Interview: Zebrah talk 'Stripes', freedom, and London's music scene
We spoke to Kevin & Pauline from the duo Zebrah, following the release of their debut EP Stripes...
In your lead single, funky rock number ‘Hey Mama’, you convey a discussion between Pauline and her mother about freedom and success, what drew you to these themes and how do you want to inspire your listeners?
Pauline: Back home, music is mainly considered as a hobby and it’s quite hard to break through that cliché but I did and I feel so much better for it. Moving to London was the best decision of my life! That’s what this song is about. No matter what people tell you, believe in yourself and things will open up for you. That’s what I want to tell our listeners, ‘Hey Mama’ is an ode to freedom!
How do you approach the creative writing process as a band, and has the last year of isolation provided you with more space to focus on it?
Kevin: It’s usually me and Pauline writing the songs together, we start with a complete acoustic version and then we rearrange it with the band (in this way we have an acoustic and full band version for each of our songs). During the isolation year we actually didn’t write more than usual, because Pauline was still working full time and I had to finish my degree. What we did focus on was finishing the EP and preparing the release!
Who inspires you and where do you also take your musical influence from?
Kevin: I think my inspiration these past few years came from what I’m listening too, my favourites bands from the past few years are King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Pond, Khruangbin, but also guitar heroes like Mark Knopfler, John Mayer, David Gilmour. However this doesn’t really reflect in my songwriting with Zebrah, I think I’ve been inspired a lot by my guitar teachers during my time at uni, who showed me many theoretical or technical concepts that I then tried to apply in my songwriting to learn them.
Pauline: This past year, I’ve been quite inspired by my workplace actually! I’m a publishing assistant in a pretty big independent publishing company in London called Domino Publishing. Everyone there is working very hard and their top priority is always the music beyond the business. I think it’s super cool and, as a musician, it gives me a lot of hope in the industry! Otherwise, I’m personally super influenced by the neo-soul/jazz scene. I love Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, Nubya Garcia, Ezra Collective…that’s my kind of music!
Do you have any future plans we can look forward to, such as other projects or live gigs? We’ve got quite a few demos we’ve been working on and we will focus more on them once the EP has been released. Hopefully we will get to release a new single this summer!
As French artists based in London, how does the music scene and it’s audiences compare to those from your home? Do you plan to alternate between the two? Pauline: I lived in Besançon and Lille, two middle size cities where the techno/electronic scene is pretty important but it’s not really where I wanted to go musically, so I came to London. I might be wrong but I feel like it’s way more eclectic here!
Kevin: I come from Brittany where the music scene is very little, almost non-existent for emerging artists so moving to London has been quite a big change with the hundreds of local venues and thousands of emerging bands, the competition is fierce! If we get bigger we could potentially alternate between the two, London is good for emerging and settled artists. Whereas, in our opinion, France would work mostly for settled artists.
Finally, what does the word ‘groove’ mean to you?
Kevin: Groove is what gets your body moving!
Pauline: When I think groove, I think dirty bass lines, funny faces and wiggles!