Audrey Nuna on Procrastination, Subway Piss, and Pre-Show Rituals
“I become a really boring person on tour,” says Audrey Nuna moments before taking the stage at the Roadrunner in Boston. “I like to try to do all the things that I don’t normally have the time for.” On tour opening for Ashnikko, the 24-year-old rapper works out and meditates, she reads and she journals. But once she hits the stage, wearing baggy white clothes and a choker necklace, blue and purple strobe lights reflecting off her face, she comes alive. Nuna, whose new single “Cellulite” drops next Friday, likes to keep things off-the-cuff; she does her own glam and figures out her outfits just before each show, amusingly describing her aesthetic as “futuristic grandparent elderly pre-professional skatewear.” To get a sense of what life’s like on the road, we linked up with the Jersey native backstage to talk pre-show routines, post-show kiki’s, and why New York is fun hell (and L.A. is shitty heaven).
CHLOE SHAAR: Hey, babe. How are you?
AUDREY NUNA: Hi!
SHAAR: Where are you right now?
NUNA: I am currently in Boston. I got here yesterday.
SHAAR: I went to Emerson, but I’m from L.A.
NUNA: It’s pretty artistic, right?
SHAAR: Yeah, it’s the only fun, artsy school in Boston with all the NYU rejects.
NUNA: I honestly got waitlisted for a bunch of my favorite schools, but it was a blessing because I think I was meant to go to NYU.
SHAAR: Is it your first time in Boston?
NUNA: No, I came here to visit Berklee before and I did a show here last year when I was on tour with BLXST.
SHAAR: How was the crowd last time you were there?
NUNA: It was all right, to be honest. I’m hoping this time is different. You know, the East Coast—sometimes they’re just too cool to have a good time.
SHAAR: They’re too posh. Where’s the show tonight?
NUNA: It’s at this new spot called Roadrunner. I was actually there recently because I took my brother to see Snarky Puppy, this band that he really loves, and the venue was sick.
SHAAR: So what does your day-off look like?
NUNA: Well, today is an exception because I just got off a six-day run of shows. I had two shows, then flew back to L.A. for literally 12 hours for a nonprofit show, then I came back and did a three-run. I was exhausted, so I literally woke up less than an hour ago.
SHAAR: I’m glad you woke up for me.
NUNA: But usually, I work out whenever there’s a gym at the hotel, meditate, read, journal. I like to preserve my energy for showtime the day of, whether it’s just chilling at the venue or getting work done on my laptop. People say I get really quiet before shows because I get nervous. And throat coat tea, for sure. I become a really boring person on tour. I like to try to do all the things that I don’t normally have the time for.
SHAAR: I don’t think that that makes you boring. Your body might just need a little break from everything.
NUNA: A healthy, adult mindset. I love that for you. People from L.A. are so chill.
SHAAR: When you get to the venue early, do you have any pre-show rituals?
NUNA: I like to listen through the set and imagine myself going through it so that when I get on stage, I feel like I’ve already predicted how it’s going to go. I’ve done these sets so much, not just on this tour, but throughout my last few years of being in music. For me, it’s really a mental game. If I can lock in mentally and energy-wise, it always goes well. It’s a lot of visualizing.
SHAAR: Do you have your fit picked out for tonight?
NUNA: Nope. I kind of pick right before. I think it’s a fun exercise in creativity to work with what I have and pick an outfit the day of. I’ve been doing that pretty much every day on this tour. I procrastinate the fuck out of everything, but sometimes the time constraint pushes me to try new shit. I think I’m low-key addicted to the high of being able to figure it out last-minute. It’s very toxic.
SHAAR: But then it comes together.
NUNA: This is therapy. Are you my therapist?
SHAAR: Maybe. What are your favorite songs to perform?
NUNA: I’ve been enjoying the new stuff so much because [Ashnikko’s] crowd is so open, it’s the perfect crowd to play new shit for. It’s a bunch of people who are down for whatever. That’s an amazing, incredible energy to be performing for. There’s a song called “Pajamas” that’s not out yet that I really enjoy performing, and another new one called “Me and My Baby” that I love because it’s super interactive. It’s a 30-minute set, which is the perfect amount of time for me, and it’s one of the first times I’m doing a set that’s up-tempo basically the whole time. It just feels like a party every time.
SHAAR: That sounds fun. Did you two know each other before the tour?
NUNA: I’ve known of her and her music, and she followed me on Instagram. So we were internet acquaintances and had some mutual friends, but this is the first time I’m meeting her in person.
SHAAR: Cool. Do you do your own glam?
NUNA: I only travel with my TM and my DJ. It’s just the three of us just flying across the country together, so I am pretty much my entire glam team and styling team packed into one flesh blob. It would be nice to have someone help out, but it’s definitely been doable. And I very much come from a DIY background. I’ve literally excavated a toilet from a random person’s shed because it was what was needed for a music video. Again, the restraints, a lot of time, push you to do something new and different, and something that might start as a solution to a problem becomes better than the real thing.
SHAAR: How would you describe your personal style in a couple words?
NUNA: I would say it’s futuristic grandparent elderly pre-professional skate wear.
SHAAR: I love that. What’s your post-show vibe?
NUNA: If I have a show the next day, I’ll chill. But if I have a travel day the next day, I’ll definitely go out. One of the TMs I work with is on tour with A Boogie right now, so the other day we just randomly converged in Cleveland and I went to the show. It was super fun. Life is so much more than just work, so if I can, I try to go out and see some shit and meet new people.
SHAAR: Do you think you’re going out in Boston tonight?
NUNA: I don’t think so. I have the New York show tomorrow and that’s one of the most important shows to me, so I’m going to preserve my energy tonight.
SHAAR: The Mirage is going to be great.
NUNA: I’ve never played it before. My friend Callie is a DJ and has played there a bunch, and that’s my only exposure to it. I’m stoked. Is it cold in New York?
SHAAR: It’s really rainy. It’s crispy. Fall is definitely upon us.
NUNA: I fucking love that. I miss the crispiness in L.A. That shit feeds my soul.
SHAAR: You’re in L.A. full time?
NUNA: For the past two years, after being in Jersey and New York back and forth for my whole life. L.A. is a weird place, but looking back, I’m starting to understand why I was supposed to come here. But for two years, it didn’t really make sense to me. I felt very out of place. It just felt very simulation-y.
NUNA: Why is that so accurate? New York has a feeling of everything being shitty but also you’ll have some of the most euphoric, blissful moments of your life, even though you’re seeing a mutated rat and a man piss off the subway with his dick out. But you’re still going to have some of the purest moments in New York. Whereas L.A. is amazing, the palm trees aren’t even native, we moved them here for aesthetic purposes, it’s great—but there’s a lack of that purity.
SHAAR: I’m so glad that we got to chat. You’re so fire.
NUNA: No, you’re so fire. Let me know if you’re at the show tomorrow.
SHAAR: I’m 100% going. Good luck tonight.
NUNA: Thank you. Shout out to Boston.