki (from Tokyo Revengers)”. Obviously I absolutely had to after she said that.

So then I wrote a poem exploring the mind of someone who thinks their possessive violent urges are actually love. Someone who is blinded and consumed by obsession and would do anything to take the person they wanted. It was the most fun I’ve had with writing a song because it allowed me to step out of myself and explore a very twisted mindset with no limits. I got to play around with themes of love and jealousy and rage and insanity and mix them up into a nasty little house party.

From the very beginning, the lines “Would you sing for me, Would you bleed for me, Would you do anything for me?” were stuck in my head and the rest of the song was built around that chorus. After that, I easily made the initial demo in a few hours with the beat, melody, some chords and synths, then reached out to my friend Arzie, and we worked together to add tracks that help create the overall scene of the song.

What are the instrumental nuances we’re hearing and how did you design these?

The overall process of designing the instrumentals took about 2 months. Most of it was created on an iPhone using GarageBand and voice memos sent back and forth. My vision for the instrumentals was very electronic and energetic, but at the same time with an underlying feeling of danger. Like a musical circus, fun and disturbing. I wanted to use the contrast created by the lyrics and instrumentals to personify the deceitful nature of violent obsession. Basically the song should sound like it has a few screws loose.

I worked with Arzie to design that vision through adding distortion on the drums in the intro and background vocals. We also played around with adding a soft choir into the chorus and organ chords throughout the entire song. The baseline he created in the verses is my favorite part of the song. It’s so catchy and I think it really gave life to the song as a whole. Sometimes I listen to the instrumentals alone just to appreciate what we made here.

What was it like to perform this in the studio and pour so much energy into it?

During the recording process, I had to put myself in the mindset of the character the song revolves around. It was an incredibly fun process for me because it forced me to unapologetically bring out a dark and almost sadistic side of me. I’m a bit of a perfectionist so I was prepared to do as many takes as needed but I noticed that when I disconnect myself from the reality of being in front of a mic with all these people and just let myself feel the song, I didn’t need very many takes because the energy I wanted in the song came naturally to me. It was kind of liberating. And then, the feeling of listening to the vocals after the recording is done is indescribable. It still feels like the very first song I made. You have this moment that’s like “Wow, I created this and it sounds amazing and I created this.”

I’d say that feeling is a little intoxicating.

What’s your biggest ambition right now when you create and share your music?

I think knowing that my art has a positive impact on people’s lives is one of the most rewarding feelings ever. Like knowing that the things I create through my own experiences can be relatable to so many people and make them feel seen and empowered and not alone. I’ve always been proud of myself for being someone that leaves a lasting impression on people I interact with so I want to keep creating art and using my voice to make a difference. I want to uplift the people I love through my journey.

In the near future I want to keep pushing myself and branch out into more genres, maybe create an EP or concept album with visuals.

“In my mind, there’s no limits when it comes to touching people’s lives and leaving a lasting impact on the world through my music. The bar I set right now can only be exceeded by me.”

Tell me about Reaper – a sonically immersive listen, with soulfully reflective lyrics and a haunting melody; how did this come about, and what does it represent for you?

Reaper is the first song I ever worked on as a full release and it was done within one weekend. The song itself started through a drum beat I came up with while driving one day. I kept tapping it on my steering wheel and once I got to my laptop, I made the melody and instrumentals and the song was pretty much done within 3 hours. It’s actually a pretty simple instrumental that revolves around the bass and drums. After that I just had to write lyrics and record vocals. I was always into horror and crime thrillers and found the idea of “dancing with the devil” an interesting analogy to play around with lyrically.

I think a lot of us have had our own dances with devils, toxic relationships and addictions. When it starts out it always seems like something that fills a void within us but by the time we realize what it actually is, we’re too deep into it and can’t turn back around. I wanted to personify how those relationships and addictions have deceitful appearances and can be incredibly entrancing through the character of the reaper and the scenario of the song. Oftentimes we blame ourselves for not being stronger or not being able to resist, but I truthfully don’t think it has anything to do with our strength. We are only human, and we can only know what we see. To me the song is a way to say “It’s okay and it’s absolutely possible to heal from it. Please forgive yourself.”

On the softer side we have tracks like Fading – Which lyric from the song do you feel stands out and connects the most, and why?

I think the heart of the song is in the opening line: “Every night I dance on a tightrope, can’t tell if I’m a circus display or not.” Fading has always been a very personal song for me but over time the way I connect to it has evolved. My self concept used to feel shackled to my appearance, achievements, and usefulness to others. It was because everything was an uphill battle. I had to be perfect or it wasn’t enough.

