Interview with Musician Ziemba and Track Premiere for “It Curls Itself”

Springtime is upon us, bringing with it the harmonically generous sounds of Ziemba. An artist and composer, Ziemba fuses rich and breezy vocals beside a backdrop of cascading synthesizers and warm acoustic instrumentation. I got the chance to discuss with Ziemba their forthcoming album, rebirth as an inspiration and plans for the upcoming release, Hope is Never is available on Digital/LP/Cassette via Lo & Behold! Records

Photography and Interview by Xeno

“I think that imaginatively empathizing with plants or planets is a form of reverence that’s pretty old, it makes me feel connected to human history, and refreshes the way that I can look at the world in 2016.”

Photography by Xeno

Your music evokes an air of day dreaming and you seem to present an other-worldly aesthetic. How do these ethereal imageries converge for you during the music-making process? How do celestial bodies influence your work, both visually and sonically?

Thank you! I really appreciate that my music communicates that to you.  I love to locate songs in a sort of mythic time, or to play with fantasies of perspective when songwriting, and then apply it to my own life after-the-fact.  Like the song I shared with you, It Curls Itself, is written from the perspective of plants sweetly bowing and dancing for the sun.  Its a kind of love song, but it doesn’t obey human logic.

I think that imaginatively empathizing with plants or planets is a form of reverence that’s pretty old, it makes me feel connected to human history, and refreshes the way that I can look at the world in 2016.

I’m really interested to know why you chose to perform a cappella on It Curls Itself; the layering of vocals feels so rich yet delicately haunting. What purpose does flower symbolism have here? And what’s the ‘it’ you’re referring to?

I love performing songs a cappella! A lot of my songs start that way.  Like Phantom See, for a long time I only performed that song a cappella, and I still do it a cappella when I play it live. I think there is something so vulnerable and immediate about a cappella vocals – you can’t hide from yourself and the audience can feel it.  It can be scarily intimate, and that’s attractive to me. It Curls Itself is very intentionally the first song on my forthcoming album, it establishes a certain kind of space, by beginning with a cappella vocals.

In this song, the “it” is a plant feeling profound connection. “It’s hard to tear away” is the repeated refrain, and that relationship of contact, of connection shown through movement (leaves bending, curling, or quivering) is so kind and quiet. There’s a lyric in the song “it’s hopelessly romantic” which is totally a reference to that jazz standard Isn’t It Romantic. I think about that song a lot when I perform It Curls Itself, — that’s the vibe to me. “I hear the breezes playing in the trees above, while all the world is saying you were meant for love.”

We just passed the Spring Equinox and your album happens to allude springtime feels. Tell me more about this thematic and how elements, such as fire, play into your music.

I think that’s because so much of the album centers on death and rebirth, decay and emergence.  Fire is a repeated element in many of the songs on the album, as a very visible representation of destruction, and there is a lot of focus on finding hope or affirmation through scenes of destruction and loss.  Spring is all about that – it’s the time of year when the cycle of growth and decay gets manifested through this explosion of flowers, and all the animals are having sex, and when you walk around the fragrances in the air are constantly changing and intoxicating.  Its a very exhilarating time of year to be alive.  It is the best compliment ever to hear that the album feels like spring, because my goal is for it to be enervating, for it to feel and acknowledge the weight and pain of life in a way that is mobilizing, uplifting, or even exciting.

Photography by Xeno

I am interested to know about your musical history because it seems you have a very choral sound. Is it something you grew up with?

Haha YES. I sang in choirs for most of my life, and it is a huge influence on my singing and songwriting.  I’ve never taken voice lessons, so the lessons I’ve learned about how to control my voice or how to structure melodic phrasings have been oriented toward a choral sound.  I wonder how that’s played out for the way my solo vocal approach is.  I try to sing in a way thats very genuine to me, but I’m sure that that training has had a big impact.

Can you tell me more about your inspirations for the new album? What do you hope people take away from listening to Hope is Never?

Thank you so much for asking this question. The inspirations for the album largely center on processing death and loss. It’s an attempt at building a toolkit for creative decay, like searching for beauty in the ashes.  I have a hard time with how much art I witness that is very nihilistic, and this is the opposite of that.  It is loaded with intent and connection.  The title Hope is Never refers to the process of finding meaning in eternity or the infinite, seeing the process of decay as something that can be the source of connection or empowerment.

I made a video for one of the songs on the album, With the Fire, in the ruins of my childhood home in Forestville, Michigan.  I can’t wait to put this video out in a couple months, because it is the perfect visual indicator of the album intent.  The house where I spent my early childhood has been abandoned for 20 years, but it’s still filled with all the objects that were there when I was a kid. And to go there now is to see the passage of time through decay.  It’s so beautiful and bittersweet, to look at my life through that house – to see it in the paint flaking off the walls, the wasps nests in the bedrooms, the barn swallowed up by ivy. There is so much life in the death of my childhood!

I’m making a limited batch incense that will accompany the LP, using cedar, lilacs, and other various plants and flowers from the verdant overgrown yard of my abandoned childhood home. It’s something to burn while listening. The idea is to create a multi-sensory experience of decay nostalgia, a portable museum or harvested memory.  That’s the take away.

Listen to the song below:


It curls itself
Its trembling
Its hard to tear away
Hard to tear away
Its charming
Its hopelessly romantic
Its hard to tear away
Hard to tear away
All quivering
All can rattle with the pull of gravity
Soul but no sensation
It curls itself
It curls itself

Follow for more information @Z1emba /

Xeno Author & Photographer

Xeno is a queer Puerto Rican artist and musician working in diverse media. They divide their time between New York & Berlin.

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