Zoya Zafar Interview Orlando music blog
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No Love Lost: Zoya Zafar

In a lot of circles, including my own, “singer-songwriter” is a dirty phrase. It reeks of cheap coffee and poorly-written songs, performed in 15-minute bursts and introduced by an unfunny guy in a tacky shirt. But in actuality, this descriptor should be reserved for only the finest solo artists. Ones who blend lyrics, melody, and instrument(s) in a way that makes bystanders stop whatever they’re doing and listen to the lone person, spilling their experiences out with only their voice and a guitar.

People like Zoya Zafar. The 22-year-old has made me look at solo musicians differently. Every time I’ve seen her perform, people are transfixed. I’ve never heard a more delicate voice get such attention. Her songs are hand strung melodies, personal and relatable. They work in dark bars or Sunday afternoons under a tree. I had to sit down with this incredible talent and see how she seemingly makes time stop. Enjoy.

Upcoming Appearances:

2/10 @ Will’s Pub w/ Sugarplum, RV, & Pathos, Pathos

2/18 @ The Dumpster in Gainsville w/ Tiger Fawn, DONKNG, & Theo Burrows (The Vinyl Warhol Presents)

2/26 @ Spacebar w/ TV Dinner (The Vinyl Warhol Presents)


Zoya Zafar Interview Orlando music blog

matthew warhol: Okay, so the first thing I wanted to talk about is what originally struck me about your music, which is your voice. You have this very delicate, personal voice. When did you discover it?

Zoya Zafar: Um, I guess when I was like 15. I was taking choir in school, so I think that helped with understanding how to breathe properly when you sing, what vowels sound good. I don’t think too much about it now when I sing because I’ve been doing it for so long. But yeah, I think it happened around then. And like, figuring out where I’m most comfortable singing, in range or whatever.

matthew warhol: When did you start to find your niche in music?

Zoya Zafar: I was always into folk music, even without realizing what it was. I remember, when I was really young, listening to late-‘80s, early-‘90s stuff — what my parents listened to.

matthew warhol: Like what?

Zoya Zafar: Wilson Phillips or Bonnie Raitt. I didn’t really like it that much, but I really didn’t have anything else to listen to. One day, my mom brought me a PJ Olsen CD. No one knows about him, but he’s like ‘90s alternative folk. He had long hair — I thought he was a girl at first. I listened to his record a lot, that’s all I listened to from like nine to thirteen. That’s when I realized I was more into acoustic music.

Zoya Zafar Interview Orlando music blog

matthew warhol: What about when you started playing music?

Zoya Zafar: As I got more into finding new music on the internet, I started listening to music like Bright Eyes and Death Cab [For Cutie]. And that’s when I started having an interest in singing and playing guitar. At first, I took Guitar as a course in middle school. I was like okay, I’ll try it and see if I like it. And I hated it. I didn’t want to do guitar at all. But then the summer after, I was bored and decided to try it again. I was 14. Singing, I liked it, but I didn’t think I had a special voice. I didn’t really like the sound that came out of my mouth. It was just like whatever.

matthew warhol: So when did you start performing live?

Zoya Zafar: Around 16 or so, it was shortly after.

matthew warhol: What was the first time?

Zoya Zafar: I played was an open-mic at Natura. This was 2010. I’d been playing at home and for friends, never in front of strangers. It was cool. The guy who hosted it asked me to open for his band a couple months later. Definitely a good confidence booster.

Zoya Zafar Interview Orlando music blog

matthew warhol: Had you written your own songs up to that point?

Zoya Zafar: Yeah, I started writing as soon as I started playing guitar. I always liked writing. Before it was music, it was poetry or short stories. So it’s always been an interest of mine, and as I got older I had access to a guitar and started singing … it was more of a natural progression.

matthew warhol: I think a lot of your music up ’til this point has focused on the songwriting aspect. It’s your voice and the words first.

Zoya Zafar: Yeah, for sure. I don’t really think of myself as a talented guitar player. It’s just something I can sing with.

matthew warhol: Where do the songs come from? Because your music seems extra personal, like it’s coming from your own life. You’re being very specific with what you’re talking about.

