Nilia Berkin

Nilia Berkin

 Montréal, Quebec, CAN
BandPopSinger/Songwriter

Indie pop creations from a Montreal singer-pianist. A blend of pop, jazz and classical with a sprinkle of punk-rock. The music is sultry, mysterious, retro, cute.

Biography

Nilia Berkin has been pounding piano keys from the tender age of four, when she started her classical
training. Like many others before her, she felt a great relief when she finally found the courage to quit
the forced lessons and become a normal booze-swilling, class-skipping teenager. Still, music was never
very far away as choral singing soon replaced her first instrument and continued on for many years.
At the end of university, she tagged along to a friend’s rehearsal space to watch his band. “I was instantly
mesmerized,” she recalls, “I kept thinking, ‘wow, this reminds me of Iggy Pop’, yet I’d never even seen him
before. I knew I had to join this group.” By the end of the month, she had joined Les Poupées Gonflables
as background singer and center stage dancer. “I wasn’t really doing too much up there but I got to wear
go-go boots and be in a rock band. It’s everyone’s fantasy, really.” After playing Montreal and the Quebec
region for a number of years, band members went their separate ways. “In the final months I was dead–set
on being a guitar player but the band already had three of them and really needed a bassist. Everything
became a lot harder for us and I just wanted to write songs on my new acoustic.”
Fast forward two years and Nilia found herself immersed in piano playing once again but this time under
the tutelage of Montreal jazz pianist, Lorraine Desmarais. “I studied with her for two years. She was such
a dynamo and a real musical force and I could barely remember any of the voicings she taught me. I had
to write everything down and was by far the slowest in the class.” Nevertheless, Desmarais had enough
faith in Nilia to offer her cocktail gigs around the city. She would find herself frequently performing as a duo
with partner-in-crime guitarist, TJ Plenty (the Asexuals).
In 2000, she met a local agent who booked her a 3-month cocktail pianist gig in Matsuyama, Japan. “I was
worried about all the wrong things before going,” she remembers, “I thought it would be hard to play but in
the end, it was the isolation that got to me. It was a bit like the movie Groundhog Day: waking up and doing
the exact same thing for a hundred days. Still, it was a beautiful country and a great professional experience.”
Upon her return she started writing songs for her new album. “I knew it was something that I had to do so
I just sat down every morning for half a year until I had 12 songs. I’d think about the lyrics while walking my
dog, Beast. We’d wander around endlessly sometimes; me, just mumbling to myself like a lunatic while he
took a half an hour to sniff a snowbank. Those walks served a huge purpose for both of us.”
Whirlwind is Nilia’s debut album and an intensely intimate work. “The songs are mostly little musings on
my view of the world and question what happens in the spaces that we can’t see. Where do we go when
we fall asleep, when we die, when we daydream? I’ve always been interested in symbols and coincidences.
Sometimes when you’re perfectly still, the world starts to reveal itself in ways you can’t pick up on when
you’re distracted by all this living.”
Whirlwind was produced by TJ Plenty at their home studio. “I paid him in pizza, mostly.” The baby grand
piano was recorded in the sanctuary of the church that Nilia sang at for over a decade as soloist. “I was
lucky to have extremely talented musicians and the luxury of as much time as we needed to get things
perfect. It would have been a very different album if we’d had limited time in an expensive studio. TJ has
the rare gift of taking raw music and working at it until it sounds very polished and professional. But most
of all, everyone involved really put their heart and a strong focus into it. I think the album really reflects
that loving care.”
website: http://www.niliaberkin.com
contact: niliamusic@gmail.com

Lyrics

Whirlwind

Written By: Nilia Berkin

I SEE FACES IN FACES IN FACES
I SEE PEOPLE IN PEOPLE IN PEOPLE
AND THERE’S NO ONE PRESENT HERE
THAT’S CLEAR
I’VE BEEN GIVEN A MOMENT OF VISION
AND I’M NOT USING IMAGINATION
‘COS I KNOW WHAT I SEE
I KNOW WHAT I SEE

IT’S A WHIRLWIND
‘TILL THE DAYS END
THIS IS ONLY A TEST
ONE-TWO – THREE
WE’RE JUST CHILDREN
IN A PLAYPEN
SO KEEP TURNING AND LEARNING
YOUR A-B-C’S

AND THE DAYS SEEM TO MINGLE TOGETHER
AND THE NIGHTS, HOW THEY CAN LAST FOREVER
BUT TO FEEL THE EVENING BREEZE
IN THE TREES
IS A LIFE EVER LOST AND FORGOTTEN?
DO WE LEARN ALL THAT WE HAVE BEEN TAUGHT
THEN FADE INTO A MEMORY?

