Interview with Zanias

Published by Alessandro Violante on July 26, 2021

All the pictures have been taken by Sergey Skip.

Today we talk again with Alison Lewis, six years after our interview with Keluar. In these six years, many things happened. Keluar splitted up, and Alison started her new project Zanias, with which she released releases with labels such as Noiztank, Candela Rising and Fleisch. Her new upcoming release, which will be released on 6th September, entitled Unearthed, will be released on Fleisch too. Today we talk with her about her new LP as well as about what has happened during these years.

Hi Alison! It’s been six years since we’ve talked with you about your old project Keluar. Do you remember that interview? During this time, many things happened. Keluar splitted up, you’ve released another LP with Linea Aspera and you’ve started your new project Zanias, with which you’ve already released several releases. As an artist, what has happened during these years? Do you want to help us tracing a map of your artistic evolution?

I spent most of this time learning how to do basically everything myself. The fates of Linea Aspera and Keluar taught me that I couldn’t depend on anyone else to execute my vision. To be honest though, I wasn’t intending to remain a musician for this long, so during the earliest years of the Zanias project I was wandering elsewhere, searching for another path while attempting a bit of music on the side. That’s why I collaborated so often – I didn’t have the motivation or confidence to do much else. I was pretty lost and depressed compared to where I’m at now. Not very productive. Then my European tour with Buzz Kull sparked a new passion in me, and the following year of lockdowns provided me the time to acquire the skills I needed to do what I had to do. When Linea Aspera returned to form it was just a bonus on top of already feeling like I’d found my own way. I feel like its hiatus had to happen so that this process could occur without me getting spoiled by immediate success.

What can you tell us about your project Zanias? Do you create all the songs by yourself or is your music the result of a collaboration between more musicians?

My first EP and album were produced with Alex Akers from Forces. With the exception of ‘Endling’, which was the result of a session at Alex’s studio in Perth, everything since then has been entirely produced alone. The only recent collaboration was with Laura Bailey aka NEU-ROMANCER, who played bass guitar on ‘Undreamt’. Basically ‘Zanias’ is the result of whatever I feel like doing at any given time. My next album will probably be a very deep collaborative effort, because that’s where my energy has taken me over the last year.

Let’s talk more in depth about Unearthed. “To unheart” can also mean “bringing to light”, “discovering”, “digging”. What does your new release talk about? To me, it seems it has a modern sound, and what I like the most is how, in these songs, one can feel you’re following your personal artistic vision regardless of the music trends, as you’ve always done in the past.

It’s all songs I wrote during the first lockdown last year, which I mostly spent alone in Berlin. ‘Unearthed’ has more than one meaning. It’s partly a reference to my archaeological background as well as the psychological archaeology I felt I was performing on myself during a time of challenging self-discovery and healing, uncovering the darkest sides of myself and bringing them to the light. In the track rather than album title it refers to that psychological archaeology in the process of getting to know another person very deeply. Now remove the idea of digging something up, and look at the word in its rawest form: the prefix ‘un’ and verb ‘earthed’. ‘To Earth’ could mean to return home, to find grounding & familiarity on our home planet. The pandemic had taken it all away. Earth is no longer the Earth that we knew before, everything is irretrievably altered. That’s why every track of the album contains the prefix ‘un’. Everything had come undone.

I’m glad it’s clear that I’m not following trends.

Unearthed alternates different sounds and styles. There are songs such as Unfathomed and Unearthed which to me are very modern, while others such as Unbound have something in common with your older songs. I consider this alternation as a very important element of Unearthed. In which direction are you moving to and where, according to you, our music is moving to?

It’ll move wherever it moves! I won’t claim any control over it. This is not a conscious process. As a conduit of vulnerability and an authentic human experience it would only pollute the message to let it be guided by expectation or a ‘plan’. The only thing I can guarantee is that it’s certainly going somewhere. I won’t ever release the same album twice.

Zanias - Photo by Sergey Skip

Zanias – Photo by Sergey Skip

While listening to your previous releases, I think about the evolution of your music, which has changed a lot. What you released in 2016 is quite different from what you release today, and that’s very important as it shows you’ve grown up as an artist and you’ve not followed the “easy road” of repeating a standardized formula. Can you explain me how and when, during the making of this release, you’ve chosen the song titles?

I just need to take a moment to talk about the ‘easy road’, because I have a serious problem with the ‘artists’ who take it and I’ve been increasingly dismayed by just how many choose to do so, particularly in the scene I’m apparently associated with. The waters grow muddier and muddier with unnecessary repetition and it bores me to death. Maybe it’s because our current metric-based musical ecosystem rewards background music, I don’t know. But it’s really really frustrating. The least we can do with the incredible expanse of imagination that our evolution has blessed us with is to create new and wonderful things. We mustn’t waste the gift, the universe craves novelty.

….But yeah, the song titles. I can’t really remember the process that well. I think ‘Unearthed’ must’ve come first because I wrote that one first, then I noticed the other tracks were all kinda vibing with the same prefix. They didn’t all get a proper name until the very end of the writing process though, when I counted that I had 10 tracks done and figured they should probably be an album. I always need some kind of ‘concept’ behind my titles, maybe because I lack pretentiousness in most other aspects of my life and have to inject it somewhere…? I realise already that these titles are going to be challenging for people to remember though. ‘Unearthed’ has already been misreported as ‘Untethered’ because apparently reading beyond the first two letters of a word is really hard.

Maybe that’s just my perception, but I feel like your vocal style has changed through thime. Now it seems to me more ethereal. Is it just my perception? What do your lyrics talk about?

Reality itself could possibly be constructed by perception, so your perception of ethereality is as good as reality to me! I’m quite happy with that description.

My lyrics are me talking to myself and others about things that I’m feeling. Usually sad stuff. It’s a form of therapy for me to write them and I always try to make them general enough to feel therapeutic for others too.

I’ve seen Unearthed will also be released on CD, which today isn’t a common choice, as it seems like this format has been temporarily forgotten by artists and by labels. Which experience a CD can offer to the listener, different from the experience offered by a vinyl, a tape or another format? What’s behind this choice?

I’m the worst person to answer this question because I honestly don’t really like merch anymore! It takes up too much space and requires so much shipping… but I like making listeners happy and apparently some of them like CDs. Luckily they’re way more economical to produce and ship than vinyl, so making some can’t hurt. The CD edition of ‘Unearthed’ is going to have a beautifully designed lyrics booklet with it too.

I always have the vinyl of Ennoea you and Sid Lamar have signed me after a Keluar concert in Pesaro, Italy. I’ve watched you playing live twice in Italy, there and in Milan thanks to Oksana Rodionova. What do you remember about those live shows? Have you been again in Italy since then?

I’ve spent a lot of time in Italy since then, in fact I’m currently in South Tyrol. I’ve also played a fair few shows in this country over the years. They’re all a bit of a blur!

Thanks for this interview. If you want, greet our readers and invite them to preorder your new LP!

Hi, yes, new album, hope you like it, please give me your money if you do. x