When planning to interview an artist or a band, I always go into it with the hope of unearthing something new. Of learning something that is not public knowledge, something interesting, and, hopefully, personal.
That’s not an easy feat to accomplish. Artists are often weary going into an interview, and ironically this era of the social media overshare has made privacy more valuable than ever before.
Which is why upon interviewing New Jersey electro-pop musicians ARIZONA, I was so excited to find an openness in them that is often difficult to find in interviewees. After hearing some of their responses, I believe that a value inherent in Zach, Nate, and Dave is their shared value of honesty and authenticity. A desire to share their experiences and emotions with the world. Maybe that’s why their music is so easy to relate to.
With songs that often center around the ups and down of love and all of the emotional sacrifice that goes into it, ARIZONA brings to mind the the simplicity, and joy that once was so common with the 1950’s era Elvis and Sinatra classics. With poetic lyrics and danceable melodies, there is no mystery to why these songs have gained such popularity in, what seems to be, a relatively short amount of time.
But Zach, Nate, and Dave don’t believe that romance has to be about two people falling in and out of love. They are of the opinion that love can be about a place, and experience. And they really want you to know, that love can, and should be, first and foremost, something you feel about yourself.
Your tracks are quite romantic, they all seem to be centered around missing someone, or desiring to fight for someone. Are your songs about anyone in particular or just a general feeling about love?
Zach: I think sometimes they have the capability to be about personal experience. For the most part, the thing we have adopted is trying to dive into the human experience in general. It seems to be a broad, sort of boring term but the idea is that we all go through the same genre of emotions at similar parts of our lives so I think the songs may or may not always come from personal experience but I think it’s supposed to translate very particularly to what the singer is going through at the moment. It’s our way of connecting to people.
Your EP Cold Nights// Summer Days is not only a reference to one of the lines in the song Summer Days, it also seems to speak to the duality between the two tracks (“Summer Days” and “Freaking Out”). “Summer Days” seems to be about wanting someone, while “Freaking Out” sounds like it’s about losing someone. Is there a purposeful narrative between the tracks when you put them together for an album or an EP? How much planning goes into your albums, or is it more effortless?
Zach: When we curate the tracklist, we definitely want to see that it flows and tells a story but with this instance, it was just the two songs that were ready to be released at the time. There is a cool juxtaposition that goes into those two songs sort of being together. I think “Freaking Out” both sonically and songwriting-wise is a snapshot in time of going through the battle with yourself and dealing with depression and insecurities. Just really low moments and having a time where you’re not fighting it, just sinking into it and knowing that going through the night will lead to the day. “Summer Days” is the other half, the more fun, up-tempo, party song. I think form the very beginning we have wanted to have very honest moments but then also just have a lot of fun and I think that comes out from song to song.
Nate: It’s definitely not effortless. What other people would do is conceptualize an album beforehand and try to write for that but what we do is always just checking in with each other and seeing how we feel and writing about that in the moment. Our albums are more like pictures of seasons and the season of life that we are in and what we are going through at that point in time.
What is it about love that seems to inspire so much art in the world? What about it inspires your music in particular?
Zach: Love is a very strong emotion and it comes into play in many different ways. I think there is a love that you can find in people, and in the world, but then there is also love that you can find in experience. It’s something you can feel when you can take the weight off of you. Whether you find it in a person, or an experience, you are completely yourself and are comfortable being yourself. That is one of the moments when you don’t have keep the typical facade of what you are doing and you can just express yourself in the way that you know yourself to be the most and that is such an inspiring thing. I think that’s what fuels a lot of the outward emotions and makes you want to put that out there. Love like pain is a true, honest, comfortable, and sometimes uncomfortable emotion. If you’re an artist you tend to be brave enough to capture that and not just experience and get rid of it.
You guys classify as “Indie/ electro-pop”. How do you cross that (somewhat imaginary) barrier between what is seen as the rawer alternative genre, and the “manufactured” nature of electronic music?
Zach: We have never heard of that genre before either. I don’t know, I think that what we do is mix those two. I think a lot of it comes just from our different personalities and the different kinds of music we listen to and are inspired by and the way it all just melds together when we write.
Nate: Dave and I were sort of raised and mentored in music production and writing within the pop genre so the way those songs are structured and built quite a bit is kind of where we come from but personally we all have really raw, authentic musical backgrounds in genre that we personally like to listen to , so I think it just comes fro knowing how much fun it can be to make structured, fun, pop music and treat it like a skill or technique but to inject it with the sort of left leaning tricks and fun, explorative methods that come from wilder, weirder, crazier music, and I don’t think we tried to find that balance, it was more natural . We know how we always have produced this music, and I think when we stopped caring about where it came from, it became more natural.
What was it like touring with Panic!? What is the most memorable moment from that tour?
Zach: We just played the ’02 Arena last night and that was probably one of the most electric rooms I’ve ever been in. We’ve gotten to do a lot of big venues with them so it has been a pretty amazing experience to be in some of those big MSG, Staples Center, ’02 Arenas, the big ones in the bigger cities but they have all just been great because of the scale that they are at. To connect with that many people. The touring side of it that they have put together…
Nate: For us, it’s an opportunity to learn about how to be on the road at that scale and an opportunity to connect and just kind of gain some wisdom.
You guys are pretty familiar with the festival circuit, how much preparation goes into putting together those sets? Can you describe your performance style?
Zach: Half of it is putting together the set, and half of it is prepping the actual show. Nate puts together the actual set. Nate will text me the set and then because we have so much electronic stuff happening, we have to set up for that but the idea of that is to prepare it so that we can perform it without having to worry about all the bits that could go wrong.
Nate: When it comes to the set it’s just about making it as fun as possible, all of the songs that people just want to dance to and flail their arms to. Any song that you hear at a Summer party is a song that we want to play at a festival.
What is the feeling you hope people get when they listen to your music? It’s strange, how the melody of your sound is pretty euphoric, despite the lyrics often being about melancholy.
Zach: For us, coming up with the album, we always want to check in with ourselves. So, it’s an invitation, as a listener to have the music and the melody draw you in. Instead of taking a wound and covering it up with a bandage, we are kind of making it the centrepiece of what we do. Taking a moment to be in touch with that in a way to celebrate the idea of having an experience where regardless of whether or not you feel pain or joy or love or loss, that it shapes you and it moulds you and it makes you who you are. That’s the kind of feeling that we want to give, where ok, this is real.
Nate: It’s about being ok with where you are in the moment and reminding yourself that you can experience who you are, so long as you are experiencing it for you, not just to do it. If you are not in a great place, you don’t have to hide that. Music is a personal thing, it’s about what you take away with yourself. You’re a real person.