This September, up and coming rock artist Yasmin Nur dropped her debut EP “Punch Me! This is a Nightmare!” The five track album is a cathartic and brutally honest collection of songs that perfectly sum up both the chaos of our world and the inner conflicts many young women face as they come of age. The title, a play on words that pokes fun at “pinch me, I’m dreaming,” is perhaps the perfect soundtrack for the year 2020.
Yasmin sat down with Spire Magazine via Zoom to talk about the stories behind the songs, what drew her to music, and of course, her two cats — Zucchini and Clementine.
Talking with Yasmin, I felt the instant solidarity of a kindred spirit — two girls barely into their twenties, trying to figure out what the hell is going on. We talked about our favorite girl bands of the 90’s, the influence of women ranging from Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna to Paramore’s Hayley Williams on our adolescence and shared love of female-fronted rock. We commiserated over the uncertainty of the world and the need to let loose and just go “f*cking crazy sometimes.”
“Punch Me! This is a Nightmare!” is the perfect medley of sound for anyone with a love for 90’s rock and grunge, polished with the fresh and unique vocals of someone full of love, rage, and absolute chaos. If I had to describe the sound using existing bands, it is as if someone threw a Nirvana bass line in with some Smashing Pumpkins style guitar, sprinkled a little Sleater-Kinney on top. Nur has created something entirely new, yet so familiar. Listening to the EP for the first time, I felt like someone had mixed together all of the best parts from my favorite bands and then made them entirely their own.
We started the interview with Yasmin’s journey into music — the story of a 13 year old girl in Wichita, Kansas just starting to fall in love with the sounds of riot grrrl and grunge. The music video “Volcano Girls” by Veruca Salt, Yasmin said, was one of the most influential pieces of media that drove her love of rock ‘n’ roll. Listening to her single “Voodoo Doll,” one can clearly hear the influence of Veruca Salt on Nur’s own songwriting.
After discovering her love for music, Yasmin grew to write her own songs and participate in the active DIY scene of Lincoln, Kansas, attending Wichita State University before leaving to pursue music full time.
Now with her first official release, Yasmin told us about the stories behind some of the songs.
“The one it seems people like the most is ‘Flowers in my Garden’— that song is kind of just about growing older and losing your girlfriends and how as you get older, it’s really hard to keep genuine friendships,” Yasmin said. “I think a lot of people think that song is about a boy or something romantic, but it’s not. It’s just about getting older and being a girl, it’s harder to keep genuine friends the older you get.”
“Driving in my Car’ is like a happy song. It’s just about how no matter crazy you are, people in your life will still love you.”
“Too Cool For This’ is just about the stress of having to go places by yourself or wanting to socialize, but it’s really hard to socialize. So you don’t want to, but you do,” Yasmin said, adding that she had a hard time fitting into the social scene of college when she attended.
“I Wanna Throw Up’ is kind of my approach to dealing with my own personal [eating disorder], you know? How it just makes me feel crazy, but I wanted to write a song that was happy and upbeat,” Yasmin said. The song features an upbeat melody and sunshiney vocals, but the words carry a more personal meaning behind them.
I break my mirrors just for fun
Seven years of bad luck doesn’t seem that bad, I’m bored
Now my mouth is full of blood
My hands are tired
I wanna throw up
“I find when I have to deal with that kind of thing, if I just smile and I’m more positive about it, it helps a lot more. There’s nothing like a distorted guitar cheering you up.”
When it comes to winding down and trying to catch a break, Yasmin was kind enough to introduce me via zoom to her two cats, the aptly named Clementine and Zucchini who keep the musician company indoors.
As far as writing these songs, Yasmin talked about how each song starts with the music — a few chords here and there, playing around until a sound clicks. A close friend of Yasmin’s, Carson Danks, wrote and performed all the basslines on the EP, along with another friend and roommate of Carson, JJ Mansolf.
The trio went on to record the album with solo producer, Scott Spriggs.
Yasmin went on to talk about an overarching theme in both the EP and her life, the fact that just coming of age as a girl is really f*cking hard.
“I think being a young woman is really challenging. I really do think so,” Yasmin said. “I don’t think we get enough credit for how strong we are as women and how hard we have to try with things. I mean, it’s hard. Everything is like a competition sometimes, it feels like just give me a break!”
Especially in the music scene, where women are a little more scarce, the competitive atmosphere can be a lot. Yasmin’s frustration with the struggles of being a young woman combined with her ferocious tenacity to have fun and “go a little crazy” regardless are what makes her music the perfect blend of pessimistic optimism. Does the world really suck right now? Absolutely.
But there’s nothing a little distortion can’t fix.