Zoya Zafar: I feel like when I was younger, my songs were more abstract. My first EP is very whimsical, very full of ideas and memories. I feel like, as a whole, different experiences shape you into a new artist.

Zoya Zafar Interview Orlando music blog

matthew warhol: What are most of the songs you write about?

Zoya Zafar: Definitely like, how I react to certain situations, my own personal feelings about something. That’s very vague, but it’s really about me. Everything that’s going to be on my new album is very personal.

matthew warhol: Could you give me an example?

Zoya Zafar: There’s this one called “Go Kiss Your Girl.”

matthew warhol: Yeah, tell me about that one. I know it’s a song people really gravitate towards.

Zoya Zafar: [laughs] That one’s really personal.

matthew warhol: Is it? … just as much as your comfortable talking about.

Zoya Zafar: I was upset over someone. It’s very sassy and angry in a weird way, but also very sad. There’s a line, “I’ve decided that we’ll never be, not even if we lived in the same city.” It was a long distance thing. And I think the hardest part of letting go of a long distance thing, is that you think the distance is why it’s not working out. And there’s always the hope that if we’re in the same city, that things will work out. But, I think thinking like that makes you never get over the person. So for my own closure, the song is saying, “This is never going to happen, ever. Not even if we lived in the city.”

Zoya Zafar Interview Orlando music blog

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matthew warhol: Wow, that’s really mature. I wouldn’t have thought of it that way. In reality, it’s always other things too.

Zoya Zafar: It definitely was a lot of other things. The chorus is “I know you never cared about me, so please just let me be. Go kiss your girl.” Because … there was another girl. [laughs]

matthew warhol: When you’re writing, are you working through the tough situation or do you think you’ve already got it figured out?

Zoya Zafar: It’s definitely a process. Now, looking back, I’ll write songs and know what they’re about, but I’ll listen to them months later and be like, “Oh shit, I knew what I was talking about.” With that same person who the song was about, we had done music together and a lot of the songs were really sad. And it was because I was sad about the whole situation, but hadn’t realized it. Songwriting is very natural for me. It just comes out. Sometimes it makes sense, and sometimes it makes sense later on.

matthew warhol: So when you’re playing the heavier stuff live … I guess, my thing … the thought of doing that scares me.

Zoya Zafar: There’s a reason why I don’t do eye-contact. It’s so awkward for me. I feel like the more the songs become personal, the less I can really look at people. I’m in my own little world in a sense. I was really scared at first. I puked before every show. I would have intense anxiety attacks, it was an ongoing thing.

Zoya Zafar Interview Orlando music blog

matthew warhol: So then why do it in the first place?

Zoya Zafar: I love performing live so much, the entire experience of it. Even though something makes me nervous, it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it. I love playing live especially, as opposed to recording. It’s just another thing. And a lot of people connect with it. One of my friends once told me, “Your songs are really sad, but you’re really happy.” You wouldn’t assume I write sad music.

matthew warhol: When you are playing live, do you feel any of that old emotion?

Zoya Zafar: I think, because I’ve been playing them so much, it doesn’t really affect me. It’s like a friend that you had close feelings for but you don’t anymore. But you still have fondness for.

matthew warhol: And so…

Zoya Zafar: That was a really poor analogy. [laughs] Don’t put that in.

matthew warhol: I thought it was a pretty good analogy. I liked it. [laughs] You have to. I feel like if you kept feeling sad every time you played … that’s not really what music is. Music is therapeutic …. See, that was bad too. That was stupid as well. So were both saying dumb things.

[laughs]

Zoya Zafar Interview Orlando music blog

matthew warhol: Going into what you’ve been working now, you’re hoping to have an album out later this year. At another time, you told me that you were working with DONKNG in Gainesville?

Zoya Zafar: That hasn’t happened yet. I definitely want to go up and jam with them, but I’m generally unsure what I want out of the album. I definitely want to do something different than my last EP.

matthew warhol: Is the sound going to change? Is there going to be more instrumentation?

