Z Berg Digs Her Heels Into Our Hearts

 

By Rhiannon Levengood
Photo by Joseph Keefe  

A powerful, dark piano melody paired with a sweet, light humming voice begins the solo journey of Z Berg. With her debut single “I Fall For The Same Face Every Time”, Berg treads confidently into a familiar love story, describing the repetitious patterns of why she falls for the same person over and over again. The song continues to build with the addition of string accompaniments, successfully giving the track a well-rounded depth that complements Z’s vocals melodiously. And if the allure of her voice and tale isn’t enough, she gifts us a Celtic-like, fingerpicking interlude just before the bridge.

Following the release of her two-part single, Z premiered a very special music video for “I Fall For The Same Face Every Time” starring the song’s antagonist himself wrapped in clear plastic and stowed in the trunk of Berg’s car, Dexter style.

 

Z Berg is a woman of many, many words, as I’d learned when interviewing her a few weeks ago, but her loquacious, wearing-her-heart-on-her-sleeve personality gives us an honest look into not only her mind, but her heart and soul, too.

Moments Magazine: You talked about what inspired the song “I Fall For The Same Face Every Time” on your Instagram, but I really love the string parts of it. So, I wanted to know what inspired the instrumental aspect of the song.

Z Berg: Aw, thank you! I love that question. You’ll be very happy when you hear the entire record then. It’s very, very string-heavy. Pretty much since I was a kid, I was so obsessed with Nico’s Chelsea Girl, Nick Drake records, and anything kind of, you know, that sort of finger-picking music with a string accompaniment. I’ve always kind of wanted to make a record like that. So, now that I’m a solo artist and no one can tell me what to do, here we are. [laughs] I had a really wonderful string arranger named Patrick Warren who wrote a really unique chart for the entire record and it’s my personal favorite part as well. I’ve been playing shows with me and the string quartet, which is such a delight as an elderly person. Now, I can’t listen to cymbals anymore. I just need strings.

Honestly, I can understand that completely. I can sit here and listen to classical music or you know how they have Vitamin String Quartet, and those kind of bands that do covers of pop music?

Mhmm.

I love those, so I agree with that. I’m excited for your record. Do you know, or are you able to say if you’re having other singles come out soon? Or do you have a date or time frame of when your album is coming out?

I know nothing yet. The record is not totally done yet. We’re still mixing a little bit, and it needs to be mastered. So, it’s all a process. But, because I spent the better part of the last year working on it, I’ve kind of gotten quite impatient. So, I thought it might be nice to just put out a song or two and make a video and just kind of get the boulder strolling.

Do you have a favorite lyric from the song? Like, one that sticks out to you the most?

Yeah, the last verse…
That certain stare
That smile gets me every time
So, what am I if not resigned
To make the same mistakes
To watch them play out the same way
Each night
So, I fall for the same face every time

Because that’s kind of what the whole thing is. The real back story behind the song is‒‒besides trying to put it into beautiful words‒after I broke up with Ryan [Ross], star of the video, a million years ago, I literally was out at a bar with one of my best friends and I spent all night talking to a semi-literate, 20 year old, emo kid. For no reason. We left the bar and my best friend was just like, “What are you doing?” [laughs] And I was like, “What?! What do you mean?” And she’s just like, “You’re literally just talking to anyone who looks like your ex-boyfriend. What is wrong with you?”

And I have kind of a funny thing. If you line up most of my ex-boyfriends and most of my ex-girlfriends, everyone could really sort of be related. I really like to dig my heels in with my patterns. [laughs] But it’s also sort of that thing that I said on Instagram, I think in every aspect of my life, when you were painfully self-aware as I kind of have been since childhood, you make excuses to not grow or change or learn from your mistakes. You kind of have this, “Well, I know what I’m doing so fuck it, I’m going to keep doing it.” And you know, after decades of that, you kind of have to stop and look and wonder if that self-awareness is holding you back and if it’s even self-awareness at all, or if you’re just kind of making excuses for your unwillingness to change. So you know, hence jumping in the grave [laughs] with the person you lost.

