Nico Yaryan lays in his bed uninterrupted and willing. The afternoon glow of LA’s Eagle Rock suburbs sprinkles his sea-salt locks with a hazelnut finish. “I’m an open book,” he says. “That’s my problem in some ways. I’m honest to a fault.” Our interview has just begun and I feel like we’re off to a good start. I didn’t write anything down or prepare for this. I’d hoped that from one thirty-something who’d been in and out of love too easily to another, we could trip over our own honesty and admit to each other that neither of us has the right answers.
Uncertain yet smooth, coarse yet charming, Nico’s debut album What a Tease has an aura of detachment underneath its sweetness. A record that evokes loneliness beneath the cries of a believer, I don’t know whether it chronicles a lifetime of love or the love of a lifetime. Listening to Nico makes me revisit all my old loves and, more importantly, every version of myself that existed throughout those experiences. He gives us a definition of love that isn’t about running from the bottom of a hill to make it to the vantage point at sunset. It’s not folklore or spooning or simultaneous orgasms. This is real life love. It comes in many ways, knocks us on our asses, yet leaves us begging for more. Nico understands that love is made of chapters—some you’ll breeze by, some are difficult to read and others you’ll never forget.
Before writing his own songs on his debut record, he toured with longtime friend Hanni El Khatib as a drummer. On the road in Amsterdam, he met the girl who’d become his long distance girlfriend–now ex–and muse. “I see this girl walk into the venue,” he recalls. “She had bleach-blonde hair. She looked like this angel walking through the door.” As Nico tells me this story, I can tell his romanticism is rooted in dreamlike encounters and bottomless hope. He’s quick to turn supporting roles into leading ladies. Like any dreamer worth his weight, he puts love on a pedestal. Nico and I are one in the same—every first date turns into a blueprint for the rest of our lives.
Quickly, though, the mysticism and excitement in our hearts can change into a self-satisfying agenda. “You can turn a girl into something she’s not,” he says. We talk about the tendency we have to turn the women in our relationships into people they’re not. We fabricate things that aren’t there; we imagine lovers possess the ideals of a perfect partner before we can prove it to be true. Over time, we convince ourselves that someone has everything we need, and we forget to pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. At the same time, we wonder why we’re in it at all.
Nico understands that love is made of chapters—some you’ll breeze by, some are difficult to read and others you’ll never forget.
The hopeless romantics of the world are particularly susceptible to long-distance relationships. It’s easy to blame your problems on the ocean keeping you apart, rather than the nagging signs of incompatibility that show up when you’re together. “We can’t have any problems. We’re not allowed to fight right now,” he’d tell himself. “But then [we] would fight because there’s this pressure of being perfect, and reality’s just not like that.”
You love me when I don’t love myself, Nico sings on my favorite song of his, “Your Love Never Lets Me Down.” Like our conversation today in his bedroom, it’s at once hopeless and idealistic—here’s a man who feels truly unlovable, lying on the ground, singing to a woman who loves him despite his shortcomings. “I would have these days where I would get really depressed, because I’m like, You’re leaving,” he says. “I know we have to make this time count, but I just can’t.”
“I see this girl walk into the venue. She had bleach-blonde hair. She looked like this angel walking through the door.” — Nico
When we’re young and heartbroken, we tend to imagine that love gets easier when we grow up. Our exteriors will grow tougher, our emotions will become less difficult to keep in check. Now, in my thirties, I realize maybe it never does get easier. In fact, as every failed relationship teaches us what can’t work, the pool of potential matches only dwindles. The clock ticks faster, years zip by, and the love we’re searching for grows more elusive, or maybe doesn’t even exist.
“I would have these days where I would get really depressed, because I’m like, You’re leaving. I know we have to make this time count, but I just can’t.” — Nico
In the case of Nico’s relationship, I’m unsure who left who. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is that now, not only is there an ocean and a breakup between Nico and his impossible love, there’s an album that conveys exactly how it feels to be thirty and clueless. Like you’ll never have what it takes to hold onto something good. He has a time capsule full of those intense highs we romantics chase, and crippling lows that almost certainly follow. Nico has his stunning debut record, What a Tease, and so do I.