Built on a bi-coastal romance and mountains of loops and pedals, Brooklyn trio Zaza carefully craft hazy sonics and delicate layers of lush pop magic. Their debut EP, “Cameo”, was released for free and marked the My Bloody Valentine enthusiasts as ones to watch in a neighbourhood crawling with bedroom Producers and guitar slinging wannabes. We recently chatted to bassist/keyboardist Jenny Fraser about their debut LP, Portland strip clubs, telepathy and nervous breakdowns.
P: Hey Jenny, what are you up to?
Z: I’m in Brooklyn, New York. It’s about 8 in the evening. Zaza’s just been tracking some of the new songs we have. We’ve just been doing some demoing and right now I’m just taking a break and watching videos for inspiration.
P: What kind of videos? And what outside of music inspires you guys?
Z: I actually just watched this video by a guy named Ryan Catbird it’s really gorgeous and haunting and creepyâ€¦ I actually got it on Kanye West’s website. Zaza’s really interested in design and having a stage show so we do a lot of research online with design blogsâ€¦ I’m always looking around for websites that will inspire us visually.
P: I feel a lot of bands neglect that part of a live show and obviously it should be all about the music but set and costumes can really enhance a performance and make it more theatrical. What do you guys bring?
Z: Well, we do light boxes and we have stark lighting and we were working with a visual artist for a while and he was really into landscapes with forts and caves so we had light boxes that were forts for a while so it looks like we’re playing in front of a lit forest.
P: You mentioned you were tracking today. What does the new stuff sound like? Is it the same kind of vibe?
Z: Its kind of the same vibe. I find it’s really reminiscent of early Cure. We’ve been working a lot on making really muscular drum beats that are almost, I’d say, tribal meets dance.
P: How did the band form? Take us back all the way to the beginning.
Z: Oh my god, wellâ€¦ Danny and I are the main writers, we do everything together. It formed because we were having a romance with winter and we were together a lot in winter and New York winter is harsh! So we just started playing guitar together and just started writing together. We were doing it on and off because at the time I was touring with another band so it took a little while to accelerate.
P: And when did you move to the east coast from the west coast?
Z: In 2006, I bought a one-way ticket and went back for my cat. I had a complete nervous break down and fell in love with New York.
P: What’s it like living in New York and Brooklyn, because it seems like there’s a real spotlight on the music scene there at the moment.
Z: You can throw a fucking walnut and there’s 10 bands. It’s really amazing actually there’s so many amazing bands coming out of Brooklyn right now. I don’t really find that we’re really integrated into the scene, we’re just in the studio every single day so we don’t have a really strong friendship with a lot of bands, we know them but we’re more individual and do our own thing.
P: So is it a help or a hindrance to have so many bands in one area?
Z: I think it’s both. I think it’s like Portland and strip clubs. Oh my god you’re from Australia you probably have no idea what that reference isâ€¦ In Portland, Oregon there’s the most strip clubs per capitaâ€¦ so like I said it’s a positive and a negative.
P: What does that say about Portland peopleâ€¦having so many strip clubs?
Z: I think they’re bored! Where as New York people have a lot of creative energyâ€¦
P: What’s a Zaza live show like? How do you translate the music, which is often shapeless and hazy?
Z: Well, we’re using electronic drums and we have a drummer who plays counter rhythms over with organic drumsâ€¦ so we’ve had our drum machine fuck up, we’ve all gotten out of time, we’ve had terrible monitors and you can’t hear what’s going on. It can be a total mess because we’re so reliant on the electronics in what we do. But we have a funny set up on stage because Danny is usually stage left and then I’m in the centre and then the drummer is on the right so unfortunately it looks like we’re trying to centre-show the woman but that’s how we hear each other the best. It’s just a matter of technicalities.
SOONER OR LATER (dir. David Hartman)
ZAZA ‘ MySpace Music Videos
P: What’s the song writing process like?
Z: It’s pretty interesting. When we first writing there were about 6 songs and I’d say Danny bought 3 of the songs to the table and then I bought 3 songs. But now the new material is really different and we’re just going to practice basically every day, six or seven times a week, and we just writeâ€¦and it doesn’t really come from any structure, we do a lot of jamming and I’ve been working a lot with keyboards so it comes a lot from keyboard sounds. It’s so organic.
P: So it’s more collaborative now that it’s both of you in a room for a long period of time?
Z: Yeah absolutely. We talk a lot about sound.
P: Because you spend so much time together, is it easy to get mad at each other?
Z: Were you just here 20 minutes ago? Are you bugging my apartment?
P: Why? Did you guys have a massive fight?
Z: Yeah! We were tracking you know? He just told me he didn’t think my keyboard line was completely necessary, so I told him his vocals were all over the place and that I had to go do an interview.
P: I’m telepathic!
Z: Well, no no we don’t get angry at each other that much, there’s a lot of respect between all 3 of us but we’re all very sensitive artists so I know there can be a lot of bruised chins but not a lot of anger.
P: So what do you do to keep it light?
Z: We’re ridiculous, we laugh so much! Even when we’re not rehearsing, we’re together all the time. We’re like a little family.
P: And what do you do outside your music, what do you do to relax?
Z: We go dancing if there’s a good party. We go see bands together; like us 3 just went and saw a band called Autolux, I don’t know if you’re familiar with them but they’re amazing and they’re from Los Angeles.
P: Let’s talk about your first ep ‘Cameo’, you guys released that for free online. What do you think about the state of the modern music business and how hard it is for young bands to get a break?
Z: Actually its funny you say that because I became really interested in reading books about multi-media and modern mediaâ€¦ and everybody has different theories about it . I just think that, as an artist, we’re not businessmen but we have to continually adhere to our creativity and use our energy to just kind of get by and get noticed and that’s why we gave our EP out for free because we funded it with our own money and we were just really interested in getting people to hear the quality of music that we were so proud of. It went really well, people liked it and downloaded itâ€¦it works through word of mouth.
P: Have you read book called ‘Free’ by Chris Anderson?
Z: No I haven’t – what’s it about?
P: It’s about how online companies are creating new revenue streams in a digital age where media is expected to be free.
Z: Cool. The Wired Editor right? That sounds extremely relevant I’ll have to check that one out. I guess we both learned something today.
P: (Laughs) I guess we didâ€¦
Zaza – Cameo EP is out now on Speak N Spell! Click here to buy!