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May I present to you, I Fall For The Same Face Every Time, directed by my genius friend @dominichaydnrawle, starring @thisistherealryanross. Go to the link in my bio to watch! And you can find the song on iTunes, Apple Music, and Spotify. I wrote this song many many years ago when my hair was still bobbed and I was living in the valley. It’s a small meditation on loss and resignation. It’s about relishing the pain because it’s all you have left, and once the pain dies, it’s really over. It’s about refusing to change your patterns because you define yourself by your bad decisions and your unwillingness to grow. It’s about the instincts we oscillate wildly between- to shun our past, get over our pain, to kill our idols…or to jump back into the darkness and snuggle up to the dull pain of nostalgia and the romantic notion of what we miss and what could have been. In a moment in history when it is so glaringly apparent that history repeats itself, endlessly and hopelessly, in a vicious cycle from which we appear to learn nothing, the personal reflection of that universal sentiment feels particularly relevant to me. The video, starring the real life subject of the song, is an examination of said loss, resignation, and haunting, and of the fusing of real life and fiction that comes from writing songs about your life. When you put it all in your writing, you ficitonalize your memories, you rewrite the history of your life. You apply order to the chaos. Turn the tawdry into tragic. And as more time passes those elevated rewrites replace your real memories until they’re all that’s left. I wanted the video to further blur that line between fact and fiction. Also I thought of how much our dead hero means to many of you, that in many ways he’s almost become the stuff of myths, someone we have all imbued with our own love and loss and longing for our childhoods and of better days long gone. And that love, too, is real and unique and meaningful. And also I thought it would be funny.

A post shared by Z Berg (@zeezerizer) on

Speaking of the video, do you have an emotion that primarily inspired it? Because when I watched it, I was like, “This is great. She killed her ex-boyfriend and put him in a hole. This is incredibly empowering.” What inspired that kind of storyline for it?

The whole record has struck me as being very visual and my intention is to make a video for every song on the record that I can, because I’ve sort of got ideas for everything. And I want to try and make as many videos as I can starring the people the songs are actually about. Because you know, I am insane. [laughs] Yeah, I mean that’s the kind of visual concept of that feeling of wanting so desperately to get over it. To get over the loss of someone that you love and the loss of what you thought something could be and wanting to bury it and wanting to murder it. And then the oppositional force of desperately wanting to get in the grave with the person you killed and as much as you want to get over something and throw something away, you kinda just want to jump back in and you want to hold on to that pain and hold on to those memories. And so, you know, I figure, what better than to make as literal a version of that metaphor as possible and take my actual best friend and ex-boyfriend and dress him up dead in my trunk.

I showed my mom [the video], because I’m a fan of Panic! At The Disco. I was like, “Hey Mom, remember Ryan Ross?” So, I insisted, “You have to watch this video.” And as she’s watching it, she goes, “Is he in the fucking trunk?”

[laughing] Yeah, what’s funny is, when I came up with the idea, I thought it would just be really funny, you know, because it’s just such a ridiculous concept. But when we made it and I watched it for the first time, it was so much sadder than I thought it was going to be. He looks so fucking dead. And so kind of serene, it’s so disturbing and it’s, oh, sad. It really just killed me. It’s meant to be that feeling of abject lost. When I watch it every time, it just, it hurts my heart. It’s so sad.

I just think it’s beautiful because I’m morbid. But yes, he does look very dead. My favorite thing about the makeup actually is that it’s more gray than it is pale, which is what dead people look like. And I feel like a lot of people don’t realize that…that you turn gray, you don’t go pale.

I really appreciate that. I did the makeup myself. And I was really trying to do the reveal of Laura Palmer [Twin Peaks] makeup. That was kind of my reference because I mean, Ryan Ross as Laura Palmer is the thing the internet didn’t know it needed.

pjimage

And it’s exactly what they needed apparently. You were talking about how you want to do a video for every song, and one of my questions was actually, if you could create a video for “I Go To Sleep”, would it be a follow-up to “I Fall For The Same Face Every Time” or do you have another idea for it?