LIFE COMES AND GOES
FOR ALL WE KNOW
YESTERDAY’S ASHES MAY BE TOMORROW’S SEED
RIGHT HERE AND NOW
NOT KNOWING HOW
THIS INTERSECTION MAY BE WHERE WE ALL MEET

Full Well

Written By: Nilia Berkin

GOTTA BE A BETTER EXPLANATION
THIS ONE FALLS THROUGH
‘COS IF HE WANTS TO STRING ALONG YOUR PATIENCE
APATHY WON’T DO

AND YOU GO TO BED WITH A FEELING OF DREAD
AND WONDER WHERE HE’S BEEN
CAST ASIDE THE NOTION OF PRIDE
AND BEG TO BE LET IN AGAIN

YOU THINK AT THE VERY LEAST HE’D TRY TO HIDE IT
PLAY THAT AGE OLD GAME
BUT SOMETHING’S DIFFERENT NOW
NOTHING’S SAID
BUT YOU FEEL IT ALL THE SAME

AND YOU TRY, AND YOU TRY
TO ADAPT TO EVERY LITTLE LIE
BUT YOU KNOW FULL WELL
THIS BIRD’S GONNA FLY

AND YOU GO TO BED WITH A FEELING OF DREAD
‘COS YOU KNOW WHERE HE HAS BEEN
DUST ASIDE YOUR WOUNDED OLD PRIDE
AND GROW A SECOND SKIN

AND YOU TRY, AND YOU TRY
TO REACT LIKE EVERY OTHER GUY
BUT A WALL GOES UP INSIDE
IT’S A LOVELY PLACE TO HIDE
AND THE WALL SOLIDIFIES
AND A SOLDIER NEVER CRIES
THEY SAY ALL THINGS MEND IN TIME
BUT YOU KNOW FULL WELL
THIS BIRD’S GONNA FLY

Strange Days

Written By: Nilia Berkin

We had it all
It was a ball
Never denying-all was allowed
Those were the old days
Where do I go now?

Nothing’s the same
You’re not to blame
They tell me in life all things must change
But there can be strange days
when I don’t know how

One day you wake up
You’re grown up
You’ve arrived
But there’s no briefcase
No long face
It just doesn’t feel the way you thought it would
as a child

So pack a bag
Get you movin’
You never know when time’s on your side
Live that little dream
and resolve to evolve
‘Cos if there’s one thing that I know
that the fortune cookie helped me derive:
Opportunities multiply when seized

Land fo the Dim

Written By: Nilia Berkin

BODIES SURROUND ME
ABOVE AND AROUND ME
HOPING THAT ANY DAY, IN SOME WAY
THEY WILL BE FREE
IS IT JUST ME?

I SEE THEIR FACES
COLD AND ABRASIVE
BLOCKING THE UNITY THAT COULD BE
IF THEY WOULD SEE
IF THEY WOULD SEE

AND EVERY DAY ‘TIL THEY AWAKE
THEY WILL BE DREAMING
AND EVERY NIGHT UNTIL DAYLIGHT
THEY WILL GO SILENTLY, GRATEFULLY
TO THE LAND OF THE DIM

WHAT DO THEY DO THERE?
WHERE DO THEY GO ANYWAY?
IS IT JUST A JOURNEY OF THE MIND
OUTSIDE OF TIME?

SEE THEM THE NEXT DAY
BLINDED IN EVERY WAY
HOW CAN THEY POSSIBLY SAY TO ME
THEY NEVER DREAM
THEY NEVER DREAM

WHEN EVERY NIGHT TO THEIR DELIGHT
THEY HIT THE CEILING
FLOAT THROUGH THE SKY
SIX STORIES HIGH
AND RETURN SILENTLY, GRACEFULLY
FROM THE LAND OF THE DIM

HAPPY EVER AFTER
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE VEIL
CAN YOU HEAR THE LAUGHTER
PENETRATING THIS FAIRY TALE?

