Zeds Dead: “Albums are becoming a lost art form”
For the past few months, Canadian duo Zeds Dead have been steadily sharing tracks from their debut album, the highly anticipated Northern Lights. There was the Diplo and Elliphant-featuring Blame, the NGHTMRE and GG Magree hook-up Frontlines, and more recently a Twin Shadow collaboration with Stardust.
The rest of the record is similarly star-studded, but not with the usual EDM guests. Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo is a notably interesting feature, adding his vocals to the track Too Young, alongside Pusha T. Elsewhere on the album, Jadakiss and Freddie Gibbs pop up.
JULES LEFEVRE grabbed some time with the duo ahead of the release of the album on Friday, to discuss dance albums, vocal collabs, and how they left no stone unturned in the making of Northern Lights.
It’s becoming a bit of a rarity for dance artists to release albums these days. Why did you feel you wanted to release a full-length with Northern Lights?
Dylan Mamid: I think like Chris, to do an album was always something that we wanted to check off the bucket list from the very beginning. That said, me and Zach felt like we wanted to create a large cohesive body of work, and he’s always agreed. Before, we always had something in mind for what we wanted our album to be conceptually and incorporate other people that we wanted to collaborate with rappers and stuff like that. We’ve been pretty psyched for it all along, now it’s all done.
Zach Rapp-Roven: Albums are cool. It’s becoming a lost art form. When you discover a song on your own on album, it means something. It’s not all just put out a single and push that and shove it in people’s faces. Albums really bring for some subtle music that you might not have put out if it was just one song, but it might be somebody’s favorite song.
Dylan: What he said. There’s a lot of cool aspects to albums that I think still are relevant.
When did you decide you wanted to begin putting together the album?
Dylan: We kind of had the idea since before that inception. I know there’s one track in particular that’s almost four or five years old that’s on the album, that we’ve kept around back then. It’s a long time coming.
I read that you worked a lot more closely together in terms of creating the songs, instead of working individually and then showing the other and then bringing it to the studio. What effect do you think that had on the songs?
Zach: There was a time when we were both using different computer programs. Right before Somewhere Else, we started using the same platform which made it really easy for us sit in the studio and work on things together. That was a big help. Somewhere Else is the first time we spent that much time together – we were actually living together at the time when we were working on that one. Northern Lights was same thing, we were meeting up all the time at the studio.
Dylan: Before those two projects, we were mostly working on individual songs. When we did this album, I felt like there was much more sending things back and forth or working on just one song at a time.
How do you think it changed the dynamic of the individual songs?
Zach: I don’t know. I think you end up with something that neither of can say, “Oh I should have spoken up and changed that part because blah.”
Dylan: It’s something that we haven’t experienced before.
Zach: Nothing is left unsaid basically and you can react accordingly.
Rivers Cuomo appears on one of the tracks with Pusha T. From an outside perspective, that seems like an odd pairing. Can you talk about how that track came together?
Zach: Yeah, we got linked up with Rivers and we’re big fans of Weezer so we were stoked. We went over to his house and his studio and played him stuff and he liked it. Then he came back with this awesome hook for it, and it felt like it needed something else on it. Then Pusha T came through with a really interesting verse for him, and we’re a big fan of Pusha T too. So to see him on a beat like that and the way he raps – it just turned out a really cool thing and we’re stoked to be part of that.
Did you start off with a concept for Northern Lights at the beginning, for what you wanted the album to be?
Zach: I think loosely, but it definitely formed more as it went along. We made a lot of music, some of it turned out well and some of it didn’t, and then it was the best of what we had. Then just narrowing it down.
Dylan: It’s a broad vibe that comes with a lot of our music. We have a lot of stuff that covers a big spectrum, between dark and pretty – all different kinds of vibes. Something that we thought was really cool about Northern Lights was the fact that it was something really beautiful that came out of a ominous darkness, which is I think something that links us to a lot of our music.
How many songs were bouncing around that could have been on the album? You mentioned that some of these were created as far back as four or five years ago.
Zach: When we first started considering songs for the album, we were looking through 100 unfinished projects. It ended up being 15. A lot of the things that are on the album – most of the songs weren’t even part of that initial search. There was just a ton of music that we make all the time. Most of the stuff for the album was made in the last 2 years.
You’re heading to Australia at the end of the year for HARD, what’s your touring schedule looking like beyond the album release?
Dylan: Well we’re on tour right now on a Northern Lights tour. I think we’re about five shows in. It’s really crazy so far. We’ve gone through all of North America. The production, and the bus, and the crew full of different DJs, stuff like that. After this, we hop over to Europe for a couple weeks to do that. I think after that I think will be Australia. It’s pretty crammed until the end of the year.
Did you specifically create a live show to go with the album? Did you have it in mind when you were recording it?
Dylan: Well we have ideas that we try to translate live on this tour – we want it be playing as much music as possible. Obviously that includes most of our new album stuff. We’re actually right now – song by song – playing tracks from the album each show. Each night on the tour, we play a new one and have been able to see how different people react to that and that’s been cool.
Northern Lights is out today, grab it here. The duo will be touring the country with HARD Australia in December.