There’s something inherently nostalgic about Zzzahara and their music. Perhaps it could be because it allows us to reminisce on the carefree days of our youth, but it could also be due to how it allows us to feel as if we’re romanticizing the daily lives we’re living –– cruising around the skate park or going out for a late-night drive with friends.

With their infectious melodies evoking raw emotion and a defiant spirit, it’s easy to understand just how much their music resonates with a unique fusion of nostalgia and present-day relevance –– one which encapsulates the universal essence of the “coming of age” journey experienced by countless young adults and teenagers. This sense of lived-in youthfulness that feels both familiar and fresh goes beyond their home in Los Angeles –– captivating a growing audience worldwide with their poignant lyricism and captivating soundscapes.

From their sophomore album, Tender, which serves as a testament to their ability to craft music that weaves between shoegaze, indie, and emo influences, to their 2022 debut Liminal Spaces, which serves as a beacon of authenticity and emotional resonance, the music of Zzzahara offers a sense of solace and companionship, earning a permanent place in the Spotify playlists of those who resonate with their evocative portrayal of longing and introspection.

Following their performance at Jaded’s FRIENDS:FOREVER SXSW, alongside the likes of thuy, Rei Ami, Se Seo Neon, and a whole lot more last March, Billboard Philippines caught up with Zzzahara to dish out about their latest record, the Filipino aspects of their identity, as well as the many influences that have shaped their ethos and sound as an up and coming musician on the scene.

Billboard Philippines: Congratulations on performing at SXSW for the FRIENDS: FOREVER showcase. Can you tell us what performing at the festival means to you, especially as an independent musician?

Zzzahara: Thank you! Performing at SXSW means a multitude of things for me. It means I get to play in front of diverse audiences, watch new bands, and reunite with friends from different countries and states. As an independent artist it also means showcasing new music I have worked on or recently released. SXSW brings opportunities to be discovered and sometimes discovered by those who want to help independent artists reach their goals.

Your latest record, Tender, has been described as an anthemic guitar-driven power record. How did the creative process for this album differ from your previous work, especially considering the transition from synth-heavy influences to a more guitar-oriented sound?

The creative process was entirely different and did involve lots of guitar layering and effects compared to all the synth sounds from my last record. Definitely fell in love with my creative process for making, Tender, I produced and recorded 70% of the record in my room. Recording and producing the record in my room felt more intimate. With this album, I just let vulnerability and emotion drive the record.

“Tender” showcases a fine-tuned musical approach. Can you share insights into your songwriting process for this album and how it reflects your growth and evolution as an artist?

My songwriting process for the record felt organic and not forced. I think I had so much pent up inside and so much to say. I always felt like movement impacted growth and evolution. I just would start playing my guitar everyday and let the melodies flow. It was a good practice to not force creativity, but let it align with how I was feeling in the present moment. The songwriting process felt honest and much needed to grow and move on from what was weighing me down.

Tender seems to have a mix of indie influences. Can you elaborate on the specific influences that played a role in shaping the sound of this album?

Yes it definitely is a mixture of all my favorites. Specific influences to the record are the Cure, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Elliot Smith, Title Fight, Slow Dive, and more. For this record and most records I make I don’t really aim for a “specific sound,” I want each song to be different yet feel like they fit in the same world.


Courtesy of JADED

Your identity as a solo artist stands out, especially after being part of a duo. How does being a solo musician allow you to express yourself differently, and what aspects of your musicality shine through more prominently in this solo endeavor?

Being a solo artist means I can express myself more freely and align with my vision more. I wouldn’t say shine more prominently, but my favorite aspects are creating soundscapes in my production that allow listeners to get lost in melodies and relate with the lyrical content.

Your heritage, being of Mexican and Filipino descent, must bring a rich cultural influence to your music. How do you incorporate your cultural background into your songwriting and overall musical style?

I think for me it differs a little, being mixed…I felt like I never had an identity or cultural background that I fit into. Also growing up in LA, it felt like it was very diverse. My mom’s family has never lived in America, just the Philippines. She played so much music in the house when I was growing up. A lot of it was Filipino love songs. I loved the melodies of those tunes.

I think that influenced me a lot in my musical style. My dad listened to a lot of rock music and his friends were all in bands. I think I had my first guitar at 8 and his friends would teach me scales and chords. I had such a cool background surrounding me in music, where I was introduced to music like the Smiths, System of a Down, My Chemical Romance, Minor Threat, Ramones etc at a young age. I tend to like heavier music that is melodic and emotional, so it makes a lot of sense coming from the background I was raised in.

As a guitarist and songwriter, who are your major musical inspirations? Are there any specific artists or genres that have significantly shaped your unique sound?

Major inspirations for me are Title Fight, Saves the Day, Nick Cave, Elliot Smith, the Gun Club, Johnny Mar, the Cure, the Rapture, My Chemical Romance, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and more. Growing up I’ve always listening to so much music, and my favorite genre will always be emo lol!

The album is available in various formats, including vinyl, CD, and cassette. How important is the tactile aspect of music for you, and how do you believe these physical formats contribute to the overall experience of “Tender” and being an independent musician?

The tactile aspect of music is very important to me! I really love being able to support artists and own a piece of the music. Yes, definitely believe that the physical format of “Tender,” is vital to the overall experience. It means more to me that someone could take the record and appreciate it. It also comes with a lyric sheet, which has personally always been my favorite part of buying CDs.

Given that you’re set to take the stage quite soon, what else lies ahead for you this 2024?

I’m going to be releasing another record this year, as I do every year. It’s pretty different and touches back on my love for emo music. I’m pretty excited to release this record and play these new songs. I’ll be playing 2 new tracks at SXSW –– so you guys can watch out for that!

Listen to Tender by Zzahara below: