On A Liquid Breakfast, Audrey Nuna Grows Up

Portrait of Audrey Nuna
Photo by Khufu Najee

Audrey Nuna recorded the bulk of her debut project, an EP called A Liquid Breakfast, while stark naked. It was summer of 2020, just a few months before the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic hit the United States, and the musician, born Audrey Chu, was living at her mom’s house in New Jersey. Her bedroom window wasn’t too far from the constant roar of traffic on the George Washington Bridge—not an ideal environment for recording music. So for sound isolation purposes, she moved her home studio into her closet: a sweltering, stuffy box with no air circulation.

“I’d literally get butt ass naked and sweat my balls off because it was so hot,” Chu says during a Zoom call nearly one year later. The 22-year-old admits that singing these songs with no clothing on serves as a nice metaphor for the project itself: a collection of tracks that chronicle her very personal journey toward building self-confidence, connecting with family members and her Korean-American heritage, and quite simply, growing up.

Chu makes genre-fluid music tinged by ’90s hip-hop, R&B and the sultry vocals of today’s pop divas—the type of sounds that populate any Gen Z-er’s Spotify playlist. But her uptempo beats and heartfelt lyrics connect with all kinds of listeners. For the previous four years, Chu went by just Audrey—admittedly a tough name to Google. She added Nuna—the Korean word for “older sibling”—to her mononym, and a new star, one who was fully in control of her own vision, was born.

Photo by Khufu Najee

A Liquid Breakfast, which drops on May 21, is the first full-length project Chu is officially releasing as Audrey Nuna—a soul-baring piece of work that the musician wrote and recorded during quarantine when, like many people in the world, she was re-evaluating what was most important to her. She was back home, bored in her neighborhood—but this sense of ennui gave her the time to think about her life thus far, and allowed her to enjoy small moments, like playing cards to pass the time with her family, riding her bike in cul-de-sacs, and writing songs while driving her car.

“Until the pandemic, we never had a time when work stopped, everything stopped, and we realized we’re just animals,” she says. “We’re just piles of meat and bones walking around. With nothing to distract us from the void of life, it was like, ‘Oh, being human is really simple.’” She describes this time as a “return to childhood,”—which, as it turns out, was also “really fucking boring” growing up in the New Jersey suburbs. “But it was good for me because being so bored, in a weird way, is like a Petri dish for being able to make things and create.” As a kid, Chu’s area was overwhelmingly white, with a sprinkling of some Chinese, Korean, and Indian kids at her school (“And of course, you all know each other,” she adds). Although she spoke Korean with her grandparents and visited South Korea here and there, her upbringing was categorically American: UGG boots, going to Wawa with friends, cornfields. Despite this suburban childhood, Chu is connected deeply to her Korean roots—and those roots planted themselves even more firmly during quarantine. At a family get-together, the musician and her cousins discussed with their grandmother her history, growing up in Korea.

Photo by Khufu Najee

“She really let it all out on us,” Chu remembers. “She told us that when she was younger, she had to flee the war. Her family and a large group of people were migrating by foot to get to a safer area. My grandma laid down to take a rest and she fell asleep. She expected someone would wake her up when it was time to move again, but no one did—she got lost and lost her family for a bit of time.”

The musician was so taken with this tidbit that she recorded her grandmother’s telling of the story and included the audio on “Blossom,” a track from A Liquid Breakfast—not just because it was an incredible tale, but also because it resonated with the way she was feeling in that very moment.

“Growing up is something no one is ever gonna wake you up and tell you to do,” she says. “It’s something that you get hurled into. That’s something I have experienced this past year and a half, writing this project.

“We’re sitting here, living, because our grandparents were able to survive,” she adds. “We’re so blessed that we get to do what we love to do. And I realized over the past year that gave me confidence, knowing myself. Being able to create and make music was so therapeutic for me.”