FFO: Zela | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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North-east synth-pop duo Zela continue their prolific 2020 with the release of their fifth single, With Ya Boys. A darker offering than previous releases, With Ya Boys sees front-woman Liv Griff ‘explore the repercussions of a toxic relationship, and the strange, lust-fuelled emotions that run parallel.’ 

Using three songs, we ask the pair to try and describe Zela’s sound…

Huggin And Kissin – Big Black Delta
We first heard this song on the drama/thriller series ‘The Sinner’, it was used as the track  that triggers the main character into a psychotic episode and we loved it immediately. We searched it and found that it was by a band we’d not heard of before; Big Black Delta. This song had an immediate impact on both myself and Max, there’s just something so alluring and menacing about their sound and this song in particular.The dirty synths and frontman Jonathan Bates ’unique vocal style are what really did it for me, I just find this song so weirdly sexy. I think you can hear the influence ‘Huggin and Kissin’ has had on ZELA’s work, particularly on our first two singles; ‘Just Like That’ and ‘Sleep Real Bad’, especially in the production of the synths and our outro styles. Every time I hear this song it makes me wanna do naughty things, that’s what I like in a song whether I’m consuming or creating it. A lot of the ZELA ‘sound’ is constructed around a drum loop, and that’s often what comes first when we’re working on new music. The drum loop in ‘Huggin and Kissin” is exactly what we love; big, aggressive, repetitive and in-your-face, and it fully drives the song. 

You’ll Miss Me When I’m Not Around – Grimes
We f*cking love Grimes. We definitely owe a lot to the electronic cyber-pop side to Grimes’ work; the vocal chops and samples etc. This song in particular gets me going, I love the juxtaposition between Grimes’ sweeter vocal delivery and the context/meaning of the song. Opposites are something I love to play with in my songwriting, a good example of this would be my vocal style in our single ‘I Think I Might’ve Killed Someone’  – I had fun letting all my vocal personalities play when we recorded this song, pairing my softer delivery with contextually very dark lyrics. I also think that Grimes’ and I have a similar tone vocally so naturally I enjoy listening to her music and find myself really understanding her melodies. The bass in this track is MAD good, I love how it immediately demands your attention paired with the vocal chops; it just really sets the pace and grabs you from the get-go. 

UGH! – The 1975
This song will always mean a lot to the both of us. The album this song is from soundtracked a wild period of our lives back in 2015 so there’s a lot of (hazy) memories attached to this song. As a vocalist I can definitely hear the influence Matty’s style of delivery has had on my own song-writing; for example the conversational and percussive phrasing is something I’ve definitely adopted, especially in our track ‘I’m Healing’. The production on UGH is unmatched, it’s packed with what we would call 1%’s, which add up to make the song this perfect piece of pop chaos, for example the electronic samples and use of Matty’s breath as a percussive sample. Lyrically it’s genius, completely relatable with the perfect dose of irony. We’ve all been at a party stuck talking to someone that just won’t shut up about themselves. UGH! landed at a time when we’d just started experimenting with electronics and a MacBook for the first time, which totally opened up a new avenue of music for us to explore. To hear what could be created with entirely electronic instruments encouraged our beginnings in that world, and that was really the start of ZELA. We come back to this album (I Like It When You Sleep..) so many times, it’s so deeply rooted in our musical history. 

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