With a dozen years of releases to her name, Maya Jane Coles has become one of the most consistent dance music producers in the scene. Her music, nor her brand, are flashy, with Coles instead settling into a career marked by sophisticated, sensual and inventive electronic music that allures whether heard in a sweaty club, a major festival or simply through your headphones.
As Nocturnal Sunshine, Coles leans into hip-hop productions that reflect her lifelong love of the genre, which she originally produced along with R&B before having her mind blown at a Trentemøller show in her native London and heading down the path of dance music.
In November, Coles released her second Nocturnal Sunshine LP, Full Circle, with sets in Ibiza and across Europe also populating her recent schedule. This weekend, Coles plays the 4xFAR Festival in Coachella Valley, California, on a lineup that also includes Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals, Sofi Tukker, Kaytranada, Q-Tip and Mark Ronson and more.
Here, Coles discusses growing up in London, her career high points, her current hair color and more.
1. Where are you in the world right now, and what’s the setting like?
Right now, I’m in the Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 lounge, eating a Pret sandwich. Exciting. Lots of old men, suits and briefcases.
2. What is the first album or piece of music you bought for yourselves, and what was the medium?
I remember the first record I ever asked my parents to buy me. I think I was five and heard this track at the fairground by our house playing on one of the rides. I persistently asked my parents for the track, luckily they knew what it was and bought the 7” so I would finally shut up about it! It was SL2, “On A Ragga Tip.”
3. What did your parents do for a living when you were a kid, and what do they think of what you do for a living now?
My dad was, and still is, a graphic designer/visual artist and my mum was full time mum for a while but then went on to being a special needs assistant at my old primary school. Being huge music lovers, they were both always so proud and supportive of what I did. I know if my mum was still here today she’d be even prouder and my dad is still always the first to be asking for my new releases
4. What was the first song you ever made? Did you play it for anyone and if so, what was the reaction?
I don’t quite remember what my first ever track was as there were so many bits and pieces I put together when I was first learning to make music. A lot of it was just guitar and drum loops that I would record and then my friends and I would rap and sing over them. I used to play my music to everyone and always got a really good response from friends and peers, which I guess massively encouraged me to carry on and take it further.
5. If you had to recommend one album for someone looking to get into dance music, what would you give them?
The Orb, The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld.
6. What’s the first thing you bought for yourself when you started making money as a DJ?
Well…I started paying off my debts before I made any big purchases. It was definitely a nice feeling not worrying about rent and bills for the first time!
7. What’s a song you’re obsessed with right now?
Rony Seikaly. “Free Me” feat. Eiman.
8. What color is your hair, currently?
9. You’ve said that your first musical love is hip-hop. Give us your top three hip-hop albums.
Top three is difficult as that can totally change depending on my mood and depending on what kind style of hip-hop! But, right now I’d say Jean Grae, Attack of the Attacking Things, GZA & RZA, Liquid Swords and Mobb Deep’s The Infamous.
10. What’s distinctive about the place you grew up, and how did it shape you?
I loved growing up in North West London. There was always so much going on creatively in my area, and having regular free access to community groups and charity-based music studios played a vital role in my teen years. I was always meeting other artists, collaborating with rappers and singers from as young as 15. London, particularly Kilburn/Camden, definitely played a big part in shaping me and my music.
11. What was the first dance music show that really blew your mind?
Probably the first time I saw Trentemøller play in London when I was a teenager. I was already producing music before then, but mainly just hip-hop & R&B. It was around that time I started really getting into electronic music.
12. What’s the most exciting aspect of the dance scene for you, right now?
The thing that has always excited me: The constant change, bew genres and sounds, evolving subcultures, independent artists…
13. What is the first thing you do when you get back to your hotel room after a show?
14. What is the craziest thing you’ve ever seen happening in the crowd during one of your sets?
Once during my set at EDC Vegas, this guy stripped completely butt naked, climbed up the stage structure, somehow managed to get up to the booth and basically nose-dived from about 15 feet high into the ground. That was pretty mad.
15. How is your approach different when you’re producing as Nocturnal Sunshine, if at all?
I don’t necessarily have a different approach when working under my alias, I tend to go at everything in the same way and things just come out differently when I’m in different mind states. Even if I wasn’t releasing music, I’d still be making it all the time as it’s my passion and I’m constantly making music that doesn’t even fit under any of my projects that I never end up releasing.
16. What do you consider the high points of your career so far?
There have been a lot of obvious milestones like being on big magazine covers, releasing albums, being in the charts, awards etc. But also lots of more personal milestones, like producing tracks for artists I used to listen to growing up as a kid, my music enabling me to buy my first home and build a studio space.
17. How do you pick yourself up when you’re feeling down?
Make music or see my friends.
18. What’s one piece of advice you’d give to your younger self?
To keep doing what I’m doing and be patient.
19. Social media — are you into it, or is it something you try to avoid?
I don’t particularly try to avoid social media, but I definitely don’t like to get too sucked into it either. I prefer the use of social media on a personal level, keeping in touch with friends and family, seeing what people are up to. I don’t mind people being able to see where in the world I am and what I’m doing — when I feel like it — but I when I don’t feel like being visible, I’ll just clock off and enjoy my life.
20. What’s the last thing that made you laugh really hard?
I was just watching a hilarious sketch with Natasia Demetriou who is one of my recent favourite British comedians. I’m obsessed!