CH.89: If you were to categorize or describe the style of your music, what would it be and why?
Z: I’d say it definitely has a jangly, folk rock dimension and also elements of dreamy, psych-pop, with introspective lyrics.
CH.89: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Z: In terms of music, I get inspired from strong melodies and lyrics and sounds that really hit emotionally, that really speak to me on a fundamental, personal level. I also just get inspired by being out in nature. And from reading.
CH.89: What made you want to start a music project and how did you come up with the name?
Z: For the longest time, I just wanted to be a guitar player. I got really focused on being a really good guitarist. Writing songs was pretty daunting. But I started experimenting with it when I was leant a 12-track digital recorder after graduating from college. It started more with being interested in trying to get sounds that I was hearing from records I loved. I just started making demos and it kind of turned into something. Like, “oh, this one isn’t bad. Maybe this could be something.” The name “ZOO” came as a suggestion from a friend of mine after I made a cassette of home recordings.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about what your creative thought process is like when starting a new album?
Z: It’s chaos! Actually, I don’t think I can speak to it very well yet. I think I’m always just trying to keep rolling the stone up the hill by writing as much as I can. I’m not usually thinking of a theme or a subject that is tying the songs together while in the writing stage. Some of the songs on my latest album were written and recorded 4-5 years a part from each other. It took a long time for the complete picture of the album to materialize.
CH.89: What would you want people/ the listener to take from your music?
Z: I hope they feel a warmth and depth, emotionally, to the songs while being surprised at different moments. A lot of my songs have repetitive structures and I like establishing a strong groove, but I also try and build-in strange detours. I hope people can get lost in these songs.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about your lifestyle as an artist and what that is like?
Z: For me right now, it’s really about seizing every moment I can to just play guitar or make sounds and try and enjoy myself! I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself in the past to always be writing and if I’m not for at least 2 or 3 hours a day, I’m failing somehow. I try not to stress if things aren’t perfect. For instance, we don’t have much extra room in our house, currently, so I will setup my recording equipment on top of the washer and dryer in the basement! It’s kind of a win-win because I get more laundry done, too! The most important thing is just to keep myself interested and inspired to pick up the guitar or sit down at the piano.
CH.89: When starting out an artistic task, do you think it is better to have a particular direction/set plan guiding your way? Or, is it better to act on impulse and go from there?
Z: I think it depends on who you are. For me, personally, I tend to just start on an impulse to create, without any real plan. I like to experiment and follow my instincts for what is exciting to me and what motivates and inspires me. Sometimes if I have an idea in my head for what I want to achieve it ends up feeling forced or something. I guess maybe it’s better for me if I can take out some of the decision making early in the process and let myself get inspired with what’s happening.
CH.89: What is one major lesson you’ve learned as an artist?
Z: It’s nothing too earth-shattering but I think just echoing what I said before about trying to take the pressure off yourself and enjoy the process. That the art comes from just having all these little moments of play and goofing off. Also that, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time – it’s not even possible! So many artists talk about stealing from other artists and I think that’s a great way to create, by focusing on one little thing about another artist’s work that you think is cool and then transforming it into something completely new.
CH.89: Do you regard personal style & taste to be of highest importance?
Z: I think it helps, yeah. I see them as signposts guiding the way in the creative process, keeping you on track to making something that’s really cool to you. A lot of times that can be where ideas come from.
CH.89: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being an artist?
Z: I said before I don’t work with themes or larger subjects when creating a body of work, for me, an album. But I can see how this can be useful in guiding your process and developing your voice. It’s something that’s hard for me – just knowing what I want to say when making something. I see the value in that but it’s not how I usually work. Most of the time, if I do have something to say specifically or a theme in mind, it usually strays from my original intention quite a bit and I end up with something pretty far removed from that idea. Which is fine, too!
CH.89: What is one thing you love about being an artist?
Z: I love the creative process, the act of making stuff. I mean, maybe that’s an obvious statement to make but when I can get lost in the process of recording and building something – layering ideas and juxtaposing things – or in writing a song and things are flowing, it’s one of the best feelings ever.
CH.89: Is there anyone in particular, any artists that inspire you in any way?
Z: Of course! I get inspired by home recordists, folks who are just doing it all themselves or mostly themselves and making work consistently. Artists like Chris Cohen, I’ve loved his records for a long time. There is a band called Floating Action, which is the recording project of Seth Kaufmann. I love his records. There are so many artists that inspire me that are carrying on in the lineage of music I’ve loved for so long, you know. Cass McCombs is a big one. And also, my friends who make amazing music and inspire me to keep writing.
CH.89: What do you think of technology in terms of being a useful tool for artists today?
Z: I think it’s fine although I don’t consider myself very skilled when it comes to new technologies. It can take me a while to move past the anxiety of learning a new technology or skill but I see them as potentially useful. I don’t think it’s always necessary though and sometimes it can lead to feeling like I need some new or specific tool to create or do something interesting.
CH.89: Do you think being an artist allows you to view the world differently from those who don’t follow creative paths?
Z: Maybe in terms of having an engaged focus on aspects of life and the world. Maybe that allows for a deeper empathy or understanding of the uniqueness and differences of things, and a greater appreciation of the beauty inherent in those things.
CH.89: Do you enjoy traveling? If so, do you have a favorite city?
Z: Yes, I do love traveling, although, I don’t feel like I get to do it nearly as much as I’d like to! I love being in New York City, the few times I’ve been.
CH.89: Do you have a favorite author or book?
Z: I like Murakami books. I’ve read two or three novels and a collection of short stories. Also Vonnegut – “Cat’s Cradle” might be my favorite. “Invisible Cities” by Italo Calvino might be up there, too. I read that in college when I was an English major and loved it. I had never read anything like it!
CH.89: Any future goals or plans for your music?
Z: I don’t have any other plans besides just trying to write and record another album soon! I probably won’t be doing much touring in the near, near future, but someday I hope to do a little.
CH.89: What does being an artist mean to you?
Z: I think my artist comes out at different times, when I’m losing myself in creating, working on my craft and intentionally creating something I want people to see and interact with. I’m not sure most days when I’m working my day job or raising my kids or running errands that I see myself as an artist. I guess it’s sort of a persona I pick up and embrace now and then, another part of myself that I give space and attention to and allow to speak.
CH.89: Any last words on the aesthetic of your music?
Z: It’s somewhat of a study of opposites. It’s introspective and it’s rock n’ roll. It can be sincere and have a longing quality and playful and light-hearted at the same time. There are close-up, punchy drums and bass with swirling, distant synths and soft acoustic guitar and voice in the middle of all of it.