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Zanias, life experiences through ethereal, dark pop | Interview

Zanias brings her ethereal, dark pop in front of the Greek audience for two unique shows!


Zanias is the project of Alison Lewis, born in Australia and hailing from the urban, electronic landscapes of Berlin! Zanias started as a solo project before becoming a duo, accompanied on stage by Laura Bailey. Also known from her other dark electronic, minimal, coldwave projects, Linea Aspera and Keluar, Zanias came to life after relocating in Berlin and when Alison decided to take control of her creative output through a single entity.

"Into The All" was her first full length album where she started exploring into several states of life and mind in an ethnic fusion of ethereal body music and dark wave. Between several other activities including her own record label Fleisch Records, she released "Unearthed" full length album in 2021 where Zanias condenses her post-punk, techno and italo influences into a collection of simultaneously brooding and uplifting pop songs.

In her last album "Chrysalis", Zanias is expressing her truest form thus far, fusing her seemingly discordant influences into a genre-defying electronic artpop, as dark and evocative as it is ethereal and uplifting. The release of "Chrysalis" was followed by a tour which brings all the expressions of alternate facets of the modern human experience, included in the album in front of her fans, in Athens and Thessaloniki, Greece.

On the occasion of these uplifting dark pop shows I had a really interesting chat with Alison!

*cover photo by Hidrico Rubens

photo by Tim Darin

ES: Hallo Alison. I want to go straight to the upcoming live shows in Greece but, first, I would like to let you introduce yourself. Who is the girl behind Zanias moniker?

We’re two women now! Australian mermaids trapped in Berlin to pursue our passion.

ES: What does this project means to you? How did it all start with Zanias and how did you end up with this name?

It was a mode of expression that allowed me total freedom from the restrictions of anyone else’s opinions, which became rather tiresome in my other projects. I started producing alone when I realised I couldn’t depend on bandmates anymore, and then it evolved into a project through which I could also collaborate with anyone I wished. That’s how Neu-Romancer joined the project, and she’s a vital member of the team now. We recently had Skelesys join us on stage too.

The name was taken from a best friend’s name, it was part of a joke and wasn’t really meant to become a band name, but it just sorta happened.

ES: Your sound is based on the modern EBM sound with "glances" from industrial techno till ethereal pop. Which are the stimuli that leads in the creation of this ethereal industrial mixture?

I’d argue it definitely isn’t EBM anymore, but genre is somewhat meaningless to me and my brain has never understood them particularly well. Our sound is just what comes out when we produce. We follow our taste and explore sounds that we like.

ES: "Chrysalis" is the latest album from Zanias. The third full-length album. An album that focuses on the ambience and the ethereal side of electronics. As you have described, "Chrysalis" was the only place that felt safe, a world in which you could heal. Can you describe us the process that brought up "Chrysalis"?

A few too many loved ones died, the pandemic had me separated from my family for way too long, then the pandemic ended and I was thrown into so much work that I suffered intense burnout, and my ex-partner chipped away at my self-worth through covert narcissistic abuse until I was a shell of a person. So I needed to heal somehow, and music gave me a process through which to live again. Also having Laura to bounce ideas off and collaborate with made a huge difference to my confidence and appreciation for the process.

ES: You've said that, for "Chrysalis", the basic inspiration is personal experiences. Does each track of the album hide a personal story, a life experience?

Yes, they’re all very specific moments. Nothing I write is ever fiction, not even when it sounds like it could be. It’s all actually quite literal most of the time, and I experienced it all in some way or another.

ES: Is life experiences the inspiration to your art and music creation from the very beginning? Which other facts or factors have inspired and influenced Zanias?

It’s more that the life experiences make it necessary to write rather than inspiring the art. If I didn’t have a terribly strong and almost insatiable urge to do this I don’t think I’d do this. It’s probably influenced by the company I keep in Berlin - I’m surrounded by talented artists - and by nature. But it’s mostly just life and the weirdness of existing in a mortal body in a chaotic universe that leads to what I make.

ES: The release of "Chrysalis" is followed by a tour in Europe, which includes two shows in Greece. What can the fans expect from Zanias on stage?

I’ve been described as a sugar glider when I perform, and Neu-Romancer always manages to look the epitome of cool - like Patricia Morrison from Sisters of Mercy. I like to jump on and off things. We have a lot of energy that’s exponentially increased by each other’s presence, and I actually have a fitness regime nowadays to ensure I can give as much as possible. It’s very physical, and I make an effort to sing as perfectly as I can. I want to leave audiences a little shocked by the quality of what we deliver. In the underground scene it can feel like effort isn’t made nearly enough.

ES: Although most of the work is written by you, the addition of the live-band seems to be giving a new dimension in your material. Can you tell us some words about the live shows and the new things that Laura Bailey brings to this?

It just really sucks to perform alone, and it’s also really hard to find someone who’s energy complements yours on stage.
Laura and I just have a really good friendship and I think that shows. It’s also really nice having a real instrument up there, after so many years of playing in purely electronic projects. The bass guitar adds humanity and depth to the original songs, and beefs up the sound.

photo by Hidrico Rubens

ES: Back to discography, "Into The All", the first album, sounds a bit harder and darker, music-wise, than your latest releases. Is this something that had to do with the influences at that time?

I had to pay my homage to Dead Can Dance and explore a bit of my upbringing in Southeast Asia by sampling those sounds. Also I was more into techno back then, which was slower and darker at the time.

ES: We 've seen and have heard some major changes and evolvement in Zanias 's sound between the first releases and until "Chrysalis". The way from "Into The All" to "Unearthed" and until "Chrysalis" has strong blends and variations. What led to this transformation in the sound?

As a person I’m always self-reflecting, learning, growing. Naturally my music does too. I’m always listening to new things, and through the pandemic I really departed with the fear of listening to things that aren’t ‘cool’, and also stopped caring about sounding too ‘pop’. The truth is, I love pop music. And hooks bleed from me constantly so I might as well use them.

Thus… I have evolved. And if my music ever stopped evolving I’d be so bored I’d probably have to stop.

photo by Tim Darin

ES: One of your projects is coming from another side of music creation. You own a record label, Fleisch Records. A project that started as an event series and now is a genre-fluid platform of a similar dark and danceable ilk, including releases, other than Zanias and Linea Aspera, from Fractions, IV Horsemen and more. When did you decide to create your own label what is your vision for Fleisch Records.

The Fleisch crew founded the label in order to release Forces because we thought they were the sickest band ever, then we ended up releasing a bunch of other friends too. I never had a vision.
It’s just a platform for our friends who don’t fit anywhere else really!

ES: Thank you so much for this chat Alison. I could go on asking things but I prefer to leave this last question up to you. Say a few words that you always want to say but no one asks.

Thank you.

Climate change is real and revolution is necessary. We have more power than we know, and soon we’ll have to use it.

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Zanias live in Athens, Death Disco: https://www.facebook.com/events/1712080109219183/

Zanias live in Thessaloniki, The Host: https://www.facebook.com/events/297741532887651/

Info:

https://www.facebook.com/zoe.zanias

https://www.instagram.com/zoe_zanias/

https://zanias.bandcamp.com/

https://www.youtube.com/@zoe_zanias

 

 

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