It was funny, as I was shooting that video, I was like, “Fuck, I wish we had time to make a companion piece. “I Go To Sleep” would have been great if that could have been the actual murder, the actual death. The funny part too is that when my dad watched the video‒and my dad, when he first saw it, he just started crying, which I love. We’re a very emotional family, but he sort of said, “When I watched it, you told me the concept.” And that I kind of have strangle marks around his neck and stuff. And that was my idea, that I had killed him. But when my dad watched it, he said, “You know, he almost looks more like did you kill him or did he kill himself? Did he hang himself and were you hiding the body so no one knew? So what did happen? And I liked that that is where his mind went.

It’s cool that people can interpret it differently.

That’s kind of another metaphor for when a relationship ends and, you know, did I kill it? Or did he? And it’s just all so hard to process pain and loss and the openness for interpretation of what that might be. And when you exit a relationship and you both sometimes have completely different ideas of what happened. And how totally tragic that is. I kind of always said that the goal of being in love and what it really feels like is…you spend your whole life looking at the world one way and no one else can see what you see. And then when you are totally in love and you’re totally in sync, it’s like you’re both looking at the same thing, at the same time, and you’re seeing it the same way. And when it ends that wall between you guys that existed before you knew each other forms again and suddenly you’re looking at something completely different, when it’s actually you’re seeing the same thing. And it’s so sad, you know, because I think we all just want to feel like we’re not totally alone and we’re seeing the same thing at the same time and that’s what’s so sad when a relationship ends. It’s like you’re looking at the same wall but you’re seeing a different color.

That is sad. It hurt my heart to hear you talk about it because you can have that with friendships, too. That’s what sucks because that kind of love can be so deep within like a romantic relationship. And then also with platonic relationships, too. And that honestly just made me think of a friend that I just lost. So it was just like, oh, it does make me sad.

Sometimes those losses are even sadder, you know, because you kind of expect relationships to end, and you expect people to lie, and you expect things to get messy. When things get bad with a friend…you know, that’s supposed to be your solace from all the madness of relationships and when that goes sour, it’s just doubly heartbreaking.

Life is suffering, [sarcastically] but it’s fun!

So, you did have the song up on your bandcamp for awhile, but what motivated you to rerecord it? And I did notice that it does sound dynamically different.

It’s sort of more somber. So, those songs I had up on bandcamp or I don’t know if I still do, those were demos from when I first wrote those songs and just recorded little demos of them and put them up. You know, I’ve been trying to make this fucking solo record for 10 years, you know, I’ve been writing these songs for 10 years and every time I’m about to make a solo record, one of my bands asked to go on tour, asked to make a record. Something big happens. And so, you know, at every turn I’m kind of thwarted and finally it was the time to make this record. So, some of the songs on this record are 10 years old, some of them are two months old and you know, it’s an amazing thing to have a record that sort of encapsulates an entire decade. It’s basically a record about my entire twenties, which is real heavy when you listen to it front to back and it feels like a decade. And it’s an interesting thing because some of these songs I wrote for a solo record, some of them I wrote to be the Like songs, some of them I wrote to be Phases songs. They’re all from totally different periods, but they’re all me and somehow they all kind of fit together on a record. But, the beauty of making a record is that every song has a billion different possibilities for its interpretation, how it’s going to be recorded, and how it can be presented. And when you’re in the right studio with the right producer and it’s the right time, you just figure out what is the one. And that’s the hardest thing about making a record and the hardest thing about being a producer: what is the best possible version for right now? So here we are.

A friend of mine actually brought up yesterday, “Did you realize that ‘Square One’ was the Like and now also on JJAMZ?” And no, I didn’t realize that.

Yeah! Isn’t that funny? You know what’s crazy is that that was originally a JJAMZ song. JJAMZ wrote that and then the Like basically covered it and put it on our record. And then later the JJAMZ record came out and we recorded it, too.

So, I was looking at it and I saw that the writers on it were JJAMS and I was like, “Huh.” And I wanted to ask because it is funny. It’s kind of cool. I like the fact that you’re able to re-process music and like you said, you have a whole record that’s 10 years of your life and you’re still able to tell those stories, which is kind of cool and you don’t get bored of it.

