Zara is a band I was interning to see play at a local music venue in East London It didn’t happen and then we went into something called a lockdown. I reached out to the band as I was interested in knowing more about them, and lo and behold Sarah the founder of Zara got back to me and here we are. So, Zara are our band of the day.
I grew up on a smallholding in Suffolk, but I’ve been living in Sarf London for 30yrs. Details of my birth are sketchy – I may have come from Mars.
How long have you been playing as a band and where did you meet the current members?
I have a merry gang of musicians I call upon for gigs. The first Zara gig was in Camden at an event celebrating the music of Gary Numan, it was intended as a one-off, but loved it so much it rolled on. I’m actually rehearsing with Clamor this week, he played guitar at that 1st gig. Stephen and Paul are in foreign climes this week, I cannot remember how I found them .. may have been via my wanted ads and gruelling auditions. We sometimes have Roger (who I met at that Numan event) and Tabby on bass (my daughter) and Dav. Our drummer Alex came highly recommended from by a good friend of mine. Of course, since lockdown we haven’t seen much of each other.
Before you get tired of being asked, why is the band called Zara?
I am already tired of that question. I was called Zara a lot growing up, as there were many Sarah’s’ about. There was a Numan song with a lyric “Listen Zara” that resonated with me, and that’s how Zara got chosen as a name for that first one-off gig. But it stuck.
Where did you record EP, “Breakables”?
I recorded Breakables just across the river at Hackney Studios with the talented Steve Honest engineering & mixing. They had great cats and great coffee in that studio, so it felt like home.
Are you ‘bad with names’?
Yes, I’m really bad with names haha! Really, really bad. I mean maybe it’s something more serious in my brain. A name is just a label anyway – right? I can always remember someone’s face, almost photographically. I’d be good at doing those police sketches of criminals! But names – nah. I even had to go through loads of messages tonight, to find your name in my Inbox as I couldn’t remember it!
Describe your music. What makes you unique?
I think it’s quite catchy – which is unusual for anything other than mainstream pop. People always complain that they have the songs stuck in their heads, audience and band members too! I don’t know if that is a good or bad thing. Perhaps for me to remember them (like with names) they have to be really catchy! It’s a good filter! I usually wake up at night with new song melodies in my head, so it stands to reason that my songs wake other people up too (sorry).
But other than catchy it is quite dark. There still aren’t many women singing rock out there.. there are plenty in Metal but they usually have high voices, mine is lower, more gritty, grungy and gothic.
Do you have any particular lyrical themes?
Well I’ve been writing songs about death, plague and evil for yonks (“My Blood”, “Your Demon”, “Vampire, Vampire”), but as soon as the Pandemic came along it was all a bit too close to home. And rather than being an inspiration, I kind of closed up. It was a “be careful what you wish for” scenario.
Which song or album still sends shivers down your spine?
One of the songs that always sounds like pure gold to me is “Wild is The Wind” by David Bowie. Its masterful. It feels like the wind, its metaphorical, its passionate. It reaches out to me on a deep level as an individual – I guess that’s why he was so popular.
Wind is about air movement .. just like singing. We move air, we move people with the human voice. I tried singing in a mask the other day – sounded alright but I nearly fainted.
If you could describe your music in the form of a fictional character who would it be?
Halloween Hello Kitty
What is the wildest thing you’ve seen or done while at a live show?
There was a time I got electrocuted via a mic at gig, I somehow carried on singing. The show must go on! Horrible black burn marks in my mouth the next day.
How do you choose your set list?
I write the names of the songs onto card with a sharpie, I cut them up and shuffle them into an order that works. I’m a multi-instrumentalist and we often swap around instruments and tunings. So, the order is often just to keep changeovers as smooth as possible. I usually put new songs near the end as I am more nervous of them. Some bands build from light – heavy in a set, but I prefer to alternate.
What kit do you use?
I’d like to think that I am anti-materialist but I have a lot of guitars and basses! And things in-between guitars and basses too. Like the double neck that I am working on, a Bass VI with 6 strings, and a baritone in a nice shade of slimy green. I’ve started making my own guitar pedals that are rather noisy too.
If you were second on a three-band bill, which band would you love to be supporting and which band would you choose to open for you? A chance to plug someone you’ve toured with, or a mate’s band we’ve not heard of before!
I was just talking to John Donegan tonight – he is an amazing songwriter and would have the audience in the palms of his hands, watching attentively for when Zara comes on. After Zara I’d chose to have a band like Interpol .
How did/have you managed to keep yourself sane during the isolation period?
Live music has been totally dead but we are just seeing gigs re-starting. We’ve been asked to play an acoustic set in Shepherds Bush on Sept 19th- can’t wait! To make ends meet when things were quiet, I squirrelled myself away doing weird photography experiments, and online photo workshops. I also borrowed a computer and did a course in Logic Pro. Preparing to demo some new Zara material at home.
What are your plans leading in 2021?
New songs. Thinking of ways to help put on socially distant gigs. There must be places where people could come together and make outdoor stages for London? Sadly, some of regular haunts – the underground basement venues and tiny music bars might not be there for us anymore. Music has always been about “live” for me, about the 2-way thing you get with an audience.