INTERVIEW: Jeremy Zucker & Alexander 23

When songwriting comes from a pure place of creative release in a time of need, pure magic is bound to unfold. And that’s exactly what happened when Alexander 23 and Jeremy Zucker joined forces for their first collaboration together; ‘Nothing’s The Same’.

Written at a time where both artists were finding themselves creatively worn out, an inspiration of fresh perspective saw them unravelling a train of thoughts about living a mundane lifestyle where days blend into weeks. Without really realising what they had written about, they stood back and realised they’d created a honesty commentary on the reality of this year of quarantining. 

While the song is lyrically quite sombre and reflective, they decided to contrast those emotions with a gradual uplifting production that turns this three minute track into a bit of a cinematic anthem. With a lot of strong imagery, and smooth harmonies crafting the sonical backdrop, the accompanying music video is a strong visual representation on the repetition of the year that was. With countless takes in different outfits doing the exact same thing and slickly edited together, they really capture the essence behind this song. 

I recently chatted to Jeremy Zucker and Alexander 23 about the creative process behind ‘Nothing’s The Same’, using the contrast of serious and playful on the music video shoot, and found out what song from each others discography they would like to feature on. Check it out BELOW;

THOMAS BLEACH: Your collaborative single ‘Nothing’s The Same’ is out now which hears you singing about living a mundane lifestyle where days blend into weeks. So what was the first lyrical idea you wrote for this track, and how did that open into the rest of it?

ALEXANDER 23: It was the first line of the song actually! “You go ahead I think I’ll stay in for the winter. Can’t quite remember when I even got this bitter”. We wrote it here in my living room about a month ago. Jeremy started playing those chords, and that line came really easy. He kind of just said it, and we free-styled from there.

JEREMY ZUCKER: We also wrote it chronologically. We had the first couple of lines, and the next big thing to come was “nothing’s the same”. It took a long time, but the song wrote itself. We just had to sort sit there for 5 hours and figure out the perfect line for each section. 

A23: I think Jeremy and I are both very particular songwriting wise, so we both kinda knew if something was right or wrong. Like, if we were both like “fuck yeah”, then we were like okay we’re done. But if we weren’t, it was obviously the opposite reaction. But there was a lot of just sitting in the sun and hanging out mostly *laughs*.  

TB: When you were writing, finding the right harmonies with each other, and producing up this track, what was the hardest part to navigate together? 

A23: This is kind of a corny answer, but it wasn’t really that hard. I think maybe the hardest part was when we were fleshing it out as we knew we wanted this to be a reflective song, but we also wanted it to be upbeat in some capacity. So figuring out where we bring the drums in, and where we give it that tempo was probably the most challenging parts. 

JZ: It was one of the easiest and most fun sessions I’ve ever done. I don’t do a ton of collaborations, and that’s probably something we spoke about when I got to Alexanders crib. We were like “yeah, sessions are tough”. I feel like sessions all start the same; you talk, get to know each other, fuck around for the first 45 minutes, and then you start messing around and make something. The idea for this track came super quick, and at that point it didn’t feel like work at all.

A23: I wish it was always that easy, as it’s certainly not. 

JZ: That’s what makes it so hard when something doesn’t come to you, is how easy it does other times. 

A23: We were friends before we did this song, but we had never wrote anything together, which in my experience can go one of two drastic ways. 

TB: In a indirect way, this song feels like a confessional soundtrack to the past year of lockdowns and quarantining, which can be quite hard on mental health. So how important has communication been for you between your families and friends? 

A23: I think it has been immensely important. Mostly for me it’s manifested how much communication and socialisation has been built into my life. It took me a while to realise that during this time I needed to make the effort to really instil it into my day-to-day life more than ever. 

JZ: I think I’ve learnt a lot about what I need to be happy in terms of my relationship with my friends and family. I feel so lucky that I have such a good relationship with my roommates, because I don’t ever feel alone at home, and these days we spent a lot of time at home. And honestly I’ve just been better at keeping in touch with my parents because I don’t see them as often, so I’ve just been calling them a lot. I haven’t seen them in ages, so that’s tough. 

A23: At the top of writing this song I asked Jeremy if he had written any songs about quarantine specifically because I hadn’t, and I’d been refraining from doing that. It’s kind of ironic that in complete retrospect that it is kinda what we did. It didn’t really feel like it at the time, but listening back I was like “oh yeah, this is how I’ve been feeling at the moment”. 