Dusty White Moon

Written By: Nilia Berkin

In the evening, when the rosy sun is setting down
behind the trees and we’re alone
Nothing matters but you and me, too.
In the morning, when you’re lying snug beside me
and I grab you like a Yeti bear
No one else could ever do.

And in the afternoon, just about a quarter of two
I look up to the sky pale blue
And I spy a lovely , faded , dusty white moon.

And just like you, just like you, she never gets to sleep
She’s got the weight of the world on her shoulders
And she’s keeping an eye on her fellow constellations
Just like you, radiant and true,
Making sure the world’s revolving as it should.

And at midnight,
when you’re chasing sheep across the sky and aching for a lullaby,

Let me be, please let me be, let me be the one to sing to you
To you, to sing to you, to you, to sing to you, to you, to you

Feast

Written By: Nilia Berkin

Words of advice fashioned spaces so wide
I’d travel for miles for a stitch to mend
Balancing, balancing, never beginning
And so we make sure it will never end
Are one and two three, Mr. Trinity?

Tell me, tell me everything
Let me feast on your mind and enter your eyes
Do I see other lives past the make believe?
If I were to run out of questions
Would you walk away?
Grasp the quivering arrow
Rebuff poor Beast

This is unanimous and we can point towards
Any infinity that we please
You’ll yield for a moment
But you’ll never rupture
And so this is how it will have to be
It will have to be

(chorus)

I know why I found you
I know why I’m here
And it’s not for the reasons you think I am.
The captive is willing
The captain is sinking
The teacher is learning that
Heat won’t burn
And she can learn

So let’s just forget the whole thing
And eat the cake you made
Just stick around for today
In six years we just might fathom
If this was meant to be
Move a smidgen over
Make room for Beast

Naughty Boy

Written By: Nilia Berkin

disco ball descends, spinning
pupils wide-pass me by
what’s so wrong with laughing, screaming
spitting fire into the sky?
cowboy cover my dreams with your whipping cream
philosophize through slits of eyes
you taunt me and you tease me
but you hardly ever please me
straddle up to the saddle
rip off your disguise

naughty boy
my mighty wit just doesn’t faze you
as you laugh through that demonic grin
naughty boy
I could just kiss you but you’d miss the point completely
wouldn’t you
wouldn’t you

fast away the night she passes
drive into the rising sun
accompany the Buck to the altar
(you know she won’t be the final one)

while away the day with complexities
analyse, hypothesize
i’m holding up a mirror but you don’t see any clearer
perhaps you’re looking through vampire eyes

(chorus)

inciting riots in my mind
rotating gentle then unkind
perceive an object as it is, was and will be
your moods affect me like the tide
balancing apathy with pride
my speechless stupor when you
“what does it mean?”

naughty boy
you make us wait as you debate
what colour lipstick matches with your heels
naughty boy
I must confess I like it best
when you tell me how you truly feel
naughty boy
we were such friends until the end and then
it ended so ironically
naughty boy
tell Dolly Dan I miss the band
When my nostalgia clouds my sanity

Happy Unknown

Written By: Nilia Berkin

THE HAPPY UNKNOWN AWAITS ME
THE LIVES THAT I’VE SOWN CREATE ME
AND HELP ME TO MAINTAIN THE ILLUSION
IN ALL THE CONFUSION

THE PLACE THAT I’M GOING’S RIGHT HERE
THE FACE THAT I SHOW JUST MIGHT BE
OR SIMPLY MAY REMAIN A PROBABILITY

ADORN ME, ENROBE AND ENTHRONE ME
EXALT AND EXTOL, ASSIGN ME THE GOAL
OF A GREAT RULER IN HER MOST GLORIOUS ROLE

THE HAPPY UNKNOWN AWATIS ME
THE THINGS THAT I’M SHOWN CREATE ME
AND HELP ME TO DEFY THE ILLUSION
IN ALL THE CONFUSION

THE PLACE THAT I’M GOING’S RIGHT HERE
THE FACE THAT I SHOW JUST MIGHT BE
OR SIMPLY MAY REMAIN A PROBABILITY

ABHOR ME, ABUSE AND ENSLAVE ME
OR LOCK ME AWAY ‘TIL MY DYING DAY
BUT I’M NOT WORRIED
FOR ALL THE WORLD’S JUST A PLAY

THE SOUL LIVES IT’S LIVES WITHOUT JUDGING
IT WASHES AWAY THE SLEEP FROM THE EYES OF THE MOST UNHOLY, THE MOST UNWISE
AND STRIPS AWAY THE SKIN DISGUISE

