INTERVIEW: Jeremy Zucker

Jeremy Zucker has always strived to push himself as an artist ever since mixing and producing his debut EP’s in 2015. Last year the American singer-songwriter released his debut album ‘Love Is Not Dying’ which intimately captured the raw vulnerability and emotion behind his songwriting. Immediately beginning the next chapter, he dropped the single ‘Supercuts’ which hinted at the bold sonical vision he was steering towards. 

Collaborating with Chelsea Cutler again for ‘Brent ii’, he honed in on mastering live instrumentation into his craft which planted the seeds for his boldest body of work yet. His sophomore record ‘CRUSHER’ (out now) is a redefining collection that explores the power of spite and anger that charges an emotional introspection. Contrasting that parallel with heavier production, he’s recorded live drums and guitars to breathe a new aesthetic that compliments his growth.

I recently caught up with Jeremy Zucker to discuss the sonical shift behind his sophomore record ‘CRUSHER’, explored the lyrics behind tracks like ‘When i’m around’ and ‘Sex & cigarettes’, and reflected on injecting spite and anger into his songwriting. Check it out BELOW;

THOMAS BLEACH: Your sophomore album ‘CRUSHER’ is a record that hones a really confident energy lyrically, vocally, and sonically. When you listen back to the record in its entirety now, what is it that you specifically hear in your own growth? 

JEREMY ZUCKER: Definitely a lot of confidence, a lot of emotional maturity, and I think a lot of self-security in the sense of no longer being insecure. There is also a lot of anger as an experiment, which is very different to my earlier stuff. 

TB: Yeah, sonically this album is a lot more experimental and bolder than anything you’ve done before. What was the first song you worked on for this record where you really pushed where you wanted it to go sonically?

JZ: ‘HONEST’ was the first one I wrote, and I feel like that really pushed me sonically as I was just fucking screaming. There aren’t many instruments in the song as it’s really just drums and yelling, which is cool. And then ‘i-70’ is just a completely different song for me. I had so much fun making it groovy. 

TB: Did you have heaps of different versions of ‘i-70’ that you worked through to get it where it is now?

JZ: Honestly, no because the song was so based off the aesthetic and instrumentation. So it wasn’t like I had a song and I had to figure out how to make it a finished song. It was like, I have the auditory aesthetic idea for a vibe and I had to write the song to that. 

TB: ’I can’t look at you’ is a really honest track that also perfectly highlights this new sonical vision for you. Can you explain the creative process behind this track?

JZ: The first thing we wrote for ‘I can’t look at you’ was that sort of emo alt-rock riff. Then I made the drums over it, and it just transformed the track. I remember being in the studio with Quinn XCII and ayokay and Tom and just jumping around. It was the lit-est shit ever. We wrote the chorus, and I was just like “how can I give this the most energy, and make it feel like a tidal wave”. So honestly it was just like piece-by-piece. 

TB: Did most of the tracks on the album come together quickly? Or did you just not overthink everything too much, because you only wrote this album in the space of a year?

JZ: I honestly had a lot of help which is how it came quicker than normal. I got to start a lot of ideas with collaborators which is really helpful, and ideas that I started myself but didn’t know how to finish I got to work with producers to help me finish. At the end of the day I took all of the tracks and finished them myself which took quite a bit of time. I was super involved with the mixing process, which also took a bit of time. So yeah, it was a “all hands on deck” thing that took a small village to finish. 

TB: With mixing, is that something you want to get more and more involved with personally?

JZ: I used to mix all of my stuff myself before I was signed. I joke around that if I ever stop being an artist then I would be a mix engineer *laughs*.. 

TB: On the other hand of the spectrum ‘When i’m around’ is very stripped back, and what haunts the listener from the very first play is the line “Do I ruin everything for you, my love? Everything”. The repetition of the word “everything” is so important and really makes that moment a very introspective and emotional one. Why do you think that extra ‘Everything’ that follows the “my love” was important personally for you to add? 

JZ: That’s a really good thing you picked up on, I love the specificity of that! The line is like, “Do I ruin everything for you, my love?” as it’s like questioning “do you not want me around for any of your life? Do I not at least make this little thing better”. It’s confessing that I feel like a nuisance whenever I’m around them. So that line is emphasising that nothing is better when I’m there, as well as that guilt that I’m taking up space and feeling like my presence negatively impacts this person. That line hits hard, for sure. 

TB: ‘Cry with you’ is a really beautiful song about being there for someone during a really hard time. Sometimes we are so easy to disregard someone being there for us, so when has been the weirdest time that you have disregarded someone being all in for you? 

JZ: I think whenever I need help I will stew in it for a second, feel it, and wallow in the sadness for a bit, and then I reach out when I feel like I really do need it. I don’t think there’s been a time where I didn’t reach out and regretted it. Part of it is necessary to process something on your own. You can acknowledge that you need help but then sit with it for a second by yourself, and that’s honestly where I’m usually at.

TB: One of my favourite lyrics from the album comes from ‘Sex & cigarettes’ where you sing “I’m not afraid of love, I’m afraid of us”. When you listen back to that line now, where does it take you emotionally and physically?

JZ: It makes me a little shaky. It’s like, I’m not afraid of the concept of love, but I’m afraid of our toxic relationship and I’m afraid that it feels like love. 

TB: Does the vulnerability behind a song like ‘Don’t come over, i’m an asshole’ scare you or excite you artistically? 

JZ: It’s so exciting. It was one of my favourite songs to write. The record is very spiteful and angry, and this was the most spiteful song on it. It’s about me feeling like an asshole for basically now hating this person and doing all of these things to spite them like hanging out with their friends and making them feel uncomfortable by doing that. And not hanging out with them when I should be hanging out with them, and by the end of it I’m justified that they’ve done all these fucked up things to me. I was a really fun song to make with the drums and guitar too. 

TB: The last two times we’ve spoken have been about some collaborations you’ve worked on with Alexander 23 and Chelsea Cutler. So what is something you’ve learnt from working on ‘Nothing’s The Same’ or ‘Brent ii’ that impacted the creative process or inspiration behind ‘CRUSHER’?

JZ: ‘Brent ii’ inspired a lot of the album in a production sense because with that project I really challenged myself to record live instruments and really step up my game in that regard. I then did a lot of that with this album. I recorded drums and all sorts of different techniques with recording guitar using pedals, and cool and weird little toys. 

Alexander produced most of ‘Nothing’s The Same’ and then I sort of went in and re-recorded some fo the guitars to make it sonically the way I wanted it to be. It was just really nice to be in on his process for that one. But yeah, everything I do is informing the next thing”. 

TB: Let’s play a quick game of rapid fire questions about the album. Are you ready?

JZ: Let’s do it!

TB: The emoji that best describes my new album ‘CRUSHER’ is…

JZ: The fire emoji!

TB: The song that nearly didn’t make the album was…

JZ: ‘Sex & cigarettes’!

TB: A lyric on the album that hits me right in “I’m going to cry” emotions is…

JZ: The first verse from ‘Cry With You’ ;”I’ll give you whatever I can. But honestly, there’s not a lot where I stand. Nobody knows where we’ll go. But I’ve got a hunch that it feels like home”. But honestly that whole song makes me want to cry. 

TB: The song that has been the most fun to perform live so far has been…

JZ: ‘Therapist!’ 

TB: A song that is currently sitting on my hard drive that I now wish was on the album is…

JZ: A song called ‘Empathy’!

‘CRUSHER’ is out now!