TB: The last time I spoke to Alexander he confessed that he had been sewing, playing tennis and learning to DJ a lot during lockdown. So Jeremy what is something you’ve been teaching yourself during this time?

JZ: I’ve been teaching myself to be less hard on myself. I went into the start of the pandemic kind of knowing how much time I was going to have to myself not touring, doing shows, and not being able to do a ton of sessions. I had my mindset on that I was going to make a completely new album and it was going to be the best album I’ve ever made. 

I’ve never put my 100% into making music, and I quickly learnt that it wasn’t a sustainable way of looking at things because making music isn’t about productivity, it’s about creativity and inspiration. I was really hard on myself at the beginning, and I had to hit this wall where I realised that it’s not fun for me to try this hard and to take myself so seriously. And honestly, about a week or two after I took a hard look at myself, I went to Alexander’s and made this song. I went in and was like “music is amazing, music is fun, let’s just have a great time”, and ironically we got a really great song out of it. 

It’s like everything in my life; the less I try, the better things are. I feel like I’m cursed in that way. 

A23: I had a very similar arc to my creativity, or the lack thereof versus the effort put in, and it was refreshing to just feel like the song was working with us instead of against us. 

TB: The lyric video is a really simple and quirky one-take video. Or so it seems… Was it actually a one-take video?

A23: It was! It’s so funny because sometimes I think the less effort you put in the more people think you put in, and the lyric video is the perfect example of that. We shot the actual music video, and we had literally 45 minutes at the end of day 2 to shoot a lyric video. So the concept, planning and execution was all in a 45 minute span. There was no grand thought that went into that part of the shoot. 

How many times did you try to record that?

JZ: I think the version that’s released was our third try. 

A23: We didn’t have time to practice, there was no rehearsal. So that third time was the first time that we actually “did it”. The first two times there were some fuck-ups mostly on our end. But to even to DP something like that with no planning is not an easy thing to do. 

JZ: We honestly just had an amazing crew. We worked with our creative directive Stefan Kohli who we’ve both worked with before, and this director Jason Lester who Stefan and I have worked with before. It was honestly a really fun and amazing team. 

TB: I loved the seriousness from Alexander the whole shoot with your arms crossed, and then Jeremy you broke right at the end when you spun the camera the last time 

JZ: *Laughs* I honestly didn’t know he was that serious the whole time until I saw the footage because I couldn’t look at him. 

A23: Usually on a shoot you have time to watch it back, but because we were so crunched for time I didn’t actually know what it looked like until I got it sent to me the next day. It was such a whirlwind, but it turned out good and I’m so stoked with it. 

TB: The actual music video is such a great embodiment of what life has been like this year for so many people. Why did you decide that this was the best concept for the video? 

A23: I thought it was a super creative and innovative way to give the song another dimension. It’s funny because we shot it for two days, and during that time I still wasn’t sure how it was going to look like after it was edited together. So getting the first take back was such a exhale moment as it lived up to expectations and idea that I had for it in my head. 

JZ: It’s a really straight forward concept and idea. In my head when I think of the song and then the video we shot for it, it’s the same feeling. It’s like this deadpan looking at the camera feeling, and being like “shit, everything is boring”. And the spinning is like this dizzying feeling of not even knowing how much time is passing. It looks a lot like how the song makes you feel. 

TB: This is the first time that you’ve collaborated together. So if you could choose to be on a version of one of each others songs what track would you choose and why? 

JZ: Woah, this is such a great question! I think my favourite song of Alexander’s is ‘Dirty AF1s’, but that also might just be cause that was the first song of his I heard, and I was like “who the fuck is this guy, this is so good”.

A23: I’d probably choose ‘comethru’ so I could get a platinum record *laughs*. But, it honestly might be ‘supercuts’. I really fucking like that song. It was one of those songs where I heard for the first time, and then kept listening to it again and again. And not in a snobby way, but I just don’t always feel that way about new music as a lot of songs sound like they’ve been done before, but this one didn’t. 

TB: Now I have to also ask Jeremy, what is happening over at with Chelsea Cutler? Because something is telling me that maybe Brent 2 is on the horizon?

JZ: Brent 2 is most definitely on the way! If you put your address in on then you will be getting something in the mail pretty shortly that will answer some of your questions!

‘Nothing’s The Same’ is out now!