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ZAND’s misfit pop keeps growing

Earlier this summer, Slam Dunk Festival, England’s answer to Warped Tour, brought together established greats like the Offspring, Enter Shikari, and Billy Talent. Opening the main stage, though, was ZAND, who delivered a set of jarring, industrial-pop anthems that confronted everything from sexual abuse to transphobia. Wearing a pair of reptilian wings and red contact […]

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Earlier this summer, Slam Dunk Festival, England’s answer to Warped Tour, brought together established greats like the Offspring, Enter Shikari, and Billy Talent. Opening the main stage, though, was ZAND, who delivered a set of jarring, industrial-pop anthems that confronted everything from sexual abuse to transphobia. Wearing a pair of reptilian wings and red contact lenses while a gimp writhed about the stage, the only issue for ZAND was that they weren’t close enough to the steadily growing crowd.

“I want people to ask, ‘What the fuck is going on?’ when I take to the stage,” they explain a few hours later, with their outfit “adding another layer of fantasy” to the project. “I want to put on a show.”

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ZAND released “Boys Like U,” their first “ugly-pop” single, back in 2018 and has spent the years since slowly creating a visual and sonic wonderland that swaggers with a snarling, uncompromising attitude. The self-produced “Freak” dealt with ZAND’s experience growing up and coming out as nonbinary in the hope that “people can feel less alone and ostracized,” while “Slut Money” was written as an empowering anthem for “anyone judged for demonstrating their right to bodily autonomy and sexual liberation.” New single “DTF”? “That’s about wanking,” they grin.

It samples two different vibrators and features a dubstep breakdown that ZAND describes as an “orgasmic sonic explosion.” Instead of dressing it up as an ode to self-love, ZAND wrote “DTF” because the idea made them, laugh and the whole point of the project is to chase what feels good. “It’s meant to be out of the box. It’s meant to be a bit freaky, slimy, and gooey,” they explain. “Also, why not?”

The track comes from ZAND’s upcoming SEWERSTAR EP, which is a conceptual piece exploring sin, animalistic desires, and human nature via a lot of irony and tongue-in-cheek lyrics. “Even though it’s got two songs about killing abusers, there are also songs about shagging, and it’s a lot of fun,” they promise, with humor an important part of their music. The themes on the record are complex, and ZAND has clearly put a lot of effort into creating the “gremlin, bimbo dragon world” of SEWERSTAR, but “it’s also a lot of me taking the piss and trying to have fun,” they explain.

A few years ago, ZAND would have worried about silly lyrics causing offense and would over-explain every aspect of the project to avoid that. Now, they’re much less bothered. “Typically the only people who don’t get it are straight, white men who don’t get much of anything,” they smirk. “If you want to know what I mean, listen to the music.”

SEWERSTAR provides another layer of freedom to ZAND’s world. When they started making “ugly pop,” they stuck to a strict set of rules that included ensuring all the songs dealt with oppressive subjects and offered some sort of education, as well as making jagged industrial pop that still felt palatable for a mainstream audience. “Now, I just do whatever I want,” ZAND says of the evolution, with the new project mashing up EDM and nü metal alongside soaring pop hooks.

“I’m getting older, and I’ve realized that shit is just not that serious all the time. Life’s too short. Is there actually any point in having hope, or do we have to literally swim in the shit and get on with it while the world’s burning?” they ask. “Either way, we might as well have a party.” SEWERSTAR will no doubt incite debaucherous, escapist chaos. ”I wanted to encourage people to just be a little silly,” they continue. “Create your art the way you want.”

After all, ZAND had their first viral moment as a 19-year-old with an acoustic reworking of a Bring Me The Horizon classic and was swiftly swept up in the music industry. “There were a lot of men telling me what to do, and I believed them because I thought they had my best interests at heart,” they say before a heavy roll of the eyes. “I went into this not knowing what I wanted to do. I just liked writing songs and playing guitar.” ZAND was also struggling with their gender identity, but coming out as nonbinary helped everything slowly slot into place.  

“Coming into my own and looking how I’ve always wanted to look has helped a lot,” they explain. It also gave their music a purpose. “Every cunt and his dad can listen to Ed Sheeran, but queer people, nonbinary people, trans people, they don’t have the same representation. They need that home as well.”

ZAND’s hoping to really start building that sense of community with their upcoming U.S. headline tour. “I want to create a space where people can come and be themselves,” they explain, rolling out a strict “no dickhead” policy. “People can expect chaos, slutty dancers, and me laughing at my own jokes, hoping you laugh, too.”

Following a relentless string of anti-trans bills and continued attacks on body autonomy, ZAND thinks touring North America is “really important” right now. “Even if it’s a small bubble of people that you’re speaking to, providing a space where they can get away from all the horrors of the outside world is vital,” they say.

ZAND is regularly told just how empowering their music is. “You don’t hear many songs about the destigmatization of sex workers or telling nonbinary kids that how they identify is valid,” ZAND says. “But I’m just making the songs that I wish I had when I was younger. I know my music is niche, and it definitely isn’t for everyone, but it is for some people, and that’s important,” they explain. “Maybe it’ll help them feel less alone because this whole project has definitely given me a sense of community and purpose. People see me being fearlessly myself, and hopefully they can relate to that,” they add.

Following tours on both sides of the Atlantic, ZAND will continue expanding their world with a long-awaited debut album. “I want to go harder on the visuals and push the boundaries of what ugly pop can be,” they explain, already excited to get stuck into a full-length. “It’s going to be gritty, uncomfortable, and pull from fantasy and horror,” they smirk. “Basically, I want to show the world what I can bring to the table.”

Source: altpress.com

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