You know what the beauty of it is? I have literally the memory of a goldfish. So, basically every time I hear a song, let alone my own songs, I’m truly hearing it for the first time. And while that can be very difficult in my actual life and trying to get anything done, it’s really wonderful for art because I never get bored, and every night when I play songs, no matter how old they are, I feel like I’m hearing them for the first time. And not only that, but every time I play any of those songs, I’m taken back to when I wrote them and who I wrote them about and what I was feeling. And it’s like watching a little movie of a time in my life that when I’m not playing music, like I don’t remember fucking anything. And it’s very sad and I think that’s why I have such value to my songs for my personal use is because it’s the only way I really remember anything and I remember it so deeply. Every time I play one of those songs, it’s like that ‘Madeleine dipped in tea’ moment where I’m just right back there, and I’ll sing the song and I’m thinking about this boy that I loved and I just got back from Paris. I thought I was going to die without him and I feel it all. And then the song finishes and I’m like, “Wait, I fucking hate that guy. What am I doing? What am I talking about?” But it’s, you know, they’re like wonderful little time machines. And so that’s all I got to remember anything by.

Sometimes I feel like my memory is just like shot, so I feel the same way. And I feel like music also, like I don’t create my own music, but listening to other music, other songs and relating them to memories helps, too.

Yeah, I mean for me, too. I think that’s part of why I love music so much because it isn’t just my own songs. I have that with, you know, I hear songs and I remember the first time I heard them. I remember being nine years old and walking around my backyard singing “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by the Beach Boys. I remember just loving it, or just being in my room and listening to the Supremes in my bed and singing along at the top of my lungs, and I listen to those songs and I’m right there. And it’s crazy and it feels impossible. But that’s, I don’t know, it’s one of the great joys in life.

Do you have any plans to tour as a single artist anytime soon. I mean, obviously the record has to be done first.

Yeah. So probably not for a little bit, but I sure hope so. I love tour. I miss it. I haven’t been on tour for a year now, and I’m getting to that point where I want to murder someone.

Well, honestly you just did. What’s your favorite city to play in?

Hmm…That’s a good question. My favorite city to play in? I don’t know if it would be the same ever if I went back, but when I’ve been on tour, playing in Portland is always one of the greatest experiences. I fucking love Portland. Our shows are always amazing. Boise, Idaho is always fucking awesome for some reason, particularly for JJAMZ and Phases. Every time we played there and everywhere we went, we just had the most magical experience. And then Berlin and Sydney are two places that I just had the most wonderful time and thought I could live here. I could do this. And Tokyo. Tokyo’s the fucking best. The most fun shows I’ve ever played have been in Tokyo.

Is there any reason why or is it just the fans, the vibes?

It’s just magical and so foreign. I think people really love music there and really love shows, like most shows I’ve played in Tokyo were just wild. But the last show I played in Tokyo was the Like got back together a couple years after we broke up to play a show in Tokyo and we’d never played in Japan on the Release Me record and we didn’t know anyone had even heard of it or knew anything about us. And this magazine and this clothing company contacted us and asked us to come to Tokyo and do a big photo shoot and play the show. We played a show and a fashion show for a thousand people in Tokyo and everyone knew the record front to back. Everyone was crying. We signed autographs for like four hours. It was the most surreal and wonderful experience. And everyone we talked to, it was like the first time I felt like people really understood that record and who we were as a band and what it was all about. It was just, it was like the Twilight Zone. It was just the greatest experience of my life.

That’s incredible.

It was interesting. The Like garnered a lot of distrust for the way that we looked. Partly, it’s just pure fucking sexism and seeing four girls who wear mini skirts and play rock and roll music does not compute in people’s brains. But also, the fact that it was very, very visual along with the music and that felt much like a part of it to us. And that every aspect of it was conveying a vision and our idea of this music, and of the world we were trying to create. And in the rest of the world, I feel like that made people distrust it and think that it wasn’t real, and [that] it was just about being pretty. It wasn’t about the music. And when everyone we’ve talked to in Tokyo understood that it was all supposed to be an art piece, and that the music, and the way we dressed, and the way we looked, and the artwork, and every single aspect of it was part of one singular vision. I think that’s very much a Japanese thing, you know, I think they really love not just music, but all of the visuals and the art, and that everything should be related and everything should be cohesive and beautiful because that to me is the goal of ours. That the point is to rewrite the world the way you wish it was.