There was no winning in that kind of life. It was painful and it took a massive toll. Living like that, it was easy to feel more like a mannequin or exhibit than a human being. After a while, you truly believe that if you stop the performance then everything will fall apart. It makes you forget who you are without those fears and expectations.

But eventually I met someone that truly just saw me as a human being and nothing more. Someone who expected nothing more from me other than my happiness and existence. And experiencing that kind of acceptance and genuine love led me to a lot of guilt and anxiety because it was like, “Why would they stay if I haven’t provided some tangible reason?” Because of that, I kept reverting back to the same self destructive cycles to ensure there’s a concrete reason for them to stay. To me that first line is so important because it sets the context for all these feelings and sums up the reality of it.

However now, Fading has become a memorial for my past and a way to honor how far I’ve come from that point in my life. Even though my surroundings didn’t change, I realized I could choose whether or not to lose myself to perfection and fear.

At the end of the day, nobody’s opinions or expectations mattered more than my happiness. I want to use my past as an example for my listeners to face their fears and take a chance that could change the way they live their life.

“We are all flawed and we all owe ourselves the freedom to heal with the support of the person who loves us for who we are. We can always choose to take a leap of faith. It’s never too late.”

If you could sit down for lunch with anyone at all, past or present, who would you choose, and what would you ask them about?

I’d choose Leonardo Da Vinci. I’ve always loved Renaissance history and Virgin of the Rocks is one of my favorite paintings. I’ve studied his life in great detail. In fact, a few years ago I attempted to learn how to read sheet music from that time period so that I could sample the requiem that was hidden in ‘The Last Supper’. That was quite a goal considering I never formally learned any music theory whatsoever, but I tried anyway. I’d love to see him play that melody. I would also love to hear about his time working with Machiavelli and learn the art of their military strategies and inventions. The list of things I’d want to hear about goes on and on.

Beyond everything else, I’m most interested in learning the fundamentals of how he thinks. The word “genius” was given to him but he actually just followed his passions with no limits and allowed himself to explore his curiosity. How can I achieve that kind of mental freedom? How does a “genius” live their life? What are the similarities and differences between the way we think? What defines a genius? I believe he would have timeless advice that can be adapted to any circumstance and I want to apply that knowledge to my own life.

After all, if you can work towards being anything in the world, why not aspire to be a genius?

Do you ever worry about getting too personal with your lyrics, or is authenticity and emotion crucial to connecting with listeners?

Every song I create is based on my own feelings and experiences. I don’t think creating art is possible without getting personal and facing your emotions, good bad and ugly. It wouldn’t be authentic otherwise.

It’s ironic because in my life I’m not really known as an emotionally expressive person. My mind usually defaults to logic and overintellectualizing my feelings. I can often be very avoidant and that burning urge to bury my feelings comes from a place of intense fear. But even though it took work, I’ve learned that having the courage to face those feelings and turning it into something beautiful can be incredibly inspiring and powerful. Rarely are any of us healed in isolation, so if I can use my experiences as a way to show others they are not alone then it’s absolutely worth it.

How do you decide whether to keep things mellow or high-energy with any given track?

It depends on the narrative I have in mind for the track. Before I create any instrumentals I always have a story or a large chunk of poetry created and based on that I imagine what that story would sound like as a song.

Lyrically my songs are often quite dark and the main difference is the overall energy. For example, I wanted INTOXICATED to sound very upbeat and full and almost manic, because the initial lyrics and poetry I wrote for it gave off the same energy. Fading on the other hand had a story that was a lot slower and more sensual. I don’t like to tie myself down to a singular mold for a song. It’s much more fun to experiment and let myself create with spontaneity.

What’s your plan of action for 2024?

I actually have a new record coming out in January called Red Lights. Creating the song and shooting the cover art was an experience I will never forget, and I am so incredibly excited for everyone to hear it. Along with that I have at least 3 more releases and a remix planned for next year.

Is there anything else we should know?

I want to take this opportunity to thank someone very close to my heart. She’s like the Hachi to my Nana. She has continuously supported me for who I am, and inspired me to never give up on myself and my music. If she sees this, I want her to know I’m going to make us both proud.

* * *

Find all things Nullifi here or follow on Instagram.

Rebecca Cullen

Founder & Editor

Founder, Editor, Musician & MA Songwriter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *