ANCHR Magazine

Holding you down with the best new music

Filtering by Tag: New music

A Chat With: Zuli

As a songwriter and creator, Zuli has never shied away from exploring different genres and styles with his music. His multi-faceted debut album On Human Freakout Mountain gave listeners glimpses of rock, pop, psych and folk textures back in 2017. Now, Zuli has returned this year with his first bit of music since his debut record, giving fans another taste of something new. Released June 21st, Zuli’s latest single “ur mistaken” contains the same rock and pop undertones of his older material, but it also twists in sprinkles of soul and R&B.

Drawing influence from some of his favorite music released by other artists during the past two years, Zuli was able to tap into a different side of his creativity and refresh his sound without straying too far from his roots. While there’s still plenty more to come as far as new material goes, I recently caught up with Zuli the week that “ur mistaken” dropped to talk about his current artistic inspiration, the growth in his writing process, and what he hopes to deliver with his live performances.  Tune into our chat with Zuli below!

Photos by Kimberly Young Sun

Photos by Kimberly Young Sun

What was your first musical memory?

There’s a lot! My mom is a singer, and when I was growing up she was always singing and playing gigs. I was always going with my dad. She’s a country singer. So that’s probably my first memory of music, just hearing her sing Dolly Parton and things like that. In terms of me being affected by any kind of music, I guess some of my earlier memories was I was a huge Stray Cats fan when I was a little kid. I really loved like Brian Setzer, I wanted to be Brian Setzer when I was a little kid. I also feel like when I heard “Tommy” by The Who for the first time I wanted to pick up a guitar and just start writing songs and doing my own thing. Those are the memories that come to mind firsthand. I grew up in a musical house though so it’s always been a big part of shaping who I am.

That’s awesome you have that connection with your family going way back! So now you have your new single out, which is your first release since 2017. How does it feel to have “ur mistaken” finally shared with the world?

It feels great, honestly. I was lucky enough...I don’t know if lucky is the right word, but I was testing out the song with some shows to see people’s reactions and people have been really positive about it. After it came out, the love and the output from people has been really inspiring. It’s just great to be back and have it out and I’m excited to keep the ball rolling. I’m glad people are feeling a new direction and this whole new chapter. 

Yeah it seems like a lot of good responses on social media so far! Lots of people were sharing on release day. Then as you mentioned, it definitely pulls in a new soulful sound and new approach compared to some of your older material. What was your process with “ur mistaken” and creating this song versus some of your earlier material?

I think that at its core, it shares some resemblances of the older material and that I still always try to do my best to write a song with the intention of one instrument and a vocal, and making it feel good at its core. Then once you put the production on top of it, you’ll only make the song better. I think that when this song came about, and when I was digging deeper and going in this new direction to express myself and create, it kind of just came from a place of a little bit of melancholy and feeling down about where I was in my relationship with everyone. It just kind of felt like a more longing type of approach. My voice didn’t feel the same. I just wasn’t expressing myself in the same kind of way. With On Human Freakout Mountain, as a record, it was my first experience recording and releasing a full length album. When I was finished with that I learned so much and I had all these new experiences that came along with it but also was tending to all of these experiences that led up to that point, and once I reflected on where I was going and where I’ve been, it just kind of felt like there’s certain aspects that I’m gonna take and I’m gonna expand upon and keep in my toolbox. But there’s this whole other side of me I feel like that hasn’t really seen the light yet. It wasn’t even an intentional thing but this new idea and new direction felt so right and like the best method for me to continue expressing myself.

Nice, it sounds like it’s an accumulation of everything you learned when approaching the new music. So between the time of your debut album coming out and now releasing this new single, what would you say is one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned about yourself, either personally or as a musician? Anything you tried to apply from those experiences you had?

I think as a musician and as an artist, my main focus and a big part of what I do is going with your intuition and feeling. I think feeling goes a lot deeper than thought. However, I do feel that was such a big crux for me in a lot of ways, just the music feeling right to me and how it kind of came out. I think when I was approaching this stuff, I was coming from more of an introspective space where I was really reflecting on everything, and I feel like right now with my creating, I’m trying to find a balance of keeping my heart and my brain in the song. And letting the thought process behind the song help shape not only the narrative, but the direction and some aspects of the aesthetic, but then also not forgetting that at the end of the day, my intuition of how the song feels and how I feel about the structure...Say I want to write a song about this, but then I’m working on a melody, a string of words comes out that not only resonates with me but feels good, I shouldn't deny that because my intention was different. I feel like that was my biggest difference or growing moment between the two, was just learning ok like, I can take this part of me but I also want to be more concise with what I’m saying.

Yeah that’s a great way to look at it and approach it. Like making sure you still have the heart and soul behind the song and not losing that, but still focusing on your intention. I’d say that’s a good way to work.

I think so! I mean I tried to do that.

I think it came across with this song. So kind of along those lines, what were some albums or maybe other art forms that you consumed during that past couple of years that may have influenced you with the new material?

I kind of narrowed it down in my head because I thought about this a little bit. There’s been a multitude, there wasn’t just one thing that I was like oh man, this is what I have to do now…But I have to say, On Human Freakout Mountain came out, and it was maybe a week to a month after and I had heard Control by SZA for the first time. And yes it has the R&B and the soul, and that kind of flavor to it, but I feel like the thing that resinated with me so much was how deep and personal and unapologetically herself [it was]. It felt so refreshing. And plenty of different singers talk about sex and love and all of these things that are so relevant and relatable to everyone, but something about her take on it and just the way her music made me feel, it was like wow, this is special. This is something that really really made me feel so good. I’m so grateful for all of my experiences and the opportunities I’ve been given, but it just kind of gave me this feeling like wow there’s so much more I could be doing. Just how much I could improve. So that was huge, if I had to give it to one [influence], I’d say that. Then that kind of started the whole train of all this other stuff I started listening to and pulling from when I was creating.

As far as when you play live, I saw you at Schubas in 2017, and even two years later I still remember how intense your energy and stage presence was. Are there any performers that you look to for inspiration and influence in that sense?

Yeah definitely. There’s the classic ones, like you can throw in the David Bowies and Freddie Mercurys. I think at an early age I caught the music bug and saw a lot of performances that just really moved me. I feel like that’s another aspect to this whole artistic side of making music. There’s a lot of current’s hard to think on the spot, but I really love the new Tyler, the Creator album, and I feel like the whole performance element that he’s added to it is really clever and engaging. Fun to watch. I’ll go with one more...Even like BrockHampton. I don’t think that’s a perfect example in terms of who I am, but it’s being able to perform in a high energy type of way that can really grab people but also using elements of the stage space more than just room for a band. Like being able to explore it as a set. Something that really resinates with me and my background, but also being able to shape the world and make it more engaging for the audience.

I see the next show you have announced is at Elsewhere in September. Do you have any plans for a tour later this year, or anything else you can kind of tease?

Nothing definite to tease right away, but the agents are always looking out for me and letting me know some opportunities. For me, right now I’ve been super lucky that people respond to the music so well and love coming to the shows and get really into it, but I’m also still at the moment tweaking some of the songs for the record and getting that all ready. I’m hoping to be on the road as soon as possible, but for now I want to focus on the record. But the summer is still going, there’s still some time before the Elsewhere show. There’s a chance something might come in the fall, but the record is the priority. Once the live shows and tour start happening, it will be well worth the wait though.

Can fans expect some new material at the September show or any other potential upcoming gigs?

Yeah, I think the new show will be debuting a lot of new songs and a whole new structure. As well as some of the classics but with a little bit of a twist to keep everything in the same world. It will be a nice mix of a lot of new stuff as well as some of the songs that helped get me where I am today.

Nice! Then how would you sum up the newer material that we haven’t heard yet in three words, just to keep it vague and not give too much away? You can say more about it if you want, or keep it at three words. 

I guess if I had to say three words to explain the music...introspective, abrasive soul. That’s so like music-based.  I think that another direction is playing with the themes in terms of the songwriting. I think that’s the best because I want the record to speak for itself, and I want to have the whole body fully-formed and realized before I give anything else, but sonically, it will be some sort of avant soul that has a little aggression, but ultimately lies in this smooth world too. 

That’s a great one-sentence tease and should get people intrigued! Anything else you want to share that’s in the works?

Working on the record….there’s gonna be some more music coming out this summer. We’re getting some more visuals ready too. In the meantime, my whole creative collective that I associate with is also releasing new music, so just supporting them and ready to take over in 2020 I guess. To the best of my ability.

Keep up with all the Zuli news on Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

Get To Know: Skela

Independent, fearless, genuine: Skela is the New York based singer-songwriter you need to know about. A power vocalist and a poet with the knack for crafting catchy pop melodies, Skela's not afraid to pack a punch with her message. After playing an incredible show at The Mercury Lounge in NYC last month, Skela took some time to chat with ANCHR about her upcoming debut EP, new music video, and her other writing projects. Get ready for Skela's takeover in 2017 by reading up on 6 things you have to know about Skela. 

Photo Credit: Grace Watts (@gracexless)

Photo Credit: Grace Watts (@gracexless)

Powerful Vocalists and a Chipmunk-Tuned Cassette Player Got Her Started in Singing

As a self-taught musician, Skela definitely took an unconventional approach in teaching herself to sing. "I actually have one really distinct memory," She revealed. "My earliest memory with music and realizing how obsessed I was with it...I used to live in Sunnyside in Queens, and we had this little Mickey Mouse cassette player. I was really little, I think I was maybe 5. It had this little chipmunk option that made it go really, really fast. It was this song called “Toy Soldiers" on one side, and on the other side was Mariah Carey or something. And I remember that’s how I taught myself how to sing. By mimicking exactly what I heard over and over again, and I would mimic the chipmunk voice. I wanted to sing high. That’s when I first started singing. I would do that all the time until my mom came in one day like 'What are you doing?” I was like in a trance, it was just so normal to me," she continued. 

As far as other inspirations behind teaching herself to sing, Skela credits a lot of female power vocalists, from popstars to pop punk front women. "It’s so broad, it changes over the years when you go through different phases," Skela says about her influences. "Growing up I guess I started off with all the great vocalists. You know, Aretha, Etta James...Christina Aguilera was huge. Mariah Carey. We would listen to a lot of Janet Jackson. As I grew older and kind of got my own ears going, I would listen to The Beatles all the time. I went through that whole emo pop-punk phase of Paramore, you know," she revealed.

Although her influences include a meld of all these different artists and they're ever-changing, Skela says, "I definitely started out with vocalists. That was like my number one. It still is. I could listen to Ariana Grande sing for days."

She Directed Her Upcoming Music Video 

Skela's got a new single on the way, but rather than just releasing the song, she's going all out. The new track, called "Hella," will be accompanied by a music video that she directed. Talking more about the new video, Skela says, "We have Mithsuca Berry as the romantic lead, then the very talented photographer based in New York called Maksim Axelrod. I’m just so excited. I feel like it really is coming together artistically." The new single was originally scheduled to drop in April, but it sounds like everything will be well worth the wait. "We’re wanting to make everything kind of perfect," Skela elaborates about the pushed release date, also mentioning the wonderful flexibility and freedom that comes with being an independent artist. Regardless of the exact release date, get ready to be "Hella Skela" when this music video drops! 

She's Not Far From Releasing Her Highly Anticipated EP

Skela says that her EP should arrive shortly after her new single premieres.  Speaking of new music, some lucky New Yorkers recently got to hear some of the new tracks performed live at Skela's show at The Mercury Lounge last month. Talking about the show, Skela gushes, "I was actually shocked how well it went. It was a pretty packed room. Which is crazy. I’m a small artist, I’m pretty indie...So to have so many people out was really really special. We had a lot of cross promotion with a company called What’s in Your Box? And then we had female based brands like Millioneiress. We just had a lot of love and support. The new music went over so well. Like all of the unreleased music that we played people were like 'Where can I hear that?' And that’s such a good sign that people want to hear it again. I can’t wait to put out the new music. I just can’t wait."

Skela also revealed more about the theme of her new music and her writing process when we chatted. "I think I’m kind of like an odd songwriter because I never really...," she pauses before continuing on to say, "I do write about experiences and events to a certain degree, but most of my music is based off of the literature and the subjects I’m interested in within a certain time period. You know what I mean? I read up a lot on my interests and all of that sort of pours through to poetry, and then I’ll make songs from the poetry. So I’m hoping to release some poetry with the EP. I guess it just shows a little more of what the songs truly are about."

In a way, you could say that her poetry is the skeleton of Skela songs (say that five times fast).  

Her Advice For Other Independent Artists Is...

