NOEP live: A Beirut Jam Sessions gig and interview

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Firas Haidar
Editor-at-Large

  Move. That’s all he asks of you. Jump higher, swing faster, put your hands above your head and shake them harder. Go about it however way you like, but move. It’s an interaction. NOEP is counting on you, just as much as you’re counting on him.

  Before the main act kicked off, newcomer and local talent Code 0 plugged in his guitar to open up the latest Beirut Jam Sessions gig, held on Sunday, September 18, in Gardenstate. The artist’s electro beats merged with his instrumental tunes to welcome the audience into the dimly-lit outdoors. About half an hour and a few thanks later, Code 0 vacated the spot and called in the cavalry. NOEP was in the house.

  The Estonian electro-pop artist wasted no time and delved right into his debut single “Move.” But not everyone complied at first. It wasn’t until NOEP asked the crowd to come closer to the stage that the real party started. A few songs in, his signature upbeat mood took over and there was a major shift in scenery. What was a calm, cozy venue a few moments ago quickly turned into a sweaty, cheerful dance floor. NOEP was having his way, and people were definitely enjoying it.

  He started off with some of his more popular tracks, like “Golden” and “Rihanna,” and then delivered the exciting news: He was shooting the music video for his latest single, “Rooftop,” right here in Beirut. He then gave us an exclusive demo. The crowd let out a cheer louder than the resonating music, only to give in to the song’s beats a second later.

  After that, NOEP toned it down a bit. “Early September” seemed more like a sing-along rather than a performance: it was a give-and-take between artist and audience, executed in the best possible way. By that time, people were a bit closer to each other; more comfortable around others standing next to them.  

  The night played out smoothly from that point on. NOEP asked the audience to jump and scream so that his director of photography could shoot footage for future music videos. The artist then stepped down the stage to intermingle with his satisfied concertgoers, making way for ETYEN to showcase his DJ set. People lingered on a bit. Conversations ensued. The venue had now become a model place for simply hanging out, exactly what one needed after a show like that.

During that time, Outlook had the chance to interview NOEP, courtesy of Beirut Jam Sessions, and discuss with him past, present, and future topics.

Almost a year and a half after your fantastic debut with “Move,” you find yourself in Beirut, Lebanon. Are you excited about exploring new grounds?

  It’s super awesome. This is one of the greatest things about doing music. It lets you travel to places you would normally never go. Thanks to music, I’ve been to many places in Europe, Turkey, and now here.

Does the city look anything like what you imagined or heard?

  From the moment I heard I was going to Beirut, I started Google-ing it in every possible way, so I saw how Beirut would look like. But I believe it has exceeded my expectations. I’ve actually only heard good things about Beirut. I have friends from Estonia who have been here. The people here are super friendly, the weather’s really nice, and the parties are very cool. When I arrived here, I was amazed.

Comparing Lebanon to Estonia, do you think there are any similarities between the two countries?

  Not geologically. We are totally flat; no mountains. But what surprises me the most is that people everywhere are essentially the same. I met Anthony Semaan, the organizer, and we’ve been driving around Beirut with three of his friends I didn’t know before. I met a lot of people here and I feel like I’ve known them for a while. They’re super similar to people I know in Estonia. And people on the streets are very friendly. Like for example, we got lost driving around, and people here were very helpful.

Your music clips on Youtube lead to the works of other Estonian artists, like Ewert and the Two Dragons. Do you have any specific artists you’d like to recommend?

  Ewert and the Two Dragons is a great band. There are these new, kind of electronic medium artists, called Cartoon. They’re really popular and they’re doing great stuff. There’s also Iiris who’s really good. A really interesting band is I Wear Experiment; they have this sort of electronic, a bit of an alternative pop approach that is very different and very interesting. There are a lot of artists. For the past five years, the music scene in Estonia has totally exploded. Every other person in Estonia is a musician now.

How is it like to grow as an artist in such a vivid music scene?

 It’s good. Maybe the only downside is that there are only 1.3 million people in Estonia, and if every other person in Estonia became a musician, then the competition for concerts is really high. You can manage though.

What inspires you to make music, what’s your creative process like, and what are the main challenges you faced as a rising artist?

  Those are three very deep questions. Musically, I’m mostly inspired by music around me. If you take sounds, or you listen to a good track and get goose bumps, you try to not exactly replicate the sound, but replicate the feeling. That’s something that I really love.
  Regarding lyrics and what they’re about, I think the answer is the life around me. Most of my songs have a story behind them, and this is what I intend to keep without losing the heart of the songs. Sometimes when I listen to music, I don’t always pay attention to lyrics. Yet, in a way, that’s not important, because there’s an essence in the song that you should feel emotionally. And for me, that essence in my songs is the most important part.

Meanwhile, Beirut’s music scene is on the rise, with very talented artists emerging every year. Have you gotten the chance to check out any of them yet? If so, what do you think?

  I was introduced to Mashrou’ Leila. I really liked their songs. Someone also translated the lyrics for me while their song was playing and I got goosebumps.

Your music has a positive and optimistic vibe to it. It’s a mood-booster. Are you as positive a person as your work is? Do you think people in general should be positive?

  Of course, I aim to be a positive person. Because, you know, the common misconception about classical composers like Mozart, is that people have always thought that if they had a very positive tone to their music, then they were going through a good period of time. And then you have the requiems and the bad periods of time. But once, my music literature teacher told me that it was the other way around.
  I’m saying that because there’s a lot of stress and negative attitude in the world today, it’s very difficult to enjoy life sometimes. What I want to do is focus on the good side because, as they say, if you focus on the bad side, you’re in the bad side, but if you focus on the good side, you have the potential of being in the good side.
  I also don’t feel like I can be arrogant enough to spread negative emotions to other people because that would be rude. If people ask how I describe my music, it should be described as positive melancholy: even if it’s sad, there should be a positive side to the sadness. Because if it’s sad and also depressing, then there’s no point.

Where did the name NOEP come from?

  It actually just means NOEP. No deeper meaning. It comes from the word “button”, the thing that binds things together. I like the idea behind it because it’s the object that puts things into place, but it’s just NOEP.

Is that what you aim for in a gig, to bring people together?
  Actually, yeah. Usually after the concert, the people seem so friendly. In Estonia, we’re huge on personal space because there are so few of us, and we’re maybe a bit closed up, but after the concert, you can feel the energy that flows. In this way, maybe it works.

Do you think it worked tonight?
  Yeah, definitely. In the beginning, everyone was super stiff, but in the end everyone seemed to be very happy.

You announced that you’ll be shooting the music video for your new single, Rooftop, here in Beirut. Where will you be shooting the video exactly? Why do you think this city fits your song?
  I’m going to shoot it on the rooftop! Actually, Rooftop is one of the songs that have the least amount of lyrics. It’s not exactly shallow, but it doesn’t have a story that goes from A to B. The emotion behind it is really strong, though. When I was young, my friends and I used to go to the rooftop of a factory across the street. We would stay there all night. We weren’t thinking about tomorrow. We would just go there and watch the sunset and the sunrise. We felt happiness inside us, a light feeling. When I did the song, I had that light feeling. When I go back to that place, I remember that that is how I should feel now, as opposed to being dead inside like a grown up. So, when I was thinking of Beirut, I felt a sense of freedom because, in a way, it’s sort of anonymous here. In a way, you can do whatever you like.
  I’m telling the story of three little kids who are dancers. They break the rules to get to the coolest rooftop to do their dance act on. They get in trouble and run from the security guard, because they don’t care, they’re kids! I thought the essence of Beirut fits really well with this idea.

You seem to appreciate this country for what it is, and your show here was a success. Do you think you’ll be coming back in the foreseeable future?
  Of course I am! We drove around today outside Beirut and there are so many places I’d like to visit. Actually, the people here are so cool. It would be depressing to think that I won’t see them again. So, yes, I’m definitely coming back.

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Beirut Jam Sessions

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