In Conversation: Zola Blood

Zola Blood have been quietly working on new music for quite some time, and the East London quartet have finally unveiled an anticipated body of well-crafted, dynamic tracks on latest EP ‘Two Hearts’. We caught up with Zola Blood to discuss the impactful EP, the group’s artistic growth and, most importantly, their favourite Hackney hangout spot.

What can you tell us about your artistic growth since the release of your debut album, Infinite Games?

I think we’ve learnt our trade a bit better than before. We can figure most instruments out and get a sound from them that we like pretty quickly. When we’re in a room playing, things come together without us having to think too much about where someone is going – I think that’s just about having spent so much time playing together. 

We’ve got a lot better at playing live and building our set in a way that allows for much bigger moments compared to anything we’ve done on record. That’s taken a lot of time with manuals and programming synths, but we love it. 

There are some prominent themes of love, loss, and heartache across the four tracks of your latest EP ’Two Hearts’. Do you draw upon many personal experiences as lyricists?

Yes, for sure. I can’t really write that far outside of myself. Most of the tracks on the EP are about something I’ve been thinking, or a particular event which has affected me. The one exception is ‘Only You’, which is about a close friend of mine who’s in a kind of brutal relationship where he never gets to see his partner.

How long has ’Two Hearts’ been in the works? Has its initial concept changed much since production began?

For a while, we started recording last year and had some very patchy studio time where we were in and out spontaneously. We took a while after the album to find the route we wanted to go with new material, but I think we all had the idea that we wanted something bigger and less restrained than Infinite Games

The concept for ‘Two Hearts’ actually came together quite quickly and three of the songs were written and recorded pretty much one after the other so we managed to get them down early while they were fresh, which is usually the best time. ‘Silver Soul’ has been hanging around for a couple of years in different forms so it has changed loads.

Where do you draw influences from?

Musically all over the place. We love electronic music and are big fans of Weval’s work. We always keep an eye out for anything from the Erased Tapes label, but then also more traditional guitar-based stuff like PJ Harvey, These New Puritans or even Idles.

While we were writing the EP, I was reading Leonhard Cohens Book of Longing, which is amazing. I always go back to Sylvia Plath too. I probably have a bit of a penchant for the more miserable poets.

Figuring out how to navigate different types of relationships had a big influence on the EP, especially thinking about the idea of people changing and things being impermanent.

You’ve toured with Rufus du Sol, played the Sofar stage and a handful of festivals including Secret Garden party. What’s been the highlight so far?

Touring with Rufus was pretty special. We’re used to 400 cap venues and then for the first show we played Printworks in London, which was just mental. We had a lot of fun in Europe and seeing the show those guys put together made us realise what’s possible in the live setting – it definitely inspired us to make things bigger. 

You live and work in inner-city London, what’s your favourite Hackney hangout spot?

Our local is the Beer Merchants tap on Wallis Rd, which is a suitably wanky craft beer spot. But they do serve great beer and also do a mean grilled cheese sandwich.

Other than working on music, any new lockdown activities or hobbies?

Drawing/Painting and doing various bits of art has come up a lot. It’s easy when you’re stuck at home to get lost in your own thoughts, so I’ve found that taking some time to make a collage/print or do an online life drawing class has been a really healthy meditative way to give the day some purpose and escape reality a bit. On the less zen side I’ve become pretty good at making cocktails. 

What’s your album of choice right now?

We’re all loving Deleter by Holy Fuck.

If you could collaborate with any artist in the world, who would it be and why?

Probably John Hopkins. The first time I saw him live I had such a reaction to the music. The way he can effortlessly switch between this visceral techno into beautifully serene, delicate moments is perfection.  

You were due to be embarking on a headline tour later this year, how have your plans changed in light of the Coronavirus pandemic and what can we expect from the rest of the year?

We had planned to be out in Europe for May but that obviously hasn’t been possible because of what’s happened. So, we’ve moved it out to Feb 2021 which feels like a long way away. We’ll be writing a new record in the meantime, which we’ve already started. Between the four of us we can be remarkably slow at finishing songs, but we’re hoping we’ll get it out towards the end of this year…

You can find Zola Blood on Facebook and Instagram.