Zoya Zafar: It’s not going to stray too far from my minimalistic stuff. Because I feel like some of my songs sound better with just me and a guitar. But It’ll be fun to see where it goes. I don’t really play acoustic guitar anymore, so I definitely want to have a moodier sound — dreamier guitars, reverb pedals. I want synths to add texture. It’d be nice to have percussions or something soft, like a drum machine. So I still want to have a lo-fi feel, but a bit more than a home recording.

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matthew warhol: What has happened between your first EP and now? How have things changed for you?

Zoya Zafar: When I did that EP, I already had songs written that will be on the album. The songs were written anywhere from 2014 to now.

matthew warhol: Can you tell the difference between the songs? Are some more mature?

Zoya Zafar: I’ve noticed that my writing style has definitely changed a bit. Before, I feel like I was more wordy and verbose. I think I’m better at saying something in a simpler way than I was before. I’ve noticed that a lot of songs I’ve been writing are like three verses or something, very simple, more minimalistic. But they still capture what I’m trying to say. Also, I think I want to focus more on the music behind the song. The words are important, but I want something that’s more interesting.

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Orlando Fringe Fest
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TVW & SIGT @ ORLANDO FRINGE FEST (photos)

Orlando Fringe Fest is an institution, the longest running US version of the culture festival. Last Wednesday, The Vinyl Warhol and Shows I Go To hosted the WPRK Outdoor Stage where five of our favorite Orlando acts showed the primarily theater and performance art fest the strength of Orlando music. My BFF Joel Cameron captured the magic. In order, the performances were: Gary Lazer Eyes, Greyson of Someday River, THE STATES, Zap Dragon & The Attack, and Pathos, Pathos. Enjoy.

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?!? The Vinyl Warhol & Shows I Go To @ Orlando Fringe Fest ?!? | Wednesday, May 25

This year, Orlando Fringe Fest turns 25. I’m 22. Orlando’s most giving organizers have brought the Orlando music, theater, and art communities together since before I was born. And this year, Orlando music websites The Vinyl Warhol (us) and Shows I Go To (where I serve as Exec. Editor) are throwing a hugeee show on the FREE WPRK Outdoor Stage in Lochaven Park. Come out May 25 to see a stacked lineup (check the bands below) of some of our favorite Orlando musicians. We’ve tailored this show to perfectly fit the outdoor festival ethos, so be ready to grab a beer and soak in the Fringe. Music starts at 7 sharp. Enjoy.

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Gary Lazer Eyes (7:00–7:30)

If you recognize the song below, it’s because we premiered it a little less than a month ago. Gary Lazer Eyes are an Orlando quartet making moves into indie/alt rock after a long time in island and ska influenced music. This band features SIGT staff writer Sean Gray. He’s been an incredible addition to the staff, and my favorite work from him is his “Thank You…” series, where he expounds on his love for new releases by his favorite musicians like Chance the Rapper, Kendrick Lamar, and Alabama Shakes.

Greyson of Someday River (7:30–8:15)

I am so excited for Grey to play the Fringe Stage. If you’re at all into the Orlando music scene, you know about his indie pscyh three-piece Someday River–he serves as vocalist, guitar, and whatever you call a boy on a drum pad (drummer boy?). They’ve just released their debut EP Sleeping Sideways and have been hitting the Florida market hard with shows. If you haven’t seen Someday River before this is a perfect step into their music. If you have, come see the mystical aura of the band stripped down to its core voice. 

THE STATES (8:30–9:00)

Recently, THE STATES have relocated to Orlando–smart. In the last few months, they’ve been a part of 64 North’s free Monday series and in December played SIGT’s Paris Benefit Art Show. Their sound is light and punchy indie rock, a perfect soundtrack to play as the sun sets on a beautiful Fringe day. SIGT founder Mitchel described them as “all the good parts of Mumford & Sons,” but I’d like to clarify that they’re about X 1000 better than that.

Zap Dragon & The Attack (9:15–9:45)

Zap Dragon has been an elusive force in the Orlando scene for a quite some time now. They pop up and bills with punk bands, indie bands, I’ve even seen them play right before a bluegrass quintet. They’re fronted by “Diamond” David Zimlinghaus, a man with a mouth. “Sicko” was the first song I heard from the band, and Dave’s lyrics felt so angry and real that I could have sworn the song was written about me. “I got a problem with everything and everything’s got a problem with me.”