Do you have a song writing process? Like do lyrics come first or does a tune come first, is it both?

I think it’s different with a lot of songs. There’s more than one way to skin a cat. When I’m collaborating with people, I think every song is completely different, but when it’s my own song, it’s almost like a trance. It’s almost like everything kind of comes at once. Usually, I’ll start with like a little melody, or a word stuck in my head, and then it kinda just all becomes something together. I kind of start playing a melody and playing guitar, and I kind of sing guide lyrics along with that melody. And then I listen to what the nonsense I’m singing is, and then I go, “Oh, there are a few words in there!” And it’s almost like a subconscious therapy session where I’ll be like, “Oh, that’s what’s bothering me! That’s what I got to write a song about!” You know, it’s kind of a weird‒an oddly mystical process. And it’s funny too because half the time, I don’t even remember writing it. You know, I look at all these songs on my record and it’s hard to imagine how it happened. It’s weird.

Do you ever run into creative blocks at all, and what do you do to help that?

The beauty about writing songs is that for the most part, there are no deadlines. You know, sometimes I try to sit down and write something, and I just get nothing. And then sometimes I sit down and I write an entire song in 10 minutes. This is something that all artists and writers and everyone has tried to figure out from the dawn of time, but it is that you just gotta wait for the muse to come. Now, at the same time, sometimes I work way better if I have a deadline or an assignment, you know. Sometimes, someone will say, “Hey, I liked that song of yours, but I need a new one for a movie I’m making. Can you hand me in something tomorrow?” And when I have something like that, I could do it so easy. It just comes. But the rest of the time, you kind of just gotta wait for it to happen. Which is just terrible, terrible advice.

Just procrastinate your life away!

That’s how I do it!

Do you have like a specific artists that inspires you that you can put on when you’re trying to write. Someone that helps you?

Not really. The one funny trick, and this will sound fucking crazy, but when I am writing a song, when I’m working on something, I always have something else on. I always have the TV on in the background or music on or a book to flip through in between. I take little breaks and I like to be a little bit distracted so that I can’t get too in my own head, which is also terrible advice. Like, “Hey, you know what you want to do when you gotta write an article? Put the TV on!” Particularly when I’m writing lyrics, I want to not think about the…you know, once I have the structure, the meter and I’m writing the words, I kind of like to have tv on so I don’t think about the melody when I’m writing it, and I can just think about the words and sort of divorce myself from the whole song. It’s all kind of this weird process of focus and distraction, and sort of oscillating between those two so that I don’t get too sort of caught up in it, or I don’t get too far away, but it’s all about kind of straddling this weird line. And sometimes it works and sometimes I just watch TV.

Sometimes, I end up on YouTube watching 30-minute vine compilations videos.

Yeah, whatever works. And sometimes I get a great song, and sometimes I’m just watching the Magicians and that’s also fine.

Is that what you’re binge watching right now?

I’m obsessed with it. I love the Magicians. I love television. Like right now, I’m watching the Magicians. I’m watching Riverdale. I just watched Altered Carbon on Netflix. I’m currently watching Downton Abbey for the first time. I’m kind of a ravenous consumer of all art. I’m constantly listening to music. I’m constantly reading. I’m constantly watching TV. I’m constantly watching movies. I just want, you know, everything all the time.

My mom and I just finished watching Shameless.

I’ve never watched it, is it good?

It’s so funny. And it’s like, it makes you feel better about your life because their life is so bad, [laughs] but like they take it well and then they make good out of it. So it’s good.

Yeah, I’ll watch that one of these days.

It’s very, very good. I enjoy it. Um, we’re off topic. Where am I at?

What are we doing here? What are we doing?

I have a list of questions. What do you hope your fans take away from your music?

