by Jas Keimig
In their decade of existence, Seattle-based electronic music duo NAVVI has made a name for themselves composing luscious, synth-driven sonic landscapes.
Singer Kristin Henry’s delicate and powerful voice weaves through producer Brad Boettger’s brooding beats, propelling listeners to dance to their pulsating tracks. And on May 5, NAVVI is slated to release their fifth record, V, via Seattle’s Hush Hush Records. This new era finds the two musicians eager to shift their sound in a different direction.
“For this latest body of work, I really wanted to explore something a little lighter. I wanted to lean into tenderness,” said Henry, NAVVI singer and Georgetown resident, in a recent phone interview. “I wanted to explore what a love song or a ballad would sound like in my world, in NAVVI’s world.”
It’s been four years since the band released their critically lauded fourth record, 25O2, with the 2020 COVID-19 shutdown and quarantine putting on hold their nascent plans to go on tour. Boettger and Henry did most of V’s writing and production remotely, sending lyrics, beats, and inspiration back and forth to one another. In a sense, V is a refuge from the existential turmoil of the past several years, embodying what Henry calls “happy in a minor key.”
V’s five tracks retain the gorgeous, cinematic quality NAVVI is known for. Incorporating elements of trip-hop, house, and pop, their love songs deftly explore the knotty corners of love and desire. Album opener “Clemency,” is a showstopper with Henry’s ethereal voice floating on top of Boettger’s shimmery synths and warped percussion. “Ultimae” picks up the pace with its house-inspired tempo fit for both the club and the afters while “Blue Murciélago” calms things down in erotic, slow-burn fashion with its looping drumbeats and Henry’s celestial, hypnotic vocals guiding listeners along. The album’s throbbing, bass-driven second track, “Love,” encapsulates the emotions Henry felt as a new mother.
“When we were writing and recording [“Love”], I found out I was pregnant, and that was all I could think about,” said Henry. “During the pandemic, there was so much fear. [The song] was almost like a protective prayer, a spell of love that I was casting on my child that was growing inside of me.”
In the intervening years since NAVVI’s last pre-pandemic performance, a lot has changed about Seattle’s music scene. New faces have popped up while artists and venues are still reeling from the financial impacts of the pandemic. As such, the duo are still figuring out how to get back into the mix. “I feel like I have to reintroduce myself into the scene, in a way, because it’s been so long,” said Henry. While NAVVI has no immediate concrete plans to go on tour soon, they’re cooking up something for listeners this summer. “I do miss being on stage and the energy of like a small, packed-out room,” she said.
V’s release in May also marks the band’s 10-year anniversary. The two met in 2013 after being introduced by a mutual friend at a moment when they were both looking for new horizons to explore with their music. In that time, they’ve been featured on NPR, played a venerated KEXP In-Studio session, and garnered a solid fanbase. But at this stage, Henry and Boettger are looking forward to recrafting their approach to their music.
“I think for the first part of NAVVI’s career, we were like, ‘Okay, we have something to prove — we’re good musicians, we are good artists, we’re here to make a statement and show people what we can do.’ But we’ve kind of shed that attitude,” said Henry. “Now, we’re just trying to create art that we both really like. We don’t have anything to prove anymore.”
NAVVI’s fifth record, V, is out on May 5. Pre-order at their official Bandcamp site.
Jas Keimig is a writer and critic based in Seattle. They previously worked on staff at The Stranger, covering visual art, film, music, and stickers. Their work has also appeared in Crosscut, South Seattle Emerald, i-D, Netflix, and The Ticket. They also co-write Unstreamable for Scarecrow Video, a column and screening series highlighting films you can’t find on streaming services. They won a game show once.
📸 Featured Image: Georgetown-based NAVVI returns after a four-year hiatus with “V,” a new direction for the synth-driven band. (Photo: Rey @wetnegatives and NAVVI)
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