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Zula Interview

Posted on 26 August 2013 by UnSpunHero

The experimental NYC psych pop band Zula sat down with us to talk about their roots, New York’s music scene, and what to expect from their upcoming album, Twin Loss.

Name
Zula

Location
New York, NY

Record Label
Inflated Records

How did the band form? What’s Zula’s origins story?

Zula: We (cousins Henry and Nate) have been informally playing music together our entire lives. Nate moved to NYC in 2010 – Zula started writing and recording in the Manhattan apartment where Henry grew up. Mike was an old friend of Nate’s from growing up in Ithaca, and Henry met Pablo when their separate improvisational musical projects shared a bill in Boston.

Since Henry and Nate are cousins, does your family play a large role in supporting the band?

Zula: We grew up playing music at our grandmother’s house – she was a church organist and piano teacher professionally and a huge source of inspiration for us as we developed our music. Our parents are also supportive of the band – but they don’t play a large role in our daily music routines.

I know family can be extremely critical. Have any relatives come out and openly criticized your music?

Zula: Some of our parents and aunts and uncles don’t really ‘get’ our music exactly, but are supportive regardless. Sometimes the repetition and electronic influence, particularly doesn’t translate. Last thanksgiving I had a textural loop cycling over and over prompting my aunt to scold me – ‘enough of that riff already!’ But they’re great sports about it all and our family shares love for roots and rock music.

As natives of Brooklyn, your city has seen significant shifts in style and has become home for great music venues such as Brooklyn Bowl, Music Hall of Williamsburg, Knitting Factory, and Barclays. Has it helped watching your hometown become this amazing location for growing artists?

Zula: Barclays Center doesn’t help growing artists in the slightest. The arena is part of an influx of new development in Brooklyn that displaces local culture with a more generic passive luxury experience. But those other spots are great – Knitting Factory, BK Bowl and Music Hall of Williamsburg are well-run venues that put on awesome shows. They’re a hugely important part of keeping Williamsburg a music destination. The thriving scene of artists here who are trying to push boundaries and experiment – you’re likely to find those acts performing at independent venues like Silent Barn, Shea Stadium, and Death By Audio. While I think that New York is an amazing place to play music now, bands here live with the romance of the city’s past – the sense of an explosion of cutting edge sound, and of intense artistic intimacy that this city had in the seventies and eighties.

There’s a dark and emotional tone lying on the surface of this album. What was your inspiration?

Zula: Many of these songs are love songs, or at least they are songs that find meaning in love, especially when things seem uncertain. This album is also colored lyrically by an impending sense of doom that our world has in 2013 due to growing inequality, social collapse, and climate change.

The album’s single, Twin Loss, sounds like it may have some influence from Radiohead. Is this something you agree with? What are some other influences?

Zula: Radiohead was formative to us as musicians, as the Beatles were. We are very interested melody lines, but we strive for the music to take on a spatial dimension as well – and that’s what brings in the influence of dance music, funk, and generally repetitive hypnotic form. We have a special place in our hearts for shuffley 1990 Manchester acid-indie-dance as well as krautrock – musical movements or moments where a psychedelic hypnotic state was offered up to the listener in a novel way.

Any last words?

Zula: We are excited to be releasing this material after a long development period. We tracked ‘Twin Loss’ over a year ago, and we learned a lot in the process – mostly about playing to the energy we create before anything gets recorded. We’ve been working up and road-testing lots new tracks since then, which is often what you’ll hear at our live shows. We try to keep things fresh. The process of discovering a space for ourselves is ongoing.

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AM Interview

Posted on 03 March 2010 by UnSpunHero

Acclaimed singer, songwriter, and musician, AM, sat down with us to discuss major achievements, past and present albums, and rugged acts of man violence.

Name
AM

Location
Los Angeles, CA

Record Label
Filter US Recordings

You were born in Oklahoma, raised in New Orleans, and are currently residing in Los Angeles. Has each stop in your life affected your music?
AM: Definitely. Tulsa was where I spent my innocent years. First learning how to play guitar. Seeing my first concert (Hall & Oats). When my family relocated to New Orleans I was exposed to a much more intense culture. I think everyone feels it when they go to New Orleans…it just has a vibe. I spent my “coming of age” years there and it couldn’t have been a better experience. My family actually lives right outside of New Orleans in a small town called Mandeville, but New Orleans proper is only 3O minutes away. It was this perfect blend of small town and big city, both culturally and musically. In Mandeville I got to be around acoustic and bluegrass players while in New Orleans I was exposed to all of this jazz, funk, soul and R&B. Later when I moved into New Orleans I just dove in to experiencing that city. My love of soul, jazz and groove definitely comes from New Orleans. Some of the best years of my life. Los Angeles is the third chapter. Adult life I guess. The pace is much different here, but still one of the most diverse cities both musically and culturally. Everything is here. There are so many amazing musicians, filmmakers, writers…it’s hard not to be humbled constantly. I also think picking your neighborhood is important in LA. It’s so big and overwhelming. When I moved out here from New Orleans I asked all of my musician friends that had ever been to LA where I should live. They all said Silverlake/Echo Park…I’ve never lived anywhere else in LA.