What I really want people to take away, particularly from this record is…you know, I realized with all of my different bands, and my body of work, I feel like every record I’ve made‒first of all, it’s all been very different. And each one has always represented a facet of me and of my personality, but it’s never just been, “Here I am.” And I think this record, if nothing else is 100 percent an accurate representation of what it is like in my head, and how I wish the world was, and how I see it to be, and what I love, and what hurts, and how I talk. And it is very much totally truthful and honest and me; and not just honest about the things that happened, but honest about the way I wish they had, and honest about what I wish the world looked like and the way I see it. I think that’s kind of the goal of artists. There’s a great Nabokov quote that I’m going to misquote, but the essence of it is essentially that art serves to show you how beautiful life could and should be, and that I think there is this kind of process of art imitating life and life imitating art. But I think when you hold up your artistic mirror to the things that happened to you, and you rewrite the history of your own life, and you make it more beautiful and more meaningful, and you make it how you wish it was. I think then in turn, life is reflected upon that art and life can be transformed for the better by the art itself. And so sometimes, when you make art that is trying to tell people how you wish life could be, sometimes life becomes that way because of the art itself, and it’s all kind of this back and forth. This record is what I wish the world sounded like. And now it does.

What instruments can you play?

I play guitar and piano, and that’s pretty much it. Actually, that’s completely it. I can’t play drums to save my life. I can’t play bass. Yeah, I can play guitar, I can play piano. Every now and again, I can rock a mean tambourine, but it’s gotta be the right scene.

If you could play any new instrument or learn any new instrument, which would it be?

Z: Cello.

I’ve always wanted to play cello.

It’s so, so beautiful. It’s so hard. I will never do it. I don’t even want to try, truthfully. I’m very lazy and I only like to do things I’m already good at, so I’m never going to play cello. But, fuck man. It’s so lovely. I mean, any fretless string instrument, I’m just like, “I wish I could do that, but I’m not going to. It’s just not going to happen.”  

I feel like I’m the opposite. I love playing new instruments. Like I started with violin. I went to guitar, I play mandolin and I play ukulele. I want to play cello. I just bought a tenor ukulele. I just like to play new instruments.

You go girl. I’m very envious of that.

I’m not good, we can’t make a record, but I like to play. What’s your earliest memory regarding music?

I have no idea. My earliest memory is like four hours ago.

Oh, yeah. I forgot you’re a goldfish.

[laughing] I grew up in such a musical household. I started playing piano when I was five. My dad taught me how to play guitar and there always was music playing in my house. So yeah, trying to pinpoint what the first one was is pretty impossible. But, it was just always there and I think I sung before I could talk. I was just one of those brutal kids. You just couldn’t shut me up and you still can’t.

How did you get the nickname Z?
It’s a chicken or the egg thing, actually. I was really named Z first. My dad’s favorite letters were x and z, and so he named me Z and my sister Alex, but I think they kind of chickened out once I was born and thought, “Oh God, what if she grows up and get a real job one day and needs a real name?” So, it says Elizabeth on my birth certificate, but no one has ever fucking called me that and I have to explain this every time someone asks if Z is my real name, and I curse my parents for their chicken shit attitude. In case one day I get a real job, there’s always Elizabeth waiting in the wing.

Listen, that’s the same with me. My full name is Rhiannon, and there are two kinds of people: the “Ah yes, Fleetwood Mac!” people, and I’m like, “Yes!”; and the “Ah, like Rihanna” people, and I’m like, “No, not like Rihanna at all.” So I understand. I completely understand.

If you could tour with anyone, who would it be and why?

If I could tour with anyone? Living or dead?

Whatever you want. If you want a tour with a dead person, go ahead.  

Realistically, I would probably really just want to tour with the Stones in the late 60s.

Perfect.

Because obviously.

Do you have a favorite book that you can read over and over again? This is mostly me looking for a new book to read.

Um, yes, I have millions of them. Well, Laughter In The Dark by [Vladimir] Nabokov, one of his earlier novels, and it is wild and one of my favorite books of all time. I think I probably read Lolita, I used to have most of Lolita memorized. I read it every day when I was in school and also Pale Fire by Nabokov. Basically, anything by Nabokov. Anna Karenina and War and Peace [by Leo Tolstoy] are two of my favorites of all time. Crime and Punishment [by Fyodor Dostoyevsky] is one of my favorites of all time. London Fields by Martin Amis, Atonement by Ian McEwan, The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, Sentimental Education by [Gustave] Flaubert.

That’s a lot of classics.

Z: I’m a pretty classic kind of guy.

I used to have War and Peace, and I looked at it once and I was like, “No, it’s too long.” My attention span is not there.

It’s one of those books you got to…I read War and Peace over the course of a year in probably 10 different countries. I took it on tour with me. I had a huge, red, hardcover copy of it and it went everywhere. I have it now and it has, you know, ocean water from Australia, and you know, tears from New York. It’s beat to shit. But I love the tactile experience of reading and I always prefer cumbersome, hardcover books and taking them everywhere. And my bands have always mocked me for that. But, I love to have them like trophies at the end, to think about all the places I took them with me, and sobbing when Prince Andrei died in the airport in Copenhagen, and finishing it in my own bed. I just, I love that. It’s like your double life that comes along with you with your real one.

One question we always ask at Moments is waffles or pancakes? Which do you prefer?
I’m really not a huge waffles or pancakes guy. I’m probably pancakes. I don’t really like waffles. I’ll tell you a pancake secret actually because I eat pretty, super duper healthy because I started touring when I was 16 years old, so I kind of decided, “If I’m gonna party all around the world…” I’ve been a pretty strict vegan or vegetarian and done yoga, really taking care of myself in that sense so that I could, you know, do whatever I wanted. But you can make pancakes out of one ripe, mashed banana and two eggs, and you just mix it together, put a little bit of Stevia on it, and fry it in coconut oil and they’re amazing. Put blueberries in them, it’s incredible.

I haven’t eaten dinner yet.

I just said that and I was like, “Fuck, I’m starving.”

I need to try it. So, I do have a few twitter questions. Kylie, @heavenswentz asks, “Will your new music sound similar to Phases, the Like, or JJAMZ? Or will it be completely new?”
Well, you know what the intention of this record is. I mean, it is totally new and very different than anything I’ve done before, but at the same time, particularly because some of these records were written originally for each of those bands, I think the intention of this record is to make sense of all my previous bands. To take aspects of the Like’s first record and second record, and JJAMZ, and Phases, and kind of distill it to its core values and make that the record. Sort of isolate what is purely me out of all those different sounds and that sort of what this record is. It’s much more bare, and it’s much more stripped back, but I think there’s an aspect of each of those bands in every single song on this record. I think that it will kind of make the whole past make sense. That’s the idea, anyway.

Rina, @throamie, asks “What are your plans or goals for this year and can you say anything, or are they secret?”
I mean, really the big goal is to finish this mother fucking record and get it out before the world ends. That’s really what I’m operating on. Ideally, I would love to make a video for every song on this record and I would love to be back on tour as soon as possible, but really the big goal is try and get this record out before the world ends.

Kiera, @brendonstwt, asks, “What inspired you to use such a strong symbolism of death for the music video?”
Yeah, I mean we pretty much covered it, but really, I have been obsessed with death my entire life. As a little kid, it was all I talked about and I think accepting death as always being at your heels, and as being the counterpart to life, and your shadow always attached to you, and always following you is kind of the healthiest way, to me, to live my life. And you know, I think very early on, I was sort of obsessed with the fact I was going to die and everyone I loved was going to die. And so because of that, I have always woken up every morning and thought, “All right, this is my last day, what am I going to do?” And every day, I just told my parents this, my parents are like my best friends, and I have an amazing and totally unique relationship with them. But, a huge part of that is because I, since I was a little kid, every day I wake up and I’m just like, “Oh my God, my parents are going to die. I don’t know what I’m going to do. It’s going to be so horrible.” So, I just got to kind of call them like, “Hey, I love you!” They’re like, “Why are you calling me?” And I’m like, secretly because I’m thinking about the fact that you’re going to die one day. So, I better spend every second we get. Which sounds very morbid, but it’s also not. I think you’re constantly reminded of the fact that none of this is permanent. It gives you a tremendous freedom to act the way you want to and do the things that you would, if this is really it, because it always may be. So, at the end of the day, death is really the only metaphor.

