NUEX’s singer/songwriter Camille Michelle Gray allowed her intuition to take the lead when responding to the Craiglist ad from drummer-producer Teddy Aitkins. Very little was posted from Atkins, merely stating along the lines of the following: “Looking for a singer. Call me.” Gray didn’t know what was she getting herself into, but the outcome of the meeting turned out to be a match made from the heavens. The duo chatted for hours about their musical backgrounds and where they wanted to take it in the future. The afternoon engagement soon led to the twosome converging at a frequent pace, with discussions of recording music becoming more of a reality.
Concentrating on creating a sound that is devoted to the heavens, sky, and clouds, NUEX’s music has a bright sound that is fresh. Since their inception in 2014, the duo has been building their following around the Washington, D.C. vicinity with their infectious electronic pop songs. It’s not hard to see the chemistry between Gray and Atkins is sharp and effortless, which entirely comes alive within their debut EP Affectus (released May 25th this year).
We had the opportunity to catch up with both Grey and Atkins to talk more about NUEX’s EP, the scene in Washington, D.C., and how all of us being interconnected is four awe-inspiring.
Where did you grow up?
Camille: Suburbs of Washington D.C.
Teddy: West Africa Liberia/Silver Spring, MD
When you were growing up, what led you to explore music?
C: I grew up in a household that knew the importance of the arts. So though neither of my parents was creative, my mom saw it fit to enroll me in violin at a young age to develop that part of my brain. Little did she know she was activating a latent talent and interest.
T: I was forced into playing drums by the school’s music teacher. It’s all his fault. My family wasn’t musical. I was legit like Hector from Coco. Just the African version, I was expected to “focus on my books.”
When did it start to click that creating music was going to be your calling?
C: Everyone always liked my songs and my voice. It was therapeutic and innate for me, plus it was drawing a positive reaction. One plus one equals two, you know?
T: I enjoy doing it with all my heart. So I continue doing what I love to do.
What has the scene in Washington, D.C. done for you regarding influence within your music?
C: I’m proud to be from here, but the city scene itself, on a macro-level, does nothing for me. I’m an insular person and draw mostly from interpersonal relationships and experiences. Washington D.C. is just a backdrop. Though I do think if I had grown up in bumfuck nowhere America, my music would be very different. Maybe city/suburban life is so ingrained in my psyche that I take for granted that it could have any influence at all. I will say city life introduced a host of diversity (people, lifestyles) into my life that I draw from. But, again, it’s such a given that it is hard to parse out the exact influence. Now I’m talking/thinking too much. NEXT!
The two of you have been on a gentle climb from the start of NUEX; shows and exposure are starting to come more to you each day. Do you two feel that you are beginning to see the payoff?
C: I’m an impatient person, and I struggle to find gratitude for the small things. I want the big pie in the sky. Logically, I am proud of our progress and see it as a healthy and effortless progression. But emotionally, nothing is good enough unless it is a Grammy (and all that that world would represent). I’m working on that though, and am finding solace in the slow burn. Trusting the timing of your life is hard.
T: We make music that helps us heal, laugh, dance and cry. We’ve already won. So we’ve been getting paid.
I read that the initial meeting between you two was great, but there were some doubts about working together. What did you have to tell yourself to give this project a chance?
C: I didn’t know the proverb then, but I know it now, and I know that it is how I felt when I met Teddy: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I was at an impasse, and I knew I would not be able to keep going gracefully unless I had a partner (s) in crime. So throughout the initial take off, like a plane encountering air pockets, I reminded myself of that. Now we are at cruising altitude, and I’m happy we kept on keeping on.
T: Despite our personal uncertainties, music always remained a constant. We worked/work too well together at music to let egos and differences get in the way of what is real.
The beauty of life is that in some ways we are all interconnected. How important is it for you two to showcase this thought within your music and lyrics?
T: That is what we are all about baby. Connecting with everyone and everyone connecting with us. For me, this energy the most when we are performing in front of people.
C: Very. To belong to something bigger—one human family, the Universe, an intricate matrix of organized chaos, whatever—is to have purpose and hope. To live life thinking you’re just one teeny tiny person who is experiencing everything alone and independent of everyone is depressing and isolating. That’s kind of where most of the planet is, tbh. PSA: You’re not alone. We’ve all been there. In fact, we started a club, you’re invited, and we’re all dancing in here—that is what our music is about. A celebration of shared experience, especially the painful ones, and knowing it is somehow all divine and purposeful. Even if we don’t know why or how.
What’s the meaning behind the title of the EP?
C: “Affectus” is Latin for emotion. Break it apart, and you affect us! It is a journey through the people and experiences that have influenced us, and a celebration or study on the emotions that preceded and gave birth to each song.
How long did it take for Affectus to be written and recorded?
C: One million years. Oh, I mean four years. From the exact start to the actual finish, four years, with a lot of tom-foolery in-between.
Did at any point during the making of Affectus become almost too much emotionally? I read that there was some relief internally after the production of the EP wrapped.
C: The most emo parts were the “how are we going to put this out there?” pieces. So we never belabored any song, or I never halted the process of writing or recording because something, a lyric or melody, was making me cry or whatever. Teddy and I create like we breathe, it’s straightforward, even the sad songs—we are professionals there. The hardest part is the business. Creativity and commerce are so polar. The times that brought me to my knees always involved contracts and money and so and so’s, etc. The relief came when all those moving parts were finally lined up, and we could have a body of work directly backing us up after years of just playing shows into the void. LOL.
Why did you make Affectus an EP instead of LP? I can imagine that you two had a significant amount of songs.
C: We do. We have 40+. I like the idea of leaving little breadcrumbs here and there. So a small taste of this and a small taste of that, drawing people in slowly but surely. EPs are the most effective way to do this because you leave people wanting more. It also gives Teddy, and I time to plan and create—if we come out with everything we have, then we scramble to produce more. Instead, we’re chillin on a goldmine of unreleased music that we can put out whenever.
Now that Affectus is released, what do you want to explore sonically with the next batch of songs?
T: We are always writing and exploring different sounds.
C: I’d say we’re pretty directionless but in a right way. Not one specific sound, just seeing what appeals to us and let it be a natural progression.
After working together for the past couple of years now, what have you two learned from each other that you didn’t know before?
T: We are like siblings. She is one of the best people you could meet. Full of rich goals and dreams with A LOT of heart. You wish she were your friend. We always talk about how it seems like we knew each other in another life because of how we click and work with each other. She’s my girl.
C: After knowing Teddy for four years, I can sincerely say he is one of the most courageous and optimistically infectious people to be around. Even when he is in a dark mood, he’s kind. He has perennial kindness. I admire that. He’s also a risk taker and inspires me to live more boldly and to define dreams and goals for myself that are far larger than what I could imagine. He’s also extremely good with money and is helping me become un-broke/business savvy! Basically, a cool older bro.
Still thrilled that you took that leap towards meeting each other (laughs)?
T: Yea, Duh! I am soooo blessed to call her my bandmate. It feels good to have a good friend.
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