Skela recently wrote a guest blog for Tunecore about her experience in the industry as an independent musician. Touching more on that subject, and being a new artist, Skela gives her number one piece of advice. "You’re just so overwhelmed with where to start. And just eager. But I think-- just navigate from a point of rationality and logic as best as you can, and it’s gonna take a while 'til you can. Cause you’re so eager that you’re just down for anything and excited to work with everyone. That’s so great, but at the same time, you should be focusing on who you are and what’s right for you. What’s your decision. It’s easy to let people tell you what to do, from agents to managers to you know, anyone with opinions. It really takes a long time to be like no, I got this. I got this cause I got me. For me, my number one thing is just to stay as grounded as possible. And not in a humble way. In a literal, grounded place. Be grounded in your music and who you are. That’s a very hard part of chasing your dream. You lose that because you get discouraged, or you get one good thing that happens to you and it doesn’t work out. Then you’re devastated again. Just staying grounded."

For anyone starting a creative project, not just in the music industry, that advice to remember your intent behind the art is so important. 

It’s easy to let people tell you what to do, from agents to managers to you know, anyone with opinions. It really takes a long time to be like no, I got this. I got this cause I got me.
— Skela on standing your ground as an independent artist

She's Not Just a Singer, But a Screenwriter As Well

Singer, songwriter, director, poet, blogger, and that's not all. The gem of Skela's writing possesses many different facets. "I actually just wrote a short film script," Skela says while talking about what's next for her this year.  "It’s going into production this year, and I’m actually really excited about that. That’ll be pretty cool to have my first screenplay actually going into production. It’s called 'Le Reve,' and it’s being produced and directed by a very close friend of mine, Chiara Gerek," she continued. 

So besides the massive amounts of writing talents, does Skela have any secret talents? "I don’t know if this is a talent, but I always twirl my hair, and I can do it really fast. It’s more of a nervous tick, really," she confesses. 

She's Got a Love For Lo-fi Music

Skela will easily become one of your favorite musicians once her EP comes out, but talking about her favorites, she says, "I’ve been listening nonstop to this one artist called Ben Rosenfield. He’s very awesome. I have this big love for lo-fi music. I’ve been listening to him a lot. I always go back to the basics, like [Sandy] Alex G...Day Wave...Mitski. Diet Cig is really dope, they just came out with a new EP that’s really good. Those are the ones that I go back to. Oh, Active Bird Community. My friend- he goes by Kraus, but his name is Will Kraus and he’s super talented. I feel like he’s about to blow up in that scene. I listen to that music pretty regularly, and it serves as a strange platform for pop music. If you listen to the new music, you’ll definitely hear it. It’s in the’s all over."

Elaborating specifically on her favorite local artists, Skela has some hot tips about the NYC scene. "I have some friends and musicians that I think are really talented, and I really only try to work with people that I genuinely support and love. A few of them are Josh Jacobson. He’s a producer and a songwriter I work with. He’s dope...he’s got great stuff coming out. Florio. He actually opened for me at the show. Then the Frances Rose girls are so talented. They’re kind of Synth, 80's pop. This girl May, she is amazing. She has this crazy voice, just crazy operatic training behind her. There’s a lot of great musicians in New York, but I feel like right now those are the ones I really pay the most attention to cause they’re somewhat in my lane, but I also really admire them," she says. 

Stay "Hella Skela" by keeping liking Skela's Facebook page to keep up to date with any updates. You can also listen to this killer Spotify playlist that Skela made, featuring some of the artists she hyped as her favorites while you wait for the EP. 

A Chat With: A R I Z O N A

A R I Z O N A is definitely not your conventional band. The Jersey natives combine their love of eclectic sounds and raw lyrics to deliver songs such as "I Was Wrong," "Oceans Away," and "People Crying Every Night." We recently caught up with Nathan Esquite from A R I Z O N A (the band, not the state) to talk about dad jokes, road trips, and their upcoming debut album Gallery, which comes out May 19th.

A R I Z O N A is Zachary Hannah, David Labuguen, and Nathan Esquite  Photo Credit: Jimmy Fontaine

A R I Z O N A is Zachary Hannah, David Labuguen, and Nathan Esquite

Photo Credit: Jimmy Fontaine

ANCHR Magazine: What are some of your musical and non-musical influences?

Nathan Esquite: Hm. I like the addition of non-musical because there’s a lot of influence you can get from non-musical. For me, personally speaking, a big musical influence would be Jeff Buckley. He’s a huge one for me. Saint Vincent, Ben Howard and punk rock. For non-musical, I love cinema. A lot of the stuff that we’ve done is inspired by movies and video games.

AM: What are some of your favorite movies?

NE: My all-time favorite movie is definitely Pan’s Labyrinth.

AM: I’ve heard that dad jokes are a thing amongst the band. What’s the best/worst one so far?

NE: Full disclosure, Zach talks a lot about dad jokes, but he actually gets them all from me. For example, he tells this story like it’s his all the time. While we were on tour, we do a lot of driving, especially through farm country. So we're driving through cornfields and I look to my right and see this huge flock of cows. I look at Zach and I’m like, “Dude check it out there’s a huge flock of cows over there.” And he goes, “Flock of cows? Bro don’t you mean herd of cows?” and I go, “Of course I’ve heard of cows there’s a whole flock of them over there!”

AM: Stop! Was this planned or did that just come out?

NE: Nah that’s the way he told the joke. Pretty good right?

AM: That’s incredible. So at your homecoming show in Brooklyn with Kevin Garrett, Zach talked about all of the negative things going on in the world, and how we should be better humans. Do you think it’s an artist’s responsibility to spread positivity?

NE: I believe that it is everyone’s responsibility to spread positivity, not just an artist. I believe as an artist, you know you feel another calling to it where things that are happening around the world influence the way you do things. Being an artist, you want to share what inspires you and the way you see the world with other people. I believe artists tend to do it more out of that feeling inside of us to share what we see in the world, but I think it's everyone's responsibility to share what they see and what they feel and spread positivity.

AM: Awesome! So, you guys are definitely fighting against the odds. You’ve only been a band for almost two years and you’ve already gone on tour with Kevin Garrett, and are due to play big festivals like FireFly and Governors Ball this summer. How incredible is that?

NE: It’s pretty unreal. If you asked any of us when we started “Hey where do you see the band in two years?” The last thing any of us would have said was “Oh just finishing our first tour and playing all these festivals.” We just want to make music and have fun doing it. To have all these opportunities in front of us, especially me being someone who grew up going to festivals, it’s like a dream come true. It’s a lot of fun.

AM: Yeah that’s my favorite thing about seeing artists grow. Just seeing an artist progress and getting bigger and better is amazing and it makes me so happy. So why call yourselves A R I Z O N A (the band not the state of course)?

NE: We thought it’d be funny.

AM: You guys do a great job writing about love and loss while maintaining an eclectic sound. What can we expect from the debut album?

NE: Well the debut album is called Gallery. A lot of that goes into for all intended purposes is like a collection of our past experiences over the past 10 years in a lot of ways. Just like journeys we’ve gone through and knowing each other and trying to make it in music, trying to make it anywhere in life really. You see a lot of that throughout the album what this journey has been like for us from point a to point b, and you can also hear that in the music. There’s songs like “I Was Wrong” that we wrote two years ago, but then we have songs we wrote a couple of months ago. You hear this huge growth, not just in our writing but our music and how were trying to push our sound.

AM: What inspired you guys to travel around the U.S in Zach’s mom’s Toyota Corolla?

NE: It was a mix of a lot of things. It was a mix of us not having anywhere to work, Zach at the time was living in his aunt’s spare room, I was living with my mom and my five brothers and sisters, Dave was living with his super strict parents so we decided it would work. We took Zach’s mom’s car and we would just sit there and make music all day. We felt like we had this sort of freedom to go wherever we wanted. Why are going to sit in a basement and make a record when we’re in a car? We could go to the beach if we wanted to. And we just kept pushing it further like, ok why are we just going to the beach why don’t we go to like Nashville?

AM: Did that influence your sound in terms of your music? Are you using any of the songs that you made on the album?

NE: Well “People Crying Every Night” was one of the songs we started in the car. But more than anything, I feel the journeys we took in the car, it kind of put us in a position where we were like “Hey, let’s take this seriously and try to do something for real for a second.” When we did the first major road trip we started in Jersey, made our way down to New Orleans and the day we came back from New Orleans, we were like “You guys wanna try this for real now?”

AM: So was that your defining moment?

NE: In a lot of ways, yeah. This was always something. When we started, we would always laugh about it because this was just never about being famous or about making money. It was just like “Hey we have nothing else to do let’s give this one last shot and have fun doing it.”

AM: Last question, what’s next for A R I Z O N A?

NE: The album comes out May 19th and we’ll be on tour all summer!

As mentioned, A R I Z O N A will be at festivals like Firefly, Governors Ball, and Lollapalooza this summer. Check out the details on those festival appearances and all upcoming tour dates here. Get ready for their tour by preordering the upcoming album Gallery and listening to their latest single "Electric Touch" below: