Getting Into the ‘Liminal Spaces’ of Indie Rock Singer-Songwriter Zzzahara
Looking for an indie rock sound laced with nostalgia? Singer-songwriter Zahara Jaime, also known as Zzzahara, from Highland Park, Los Angeles, is who you’re looking for.
Previously part of The Simps duo with Eyedress, Zzzahara came into the scene by themself in 2019 with the song “On A Grave Day” to explore their new-found soundscapes and has not looked back since.
Zzzahara have since proved that their soundscape is charismatic and reminiscent of dream pop, shoegaze, post-punk and lot of ingredients jammed into the incredible debut album Liminal Spaces.
A melting pot of nostalgia, the song's message will make you ponder the good and bad meanings of life and love, which is pretty cathartic.
Their music has a sense of unapologetic vulnerability that draws you in through the psychedelic backdrops and guitar jangles. It makes you want to know them more.
We spoke to Zzzahara, who is born to Mexican and Filipino parents, about their inspirations, the Liminal Spaces album, a funny incident during their US tour and how they’re preparing for their upcoming SXSW performance.
Hi Zzzahara! Tell us more about yourself.
I grew up in northeast Los Angeles in the Highland Park neighborhood. Growing up felt like an episode of Skins but with more diversity, poverty and gang culture. I guess I was raised with street smarts and was able to learn how to navigate through my environment.
A cool thing about all the rebellion in Highland Park was the music I was exposed to, and all the cool backyard shows.
I played in many bands and played lots of shows all over LA as a teenager. I went to Cal State LA (California State University, Los Angeles) and received my degree in communicative disorders (speech language pathology and audiology). I went up to my master’s degree and dropped out to pursue music.
I guess perseverance landed me where I am today.
Was music a big presence in your household growing up? What are your earliest memories of music?
Yes, my mom would always play music throughout the household. I grew up listening to a lot of Whitney Houston, Jackson 5, Selena, Bee Gees, Shirley Brown, and whatever my mom would put on.
I loved watching live performances and music videos when I was a kid. I would sit in front of the TV and watch music videos all day. I feel like a lot of TV was centred around music in the 90s and early 2000s.
Credit: Jade DeRose
Who were some of the people you were listening to that inspired you to be an artiste? And how have the influences changed for you?
My Chemical Romance, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Cure, Johnny Marr and so many more.
My guitar playing style is definitely influenced by Nick Zinner and Johnny Marr. I think the tones they used and their strong lead riffs really brought out inspiration for me to play and make melodic music.
How much does your Filipino heritage influence your artistry and the kind of music you create?
I wouldn’t say much, I’m only half Filipino, but I think music a big part of Filipino culture. Especially dancing and singing. There’s a lot of karaoke that happens in Filipino households and I think you’re expected to partake most of the time.
How would you describe the sound of Zzzahara, and how did you find that sound after being in other bands?
I would describe the sound of Zzzahara as big and melodic. I think the sound sort of morphed naturally into a more mature sound with lots of thought behind it. Honestly, it’s like a medley of different rock genres.
You’re relatively new in the scene, but how do you think your creative process has changed since you started?
I think my creative process has become more curious as I got into the scene. I’m always exploring different music or attending shows. I don’t like to make the same songs or material over and over again.
What are some of the things you have learned about yourself from being in the music industry?
I learned that to be in the industry you have to be versatile. I think that’s what I’m starting to learn about myself as I go. Being open minded is a big plus.
I’ve also learned to listen to my own opinions and trust in myself more.
Credit: Melissa Crumby
We absolutely love the cover artworks for the Limimal Spaces album. Who’s behind them and is there a story behind both covers?
All of the artwork is done by Jose Berrioles. He’s an amazing artist and I fell in love with his work immediately.
There is only one cover I believe. I chose Echo Park Lake and the swans because it’s so near and dear to everyone in Los Angeles… whether you have just moved here or lived here all your life.
Jose did such a great job combining that concept with the Liminal Spaces aspect of the album theme. It’s also inspired by one of my favourite albums, Three Imaginary Boys by the Cure.
What does preparation for a major event like SXSW look like for you?
Lots of practice. I’m also preparing to showcase new material from the second album so lots of memorisation and again, practice.
How is your US tour coming along? Any fun stories to share?
The tours that I’ve been on have been fun and exciting.
I think the most interesting story, that wasn’t so fun… was hitting a deer in my car while driving through Washington. This was before the tour with Luna Li had started, so it was while we were on the way to play our first show.
The whole time I just felt weird and guilty, but powered on.
Credit: Jade DeRose
If you were to introduce yourself with one of your songs, what would that be and why?
Hmm... It would be “They Don’t Know”, because it’s such a driving song with a multitude of emotions.
If your album Liminal Spaces were a TV series, what would it be and why?
If Liminal Spaces were a TV series it would be like The L Word but with a younger cast in their 20s and more diverse, less boujee. Probably because of all the drama and romance.
What else do you have planned for 2023?
In 2023 I have a tour planned, many shows, and a second album to come!
Cover: Jade DeRose
Elevate the way you listen to Zzzahara with KEF
Writer | Kevin Yeoh
When he isn’t making sure Sound of Life stories are published in a timely manner, Kevin enjoys wandering aimlessly in Kuala Lumpur city, going down the YouTube rabbit hole and discovering new music.