Interview: Zuzu

Zuzu 2Zuzu

Words and Photos by Gary Lambert

Zuzu is a pop star.  As I walked into Motor Museum Recording Studio in Liverpool on a grey winter’s day, it seemed as though the clouds were peeled back and the calendar spun through to June as the human ball of energy that is Zuzu came into view.  Well I assumed it was Zuzu once I heard her voice (although the ever-present sequins were a bit of a giveaway), she was wearing a cat’s head mask that her mum had picked up in Morrison’s.  “She saw it in the sale after Hallowe’en, and thought it’d be just me”.  There is something so pure and affecting about Zuzu that you cannot help to feel that life is good after being in her company without being blinded by a false narrative of the world.  Zuzu is the embodiment of her emo-pop music, a mixture of fun and relatable honesty.

Motor Museum is a hive of subtle activity as people bounce between the various rooms where music is being made, and everybody is so friendly with it stopping to introduce themselves and have a little chat.  As the room which had once showcased historic cars filled with light through the translucent panels in the roof that run from front to back, you get the feeling that creativity is easy in a space like this.  The awards from acts such as OMD and Bring Me The Horizon that crop up at various points on the walls go to strengthen that positive energy.

With a new single out, Skin and Bone, there was the obvious starting place for our conversation.  If you have not heard it yet then Skin and Bone is definitely worth your time.  The track feels more personal than previous Zuzu releases due to the more elegant, dream pop musical overture, yet when you look at lyrics to songs like Beauty Queen and Money Back they dig straight into your heart.  “It’s way more personal and dark than anything I’ve released before for sure.  I started writing this song when I was fourteen, and I only finished it when I started looking at it again last year.  I’ve always had it there, but other people around me and the label heard me playing it and wanted to know why I’d never done this song before.  It’s taken a lot of time for me to pluck up the courage to do it.  It’s a weird way for me.

Zuzu 5“I was in a really intense mindset as a teenager, really intense, and looking back over that time and reading my diaries I was super emo.  I had a lot going on in more ways than one.  As well as all this, I was in the music industry at a very young age and people I dealt with then left me feeling trapped.  It was a far too stressful time for a fourteen year old girl to be involved in

“But this song has always been there from that time onwards.  I think it’s probably the first song that was written to try to put into words how I was feeling.  That song was the first song that felt special to me because of what it was about.  Weirdly though, as much as this song has been with me, it didn’t feel special or magical hearing back the full completed version.  Especially with this one, when the record was done that was the time for the fear to set in.  I start thinking ‘Oh my god, it’s going to be out there.  What will people say?  What will they be thinking?  Am I going to have to answer questions about it?”

“It brings on a lot of anxiety to be honest with you.  But you’ve got to be brave in life.  And if I can be brave, hopefully it’ll encourage others to be brave too.  This is what I want to do with my music.  I’ve grown so much from then to now through this song and all the other songs that I’ve put out in the last year.  I’ve gone from being shy and timid, only dressed in black to like a whole new person.  I feel like myself now more than I have ever in my life.  I did that through my music, and if it can do that for others too well…. I just want to give out Lizzo vibes to people.  Self-worth for all”

This introspective, timid version of Zuzu is completely at odds to the young woman who has been blasting out and dominating on stage, and to the one I met at the front door of Motor Museum.  “I still have moments of complete insecurity and panic just like everybody else.  It’s important to accept and acknowledge those sides of yourself.  I am confident when it comes to music and telling people how I feel and what I think.  But we all have people in our lives who we respect and look up to, and the dynamics are different with those people.  You have to allow yourself to feel both ways.  It’s human.  Some days you feel shit, and other days you feel like a fucking queen.  And it doesn’t have to be days.  You can change hour to hour.  It’s the ebb and flow of being alive”Zuzu 4

Skin and Bone forms part of an EP due to be released soon.  Skin and Bone is one of two brand new songs on the EP, with the rest being singles that have come out in the last year.  It’s called How It Feels which is obviously one of the songs on there.  That’s one of my favourite songs, and it really encapsulates what all the songs during this period are about.  It is how it feels to me.  My friend’s dad once told me that people shouldn’t get upset if you tell them how something feels to you as you’re not attacking them, but explaining it from your perspective.  All of these songs have made me feel something, or at the time I’ve been going through something”.

It is hard work being a musician, especially one at the start of their career as they have to put so much effort in without any guarantee of reward.  But when the rewards do appear, they don’t have to be financial either.  Sometimes a random moment can provide a reaction of fuck yeah.  “My favourite cartoon in the world is called Adventure Time.  I love it and I talk about it all the time.  And one day I got a DM from the Executive Producer who had seen me talking about it on my Twitter, and invited me along to watch them recording an episode when I was in LA.  I got to meet all the voice actors afterwards, and I got them all to sign a poster for me.  It was just the best day of my life.  It was a dream come to true.  Like a bucket list thing that I didn’t even know was possible.  All because the Executive Producer saw me talking about Adventure Time on Twitter and then liked my music.  It was all so pure.  It was fucking insane!”

Zuzu is about to embark on a cross-country tour, and as someone who has watched The Zuzu Show several times with a wide range of musical cohorts alongside me (editors, fans, industry people, and other musicians), I heartily recommend that you get a ticket for the nearest show to you whilst you can.  The star of these shows is just as excited as Popped Music are for it.  “I can’t wait.  Headline shows are just the best.  I like to meet every single person that I can and hang out with them.  I want to do some fun covers.  I’ve been doing some on my Instagram lately, and I’m going to try to bring them out at the shows.  I’m going to try to do a different one every night.  Even if it isn’t with the full band, but it is just me and my Casio, I’m going to try it.  I’m going to do one with the band too.

Zuzu 3“I’m so excited about my hometown show in Liverpool at the Arts Club.  It’s a great room to be playing in and I fully cannot wait to be playing it.  I’ve even had a dress made especially for the Liverpool show.  But there’ll be lots of sparkly outfits wherever I play.  It’s all going to be so sick”

I was on Popped Music duty for Zuzu’s support slot with Yonaka in Manchester recently, and it was amazing to see the number of people across a wide demographic, politely queueing to see Zuzu after the show.  “I used to suffer really badly with vomiting before, during and after shows, but this last year since I’ve stopped that has been amazing.  I’ve been able meet people and thank them afterwards.  I’m so grateful for every person who comes along to my gigs.  It means the whole world to me.  Them turning up there directly effects my life.  For so long I’ve just been glad to have anybody listen, and now they’re actually coming for me.  They’re all angels.

“At that Yonaka gig it was weird, but the best weird.  A lot of those people had never heard my music before they were telling me but they wanted to wait to tell me they enjoyed it.  At my headline shows I like to stay there and meet every person I can.  I love to chat with them.  But to hear people tell you their personal experiences from my music makes me bawl my eyes out in the van on the way home.  What more can you ask for?  Even if there’s only fifty people in a room and they’re enjoying themselves and singing along…. You just can’t ask for more than that.  That’s what makes me wake up in the morning

“How lucky I am to be able to do that?  To be able to create and have that response?  It’s amazing”

Find Zuzu on Facebook


23 February Louisiana, Bristol *SOLD OUT*

24 February The Green Door Store, Brighton

26 February Dingwalls, London

27 February Bedford Esquires, Bedford

28 February Arts Club, Liverpool

1 March The Bodega, Nottingham

2 March The Poetry Club, Glasgow

3 March Think Tank, Newcastle

Listen to Zuzu here

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    Popped Music has been going since Feb 2010.

    All articles written by Elena Katrina unless otherwise stated.

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