Interview: ZRN

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Swim is the forthcoming EP to be released by the experimental psych duo ZRN (formerly Zeroine). Well known in the Scandinavian underground as a side project to longstanding Danish Psych outfit Tales of Murder and Dust, ZRN are days away from the release of their latest offering, brimming with ambient doom and melancholic fuzz.

ZRN first began their atmospheric, lo-fi journey back in 2013 and their relatively short existence has seen them release their debut EP “Pale Clouded Yellow” back in 2013 followed by the more recent “Animous” LP in 2015. Set to be released on the 28th April, Swim is not to be taken lightly, it’s dramatic and highly emotive, driven by heady walls of sound and the intoxicating rasps of Ess Beck. Politically charged, the fruit of America’s presidential labour, it explores dark themes and the pressures faced by women and the human race in general today. With the band hailing from one of, if not the happiest nations on earth, Swim is not by any means a reflection of this, it is in fact a wonderful antithesis. Ahead of the release I caught up with Ess Beck to find out more about ZRN and where the depth and darkness comes from.

Local Suicide: What’s the idea behind the title ‘Swim’ and track names?

Ess Beck: The title ‘Swim’ popped up in my head when contemplating the overall theme of the EP. From a basic, initial inspirational point it’s related to the issue of women’s role in society, but on a broader scale the whole EP is about trying to grasp the concept of “moving on”, how we do it as human beings and what purpose it serves. The songs are part personal experience and contemplations about things that happen to other people.

I am very fascinated with how women often seem designed to keep their heads up and move forward, despite the fact that terrifying, unpleasant things happened to them, based on the fact that they are women. Each song was created with specific stories along these thematic lines, I was thinking “wow, that is actually really terrible, how on earth did she or they, move on from that – and did they really?”. I dived right into investigating and contemplating our ability to move on. So the title points toward that expectation, or mechanism of “just getting on with it”. The cover obviously holds a certain amount of irony in relation to the title.

Each track is a patchwork of different stories, images, feelings and thoughts. Across is about stepping out into the harsh process of reconciling with bad events in your past, as a lonely process, where it’s easy to get lost in your own head, and to look at things from a twisted perspective. Deep End is about the social ramifications of a “what if” dystopian society where treating each other as sexual objects and nothing more, is totally normal and socially acceptable. Bare in mind, it was written after Trump was elected President. Diving Off is a revisit to adolescent life, and how your mind isn’t fully developed to make rational decisions. Maybe the message is about forgiving yourself for sometimes pushing yourself off the rocks, and for landing really hard.

Although we consider all tracks connected as a narrative, Slow Affections is really the track that frames the bigger perspective. To us it has a meta quality which we would probably water down by trying to over-explain it. Dry is very much about this feeling of having moved on, but not really. It serves as a “blind” catharsis to the whole EP. It’s about that weird dualism where you feel like you are totally over something, but it stills haunts you on a deeper level. It’s like pulling yourself out of a rough sea, recognising that you are safe, but you can’t stop returning to the shore to stare into the waves trying to figure out why you ended up there in the first place.

LSD: What’s your process for recording?

EB: If the song doesn’t feel 90 % done within half an hour, it is rarely going to work. Unlike our previous releases, I’ve done all the recording on this one. The tracks were all recorded in the same state of mind. I wouldn’t advocate it, but sleep deprivation, being hungover, and then hearing about or thinking about something awful is the perfect storm. Your guard is down, you are barely functioning and all you can manage to do is play music. Most of the EP was recorded in our rehearsal space, where I like to go and hide when I am in that state of mind. Things develop depending on what instrument I pick up first, or how I set my pedals. Lyrics often start out as murmurs and turn into actual words after a while. On a track like Slow Affection I deliberately left some parts muddy. We allow things to sound pretty lo-fi, and keep some beautiful mistakes, because it stops the production from becoming overcooked and calculated.  


LSD: What do you think of the whole Psych scene today, how it’s changed, how it’s evolving, in what direction you think it’s going?

EB: For us the scene is a strange thing because we feel like we have always been on the periphery, but at the same time, it makes sense for us if we fit in there. We are always in transition as a band and it’s great to have a scene that is open to that. I think it’s also very different geographically, we fare much better in Copenhagen, where we feel really accepted and get invited to play, instead of struggling to get a gig like we do in our home town, Aarhus. The UK is currently opening up to us and we are getting really great feedback from underground organisers. Overall it seems like the scene is very preoccupied with the 80’s these days, post-punk and darkwave is seeing a renaissance under the umbrella of Psych, which makes it even more interesting.

LSD: This EP is politically charged, what else would you say influences you as an artist?

EB: I think music, no matter how you try to frame it, is the result of a lot of ego-centrism. When I started out, the music was very much about my own feelings, experiences and, I guess, looking back the confusion of being in my mid 20s and having to become an adult in all aspects of life, but experiencing that there are these black holes in your identity that are slow to catch up with your own reality. Inertia has always been the main drive and is still a huge “thing” in my creative process, but now it’s more the struggle not to relapse as a human being. Not to withdraw from society and close the curtains and not give a shit. I feel like I’m constantly fighting the allure of oblivion or some kind of apathy. It’s not depression, but desperation with the obvious contrast between my relative security and a world on fire. So the struggle to retain a balance between good and bad inertia is omnipresent in the music. Using political issues as a catalyst for songwriting is one way to deal with that numbness and apathy.

LSD: How would you describe the music scene in Aarhus and further afield in Denmark right now?

EB: Aarhus is a very strange city in terms of identifying a scene. In my opinion it’s very divided, and people don’t seem to cross-over and work together as much as they may have done 2 or 3 years ago. Plus the lack of women on the experimental scene is just alarming. Maybe they are out there, but I can think of maybe 4 or 5 women doing something remotely noisy or experimental that isn’t just cute, fun Surf Garage. For me it’s the result of having certain very influential people at the grass-root level, booking venues and festivals and every friend who is in a band. So the scene seems to be regurgitating itself. It’s not bad, per se, just seems like the venues here copy and paste their program every quarter. The scene in Copenhagen is more exciting to explore because there is always something happening, and it’s more dynamic. But if we could, we would leave Denmark. It’s just a matter of time.  

LSD: With festival season knocking, who would you have on your dream festival line-up?

EB: HTRK, Slowdive, Goodspeed You! Black EmperorPardans, a Danish punk act that make everybody else look like amateurs! Ernst Reijseger – we need some more contemporary classical music at festivals! Wrekmeister Harmonies, Swans, Sunn O))), and Yo La Tengo. The latter bunch play long sets, so that’s the entire festival sorted perfectly.

LSD: What does the rest of the year have in store for you?

EB: We are working on the next release as Swim is the first in an anthology of EPs which we hope to be able to release on vinyl in the future. We will have a b-side/live/demo type thing out around July, where we share a lot of raw experimental stuff and that didn’t make it on to our previous releases, as well as live recordings.  In the fall we plan to go to the UK for a few gigs, which we are really looking forward to.

‘Swim’ is released digitally and physically on cassette/CD on 28.04.2017. Visit Facebook and Bandcamp for purchase info.

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