Rose, @Rose_Aldrage….she had actually sent me a picture because I was confused, but she said that the music video has parallels drawn from John and Yoko.

pjimage (1)

I put a few Easter eggs in that video. The Ryan Ross as Laura Palmer, and the John and Yoko Rolling Stone cover, and the little bit of the Hamlet, “Alas, poor Yorick!” clutching the skull. I believe that reference is such an incredibly powerful tool when you’re building your own sort of artistic world to be able to expand that world by referencing other artistic worlds, and you kind of grow this constellation of the way you see the world, and also the things that you love and the way other people see the world. And, I think all of my favorite art in the world is incredibly reference-ridden because it takes what is just a world and it turns it into a whole universe.

Danielle, @_orjustfriends, asks, “Macaroni or spaghetti?”

I really like this question because I am very particular about certain kinds of pasta with certain kinds of sauce. So, macaroni should really only be with cheese. Spaghetti, I like with pesto, or I like with a meatless bolognese sauce. Penne, arrabiata. And fettuccine can have pesto, you know, there’s a little room, but I think every pasta has its own sauce that’s really meant for it. Did I mention I have OCD?

Are you the kind of person that needs a divided plate because nothing can touch when you’re eating?

Maybe???? That also depends too, there’s certain kinds of food where everything needs to be mixed together and there’s certain kinds of food where nothing can even be looking at each other. I like to have my food in separate bowls, you know, like the kind of people who put salad on their plate next to other foods are fucking crazy. When I eat dinner at my parents house, my mom knows I need separate little bowls for all my different kinds of food.

From an anonymous person, do you have any advice for teenagers who are struggling with coming out to friends or family?

Yeah. Well, you know, it’s funny. I had a lot of conversations with people about this.

Yeah. Someone actually sent me one that was on a Snapchat.

Yeah. When I first joined snapchat, which I don’t use anymore, but in Phases, they kind of made me use it. I just don’t understand it, like what is the fucking point? So I kind of just used it to talk to people, and this is what I do a lot on social media is…I like to talk to strangers and I like to have real honest conversations with fans and with people across the world because it’s kind of the only good thing that we get from the evils of social media is the ability to have real open conversations with people we might never meet or get to talk to otherwise. I had a lot of conversations about coming out, partly because I am bisexual, but I come from such a lucky situation where I never even thought it was weird. I was like, “Yeah, I fucking like everybody. Got a lot of options.” I’m incredibly lucky because I come from an amazingly liberal family, but not everybody is so lucky, obviously. That bad experience can be wildly nerve-racking and it can go badly and it can tear your family apart, and a million things can happen, but at the end of the day it doesn’t fucking matter because living with a lie is not worth it. Secrets are like cancer and they’ll eat you up. Being able to live truthfully and out in the open is the most rewarding experience of your life. And if people truly love you, they will get over it. And if they don’t get over it, then they’re not fucking worth it because life is just too short to not get to be who you are and live truthfully because it just hurts. I’ve lived with secrets and with lies before and it eats you and it makes you sick. So, I mean my advice for anyone who wants to talk to their parents is you just gotta do it and not fear the consequences because if they love you, they will come around and they also might surprise you. I think a lot of times they do, because at the end of the day they do love you and whatever issues they have, they will have to get over and it’s worth it for you to live your own life and to live it fully and truly. I mean, it’s crazy to think that there’s still so many people in this world who are still so scared and another thing is to realize that it’s all just because they’re scared, they’re scared of who they are. They’re scared of anything different. And none of that fear is real, and nothing you can do or think or feel or no one you can love can be bad. People are just scared and if they’re your family though, you’re doing them a favor by forcing them to face their fears and figure it out.

So, obviously you probably have songs written about you. Which one is your favorite?

Well, I don’t know if I should tell that. I guess I could say whatever I want, because I’m plugging it. Jason Boesel, who was the drummer in Phases and in JJAMZ, he made a solo record called Hustler’s Son that is amazing. And most of the songs are about me. So, I suggest everybody listen to it because it’s amazing, and because it’s a lot about me and who doesn’t love me? [sarcastically] So many people. But you guys will like it.

If you don’t already, be sure to follow Z on all of her social media accounts and definitely keep an eye out for her upcoming record!

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