As dance and electronica dominates the airwaves there are few artists proving to be promising forerunners of pop, but Arizona native Zella Day’s recent 7” release delivers a refreshing dose of catchy lyricism and charming nuances. Making her way onto the music scene in 2012 with a folky cover of The White Stripe’s “Seven Nation Army,” Zella’s breathy innocence transforms the track from gritty rock to a soft, but powerful lullaby which garnered her attention and critical acclaim by Hype Machine and started, what continues to be, a loyal and continually growing fan base.
Her followup single “No Sleep to Dream” embraces the same alluring acoustics delivered in her “Seven Nation Army” cover, but exposes us to Zella’s lyrical prowess that’s akin to that of predecessors like sister duo The Pierces or Canada’s Imaginary Cities. The feel-good-factor of “No Sleep to Dream” is what sets the stage for Zella’s first album which contains two tracks: “Sweet Ophelia” and a B-side “1965.” The masterfully executed “Sweet Ophelia” doesn’t disappoint as Zella’s ethereal voice serves as the perfect backdrop to the punchy, indie-pop beat and delightful libretto. Raised in Pinetop, Arizona, a small town with a population of less than 5,000, Zella’s “Sweet Ophelia” has a uniquely scenic quality that’s a road trip through a world that mirrors her hometown’s rustic, mountainous beauty.
The 7” B-side, “1965,” swaps “Sweet Ophelia’s” bewitching reverie for something more earnest and wistful as Zella recounts a haunting tale of lost love (“Can we go back to the world we had? With a love so sweet it makes me sad?”). Channeling a bit of Lana Del Rey in its lyrical execution, Zella delivers a ballad that’s ripe with golden vocals and an impressive ability to create an ache deep for something we didn’t even know we’d miss until we lost it. All in all, 7” is a melodic sanctuary that induces the strange-familiar of deja vu, like that of the discovery of a much loved old record, and juxtaposes it with a captivating boldness that’s absolute indie-pop perfection.
Get to know Zella Day in the exclusive Q & A below:
I'm from small town Arizona, a pretty place called Pinetop.
Tell me a little bit about the inspiration and thought process behind 7.”
I wanted people to be able to "hold" my music in their hands. I could've done hard copies but there is something beautiful and timeless about vinyl. A 7" felt like a good place to start because it's smaller, I'm waiting to put my full length on a 12". I'm in love with the artwork as well and I like the thought of it being a part of peoples' lives/homes.
What/Who are some of your musical influences? Specific artists? Particular Albums? Genres?
Some of the albums I listened a lot growing up were "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill", "Honey I'm Homely" by the Dance Hall Crashers, and "Rubber Soul" by the Beatles. I've always had an eclectic taste in music that's inspired me to play. I can get into Ska or Bluegrass just depending on my mood; I've got a love for it all.
What was it like to perform at SXSW 2014?
SXSW is one hell of an experience. I like that it's constructive for every one who plays there, doesn't matter who you are. I felt really proud playing there and being a part of such a beautiful artistic community.
Did you expect your 2012 cover of 'Seven Nation Army' to garner such rave reviews or attention?
I had no idea Seven Nation Army was going to receive the attention that it did. The version that you hear is the second take. It was one of those moments in the studio my producer was like "ummm go record that right now" which rarely happens. I've always loved that song and loved that band, it's cool to be a part of that song in some way shape or form.
What music/songs are you currently obsessed with?
Right now I have D'yer Mak'er by Led Zeppelin, and Look At Where We Are by Hot Chip on replay.
What can we expect from you in the near future?
You can expect a visit to the UK in June, another music video, and a possible fall tour. You can also expect greatness because that helps.
What artists would you like to work with in the future?
Someday I want to sit at a piano with Norah Jones and write a song about coffee (I feel like she might be the only person that could pull that off).
What are some words that you live by? Favorite quotes?
As funny as this sounds, lately my mantra has been from a song by The National. "I am good and I am grounded". Life gets a little crazier bit by bit and I like to remind myself that no matter what, at the end of the day, I'm a good person and I should approach every situation with good intention. Being grounded is a big one too, a strong future calls for a strong foundation.