In 2008, you released a duets album with friends and other Hotel Cafe artists. How is working as a collaborative effort different than your typical solo initiative?
AM: The whole duets project actually rose out of me being kind of sick of myself. I had a bundle of songs, but at that time wasn’t feeling inspired to actually sing them. I figured I knew so many talented singers, both around the Hotel Café and elsewhere, that it was insane that I hadn’t collaborated with anyone and decided to put together an EP of duets. Everyone said yes and it was done so quickly. It was so exciting to hear someone else’s voice on my songs. It actually inspired me to start doing more writing for other artists and to do more collaborating.

You covered While My Guitar Gently Weeps by George Harrison as a duet with Tina Dico. How did you come to choosing such a significant song? Was there any pressure associated with this choice?
AM: I’ve always loved the song. The original has such a rock vibe I really wanted to expose the beauty of the song by making it more of a ballad. Of course after it was done I was like “what did I just do! Who do I think I am touching this song!” Eventually I just said screw it. Everyone covers songs…or should. I haven’t encountered any enraged Beatles fans yet, in fact quite the opposite. People seem to dig it, which I couldn’t be more happy about. Hopefully I did the song justice.

Throughout your career you have been the recipient of many prestigious awards from major publications like LA Weekly and iTunes. Does any award stand out as your most significant achievement?
AM: I think the LA Weekly award stands out because it was totally shocking. KCRW in Los Angeles had just started playing my record, I was still so new to everything. All of a sudden I was at the Henry Fonda Theatre and Brian Wilson was getting a Lifetime Achievement Award and I was picking up this Best Singer/Songwriter Award. I was like “what”? Happy, shocked, and of course felt undeserving. I mean c’mon, “the best singer/songwriter in Los Angeles?” In fact I remember walking up to a club shortly after the awards and this guy I knew said “hey, here comes the best singer/songwriter in Los Angeles”…we both started laughing.

Your debut album, Troubled Times, had all 10 songs featured in films and television. What do you think the album’s connection was with the screen?
AM: I’ve always been a big fan of the arranging side of producing and writing. My songs have never been the type that you could just “jam” too. They’re specific and arranged. I think that combined with a total resurgence of directors and filmmakers wanting more than just score in their projects probably led to many of my songs getting used. A little bit of right place right time, but also I think my music (even more so now) has cinematic leanings.

Charles Newman (who has a long relationship with the Magnetic Fields including 69 Love Songs and the new album Realism) produced your latest album, Future Sons and Daughters. How did this relationship develop?
AM: I knew I wanted my next record to have a more playful quality so I knew he was good at that type of stuff. I had always dug the productions he had done with The Magnetic Fields and had a feeling we could drum up something groovy. I started making Charles mix tapes of all the music I had been digging on the last few years…Brazlilan Bossa Nova, 60’s and 70’s Italian and French Soundtracks and Turkish Psychedelia. We sought out to combine my love for that music, but put it up against something modern. We wanted to hint at the influences, but not let them dominate the sound of the album.

Your video for Self Preservation flashes images of rugged acts of man violence. Does this theme play into the inspiration for your song?
AM: Absolutely, but not just “man violence.” Human violence and cruelty, which can manifest in many ways. The song is a commentary on the “survival of the fittest” mentality. The video uses a lot of Union Films which are of course full of men. We chose that footage because it has a playfulness…you can tell it’s fake. The subject matter deals with a much bigger and darker question. That as humans we’re programmed to survive, even if it means letting someone else die. I mean an act of self preservation happens every time you deny a homeless man money. Every time you keep something for yourself while someone else struggles. But how do you live in such a world as master or victim? Try to be compassionate when you’re in the dominant position and when you’re the servant you just gotta keep moving. You gotta stay alive.

Any last words?
AM: The band and I will be hitting the road with AIR on their North America and Canada tour in March. Check out www.amsounds.com to see if we’re coming your way.

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