Beauty

Written By: Nilia Berkin

BABY, I’VE BEEN HEARTLESS
BABY, I’VE BEEN WILD
YOU GAVE YOUR PRECIOUS TRUST UNTO ME LIKE A CHILD
BUT I TOSSED IT AWAY AND LEFT YOU DEFILED
NOW THIS GROUND IS BARREN FOR MILES AND MILES

COULD YOU EVER FORGIVE ALL THAT I’VE DONE
I CUT YOU DOWN
I SMOKED YOU OUT
THAT’S HOW THIS WORLD IS RUN
BUT I’M SINGING A TUNE THAT’S MUCH DIFFERENT NOW
YOU NEVER KNOW HOW YOU’LL MISS WHAT’S NO LONGER AROUND

YESTERDAY’S A DIFFERENT STORY
I WASN’T OF THIS MIND BEFORE
WALKING AROUND IN MY HAZE OF GLORY
AND NEVER REALIZING THAT YOU’RE
A THING OF BEAUTY
THING OF BEAUTY
YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL

NOW I KNOW THIS IS MY WORLD
BUT NOT TO ABUSE AS I PLEASE
AT TIMES I SEE
GREATER POSSIBILITIES

MAYBE IF I PLEADED
MAYBE IF I BEGGED
YOU’D FIND IT IN YOU TO COME BACK
COME BACK FROM THE DEAD
BUT IT’S TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE,
TOO MUCH TO REPAIR
I CHOSE A FINE, FINE TIME
TO START TO CARE

NOW I KNOW THIS IS MY WORLD
BUT NOT TO ABUSE AS I PLEASE
I BELIEVE THIS IS MY WORLD
BUT IT DOES NOT REVOLVE AROUND ME
AT TIMES I SEE
GREATER POSSIBILITIES

Buckaroo Bunny

Written By: Nilia Berkin

YOU LIVE ON THE RUN
YOU’RE CONSTANLY SEARCHING FOR YOUR LITTLE PLACE
IN THE SUN
YOU HAVE ALL THE FUN
YOUR SMILE IS A BEAUTIFUL TESTAMENT OF ALL YOU’VE DONE

IF YOU EVER CAME TO ME I SWEAR I’D SHOW YOU
THE FINEST SIGHTS OF MY FAIR CITY
WE’D RIDE ON A BOAT IN THE HARBOUR AT NIGHT
WE’D CLIMB A MOUNTAIN ON MY BIKE

CHORUS:
FOUND IN A FIVE-AND-DIME STORE
MY BUCKAROO BUNNY
FOUND IN A FIVE-AND-DIME
NOW YOU’LL SEE MORE OF THE WORLD
THAN THE ONE WHO LEFT YOU THERE

THE PHOTOS WE’D TAKE
WE’D GO TO THE LOOKOUT AND SHOOT
THE ENTIRE CITYSCAPE
THE FRIENDS THAT YOU’D MAKE
WE’D STAY UP ‘TIL THREE AM LAUGHING
‘TIL OUR BELLIES ACHED

IF YOU EVER CAME TO ME I SWEAR I’D FIND YOU
THE FINEST CARROTS IN THE CITY
ORGANICALLY GROWN AND WITH NO GMO’S
ALL TOLD WE WOULD BE SITTING PRETTY

CHORUS

LEFT BEHIND IN THAT FIVE-AND-DIME
AND NOW YOU’RE ON A PATH OF ILLUMINATION
ON A PATH OF ILLUMINATION

Discography

Debut CD Whirlwind
Streaming tracks @ www.niliaberkin.com
Radio airplay on CKUT for Naughty Boy

Set List

Whirlwind
Full Well
Land of the Dim
Dusty White Moon
Feast
Life's Wondrous Mystery
Strange Days
Naughty Boy
Beauty
The Valley
Buckaroo Bunny
Aint got no/I got Life (Nina Simone cover)
Sets can last between 30-60 minutes