Photo by Sarah Pardini
As artists continually adapt to these constantly changing times, LA-based musician Zach Tabori is gearing up for his new EP Pandemic Ballads, out November 13. Having collaborated with high profile artists as diverse as Tommy Mars and Jaden Smith, we wanted to get a feel for his recording process and intentions behind his new project. Check out our interview and Zach’s music below.
What is the general theme of the EP?
I’d say the main themes are existential crises, isolation, and the overwhelming ups and downs of life during a pandemic. It’s been months since we’ve been able to have in-person connections in the way that we’re used to. All of these circumstances are reflected in different aspects of the record, both musically and lyrically. For example, “Divine Insanity” focuses on the frustration that comes from a unceasingly monotonous daily routine, while “Warning Call” is about feeling distant from a loved one.
You mentioned COVID and quarantine playing a big role in the recording process and the mood/intentions. How did you use music to get through some of those “overwhelming life experiences”?
Well, for starters, I couldn’t get all 11 members of the band together because we were on lockdown! We love performing so much. It’s depressing to realize that we might not able to do it again for at least another year… As a result, I decided to focus on creating a new record and I ended up playing many of the instruments myself, except for the horns and a couple of guest spots. I think that when times are difficult and we are presented with harsh and complex circumstances, music can serve as the beacon of light that allows us to at least attempt to process the things in our lives that we try to understand. This year has been unforgiving to millions of people. I’m so thankful that I still get to make music every day.
How has Los Angeles played a role in your musical development, stylistically and personally, and how have you seen the city react to the current crisis?
If you’re a musician, Los Angeles is an interesting place to live. Every night (pre-COVID), you can experience at least 10,000 examples of music being performed at venues across the city. I’ve always thought that the ultimate songwriter is kind of like an Indiana Jones of exploring art and culture, so for that reason, LA is great at presenting all sorts of musical situations to learn from. That being said, I think it’s important to trust your instincts and create something that feels unique and personal. Resist the urge to immerse yourself into trends, even if they come with nice leather jackets and vintage socks.
Given that you’ve worked with such diverse artists and collaborators, how would you define your own style? What makes this EP especially your own?
I’ve actually always considered myself to be a pop musician more than anything else. The Beatles, Little Richard, Joni Mitchell, Kraftwerk, etc… All of that music was pop! The songs all had choruses, most of which came in before the first minute! I don’t know how to specifically define my style, but I can say that the melody and the lyrics always come first, in true pop tradition. The musical decoration changes from song to song. This EP resonates with me on a personal level because it serves as a collection of all the sounds and concepts I was interested in at the time. And I tried to put something in there for everyone, whether you want a ballad, a thrash rock orchestra, or a 3 minute country pedal steel solo.
I love the bathroom recording technique you mentioned. Do you think lockdown will promote more similarly DIY, independent projects for the future?
Thank you! I actually took the idea from Eric Clapton, who borrowed the idea from harmonica player Little Walter. They were some of the first folks to use room sounds in conjunction with their instruments while recording. I like experimenting with rooms and reverb. Sometimes the microphone was actually in the bathtub, facing away from the instrument I was recording. I think most people are forced to get creative when recording these days. Many of the sessions in LA and NY have actually been remote for the past couple months.
How have your forays in movie scoring changed your songwriting practices?
It makes me want to spend more time with the instrumentation for each song. Sometimes you only want a keyboard and vocal, sometimes you just want saxophone and a rock trio. It definitely makes the writing process more fun from a musical standpoint. If I ever score a Star Wars film, I’m sure the rock band would expand to at least 300 pieces and that would be a fun concert.
Who did your album cover, and what does it mean to you?
My friend Bella Porter did the artwork. She’s an unbelievable singer and musician, but we’ve actually been collaborating on artwork for the past year. She does a lot of the posters for our shows. I would never attempt to draw anything myself. My handwriting hasn’t changed since the 2nd grade…
With your more intricate rock compositions across the EP, how do you see this style of music fitting into the broader pop culture landscape?
To be honest, I don’t necessarily factor in “pop culture” when creating music. Pop culture comes in waves. Something that is popular one minute will be unpopular the next. I think more and more, guitars and live instrumentation are making their way back into popular music (Hi, Machine Gun Kelly!). And if I’m completely wrong and they’re not coming back in fashion, then you can STILL listen to Pandemic Ballads and we can both pretend that they are.