The Zzzahara Interview

Zzahara Lindsey Byrnes Portrait Thrasher Magazine 2000Photo: Byrnes

In the heart of the LA music scene—where infectious melodies collide with raw emotion and rebellious-independence echoes through every chord—emerges Zzzahara, a force of nature whose music transcends the ordinary and soars into uncharted territories. Whether or not you think they're shoegaze, indie or emo, one thing is for sure, their sophomore album,Tender, is genuinely gentle and easy to chew on. Every song more honest than the next, Zzzahara is standing at the intersection of vulnerability and strength, carving out a spot for themselves on our playlist, permanently. We caught up with them at the Echo Park skatepark to chat about their musical influences, heartbreak and the future. —Lindsey Byrnes

When did you start making music?
I started making music when I was 12. I would just plug my microKORG into my amp and then use a gamer mic-headset thing to record my vocals. I would go to YouTube and rip beats because I didn’t have any sort of drum machine or anything. I used to make parody songs about girls. It was just funny. I would play “Hey There Delilah” by Plain White T’s on guitar but then I’d be like, “Hey there Carla, what’s it like sucking on Kristal’s titties.” Everyone in my middle school thought it was fucking hilarious. So I would do shit like that. That's how I started making music.

But, did you know?
No, I think I thought of it more as a joke. I thought it was funny, but I'd always kind of been musical and like I've always had a guitar, I think since I was seven. I've always been doing music. I think I would just cover a lot of songs when I was in middle school and stuff like that. So I didn't really like making my own stuff. Like I would just kind of like rip all the things that I liked.

So when did you start writing your own original material?
I think that was when I was like 15 or when I was in high school, because I was playing in bands. A lot of it was collaborative and I was always the one who was the songwriter who would kind of arrange everything. Then my friends would play the drums or play the bass, so I played in a lot of bands but they weren't like rock. I was into hardcore, so I was a screamer.

Whoa, that’s so different than what you're doing now
Yeah, I know. I wish I could go back.

Sometimes, yeah. I like the riffs and stuff. I don't think I would be the front person. I think I would be the guitarist. Because before I was the front person of all those bands.

Where are you from?
I grew up in Highland Park. My middle school was attached to Garvanza skatepark, so we saw Wee Man, Steve-O and other crazy shit when we were young.

You transitioned from hardcore. How would you describe the music on the new album as far as genre?
I don’t even know, I would just say indie-rock.

You went soft.
I went soft.

What happened? What made you go from hardcore to softcore?
When I was in school you were either into metal or into punk or you were an emo. So at first I was like, Oh, I like metal and punk because I’m scared people will think I’m a pussy because I like emo music. So I was kind of closeted about the soft stuff I was listening to. I was listening to Saves The Day, Dashboard Confessional, and New Found Glory secretly.

ZZZahara Interview Thrasher Magazine Pullquote 1 2000

You were out about sucking on titties but you were closeted about emo!
Because that was the time when Cheap Sex wrote “Fuck Emo.” I kind of got picked on more so, not for being gay but for being emo. And then one day in like 7th grade I was like, Fuck it, I fucking love emo music. Fuck you guys. I was like a latchkey kid. I was more neglected than a latchkey kid. And a lot of my friends in Highland Park were either in gangs or I don't even know. I was into a lot of bad shit when I was younger. I was using drugs at 12 and we were impoverished and had nothing to do. And a lot of the soft music I did end up liking was from skate clips and all this shit that we would watch when we would go to our friend's pad. We'd hang out at a 25 year old guy’s house. He was like a rocker, skater dude and then we'd all sleep over there and drink 40s all night. And then I started seeing clips of the Pixies playing in the background, or Daniel Johnston, and shit like that. And then I started going soft or liking that kind of music. And then all of a sudden, people fucked with emo at a certain point, and everything got cool. And even bands I loved, like Tegan and Sara, became cool.

Would you consider your sound an LA sound?
Yeah, like a SoCal-LA sound, I would say. I mean, a lot of my guitar playing is influenced by Johnny Mars. That's what I grew up on. I love little riffs here and there. And I love Britpop for some reason. Some of the stuff like Kensington is very SoCal, but I do take a lot from shit that I like from Sweden or England.

You're like international LA.
With a twist.

Lo-fi, shoegaze, emo, call it whatever, Kensington is a session-worthy banger

LA-International. We just made up a new sound. Is there an LA sound these days or an identifiable Los Angeles scene? Or is everyone just doing their own thing?
I feel like every place has a scene. Like Philly has their shoegaze scene, like Feeble Little Horse and They Are Gutting A Body of Water. LA has a dark wave scene going on right now that I've seen. And then I guess there's indie bands. But a lot of the bands aren't actually from LA. They move from wherever they're from. It's like the transplant music scene I would say.

Can you write when you're happy?
Sometimes, yeah. But I mostly write when I'm sad.

ZZZahara Interview Thrasher Magazine Pullquote 2
What happens when you find yourself happy? Do you have to fuck shit up to make yourself sad?
When I’m happy I’m complacent and lazy. Because I never got the comfortability in my life to just chill. I always had to do things based on survival. So I was always kind of fucking sad. So, I think now that I'm understanding myself and my maturity and have financial stability, I'm more happy, but I'm also really fucking lazy. But that doesn't mean I stop writing music. I think when I'm happy, I'll go to a bunch of shows. I'll collaborate with other artists and try to help them with their music. I do things that would benefits other people more than myself. My song writing process is just like fucking being sad. I mean, I can make a million songs but none of them really hit more than the sad shit.

Do you feel pressure when the financial shit comes in?
Nah, ‘cause I already know I'm good. This is the only thing that I can do for the rest of my life.

Okay, this time next year what do you want to be doing?
I don't know dude. I want to not think about love anymore. I want to not always be involved with different girls and stuff. I want to take time to focus on myself, and then next year I'll be emotionally buff.

I love that. This time five years from now?
I want a house. Yeah, I want eternal financial stability. I think I'll become a recluse five years from now.

LindseyByrnes Porait Thrasher Magazine 2000Another day at Echo Park   Photo: Byrnes

Yeah, maybe Idlewild or maybe Pasadena Hills and just go to a coffee shop and read books and then maybe have an organization where I help people with music or something with my background being with the health fields. Maybe I'll just donate time or something to helping people with brain injuries or just like helping rare diseases.

Tell us the first thing that pops in your head: skateboard?
Garvanza skatepark.

I’m secretly hoping all your answers will be “girls.”
I said “girls” first in my head, but I didn't wanna be savage.

Next one: food.
I don’t know why, but steak salad.

Because it’s a euphemism. Okay next: bowling.
Mr. T’s bowling alley, or 4 Soup.

Alright, this is a broad question but now that your album is officially out, what does it feel like to have all of it there for people to consume? Are you ready to tour?
It feels good but also bittersweet. I’m not attached to it or anything, but I just want people to have something to vibe to. A lot of the songs are hurtful for me so it feels weird.

Spanky skated to The Cure, so it's only a matter of time before someone throws this into the timeline
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