Pathos, Pathos (10:00–10:45)

Pathos, Pathos be on that OG TVW. I’ve covered these guys for what seems like forever now. They played our first ever show, and I’m beyond excited to see them close Fringe on Wednesday evening. I just saw the four cuties live for the sixth or seventh time and they played a bunch of new tracks off their upcoming Pet Names album. Peak my full review of the project’s first single, “Summer Nights.”

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Priest White Nights Video

PRIEST – “White Nights” (Video)

The sonic whirlwinds of PRIEST came to fruition at the release of last year’s self-titled debut album. Nine beautiful songs became a cohesive project full of large, wispy sounds and Madeline Priest’s gleaming vocals. Repeat listens become second nature, as each memorable melody slowly works it way into your brain and out your larynx.

One of my favorite songs from Priest was “White Nights.” The song enters with subtle coolness; the snappy drums, brain-frying synths, and disco-tinged guitar all build into a dark swagger. Madeline’s verses are so light and silky. The whole thing oozes mystery like a James Bond theme, a thread captured in the track’s video. Pinks, purples, and light blues encapsulate my computer screen as I am shown hundreds of angles of Madeline and the band’s instrumental backbone, David Kazyk. Many different Madelines sway back-and-forth. She appears as a modern day Nico, impossible to take your eyes off of.

just some songs. 11

just some songs. (3/24/16)

I tend to ramble when talking/writing about music. My mouth and hands move at “gotta-go-fast” speeds, and I don’t stop until every thought is dispensed. With “just some songs.” I attempt to break the streak and keep things tight and brief. If you’d like to have your music featured in the next edition, email me (matt@thevinylwarhol.com) and I’ll have a listen. All genres are welcome. Soundcloud is my preferred platform (it’s prettier). Enjoy.

Mr. 3 — “Sight For Sore Eyes” (ft. Palmer Reed & Emily Rawlins) (Produced by FIONA)

The Don of the Pizza Posse is readying his second album and “Sight For Sore Eyes” is our first glimpse of what’s to come. This is a smooth first single with many interesting parts moving at once; vocal samples break up verses while an electric guitar, reminiscent of Kanye’s “Devil in a New Dress,” roars in the background. The hook features the crooning of Palmer Reed, who sends the song soaring into R&B bliss. You’d think Mr. 3 would fall back into this big production, but he doesn’t. His flows are confident and quick. He raps about love and girls and contemplates taking on someone else’s child as his own. The Black Bottom will hopefully be out sometime soon.

Transcendental Telecom — “Cotton Tail”

“Cotton Tail” is part of a split single with Gainesville band, Endless Pools. It’s an all-around hazy time with Transcendental Telecom, as guitars crash against each other and cool light vocals breeze by. I picture a cold, damp beach — not like a flat Florida beach, a very rocky, shitty beach. It’s a desolate, yet somehow gratifying, ride. The song starts pretty mellow but builds with echo, guitar, and noise until the waves peak. The comedown is quick and we’re left drenched in emotion and covered in sand.

dates — “I”

I best know Emily McGuire as one-third of the dream pop group Island Science, but she also produces under the name dates. “I” is her first mix, a 40-minute session beginning with Kathleen Hannah’s raw and remixed vocals. What follows is a mash of dance-provoking songs from the likes of Daft Punk, Patrick Hernandez, and Hot Chip. It even features McGuire’s own rework of Destiny’s Child’s “Bills, Bills, Bills.”

Expert Timing — 2016 Demos

I’m not sure if I like Jeff and Katrina Snyder more as an amazing couple or musical soulmates. Great people with great talents, they’ve started a new band together, Expert Timing. The two have released a couple of demos, and I couldn’t pick which one I wanted to feature, so you get both. “Speak” is heavy on Katrina’s vocals, “Nervous Wreck” on Jeff’s. Both have a similar feeling to the couple’s work in Living Decent, a feeling I enjoy feeling. I may sound strange saying it, but whenever I listen to The Snyders’ music I feel nostalgic. It has this moarnful longing to it that sticks with me.

Need more Orlando goodness? Munch on last month’s just some songs.