We sat down with rising pop artist TZAR to talk more about her recent releases, artistic process, and how her cultural background has influenced her art. TZAR’s music combines the glitzy pop aesthetics of the 80’s with contemporary scaled up production. She’s collaborated with some major figures in music, such as acclaimed producer Djemba Djemba, and is poised to gain momentum this year. We are so excited to chat with the artist and learn more about her unique background.
You just released your music video for “Fuccboi Anthem” and it has a really specific cheeky aesthetic. I was wondering what inspired that aesthetic for the music video?
I found the director on Instagram! I had been following him for a while and me and my team just put together this idea that was very humor based ’cause it’s such a huge part of who I am. I’m always sassafras-ing it so it just kind of made sense once we started coming up with the idea. Taking a serious tone didn’t really make sense with John’s work. We loved his stop motion work and the way all the colors pop so well, so the process of creating the video was really organic.
Everyone’s heard the term fuckboy, but how would you describe the archetypical fuckboy?
I was just getting to a space where I was so tired of dealing with, in my case men, who weren’t really being accountable for their behavior. I felt like the people I was dating were playing a bunch of games or wasting my time when I was being pretty straightforward about my needs. I just got to the point where I had a string of so many of those types of interactions and relationships that it started to become like borderline comical. So that term just encompassed my general frustration with like men who aren’t held accountable and play with people’s minds and hearts.
You released the video on International Women’s Day of this year. When did you know you wanted to release this track on that holiday?
This particular time it was all just perfect timing! We actually pushed the video to that day because it felt so perfect. Yes, I’m singing about fuccbois and it’s all fun and games, but on a deeper level it’s about honoring my self-worth and honoring my ability to set boundaries and observe them. It came from a place of starting to value my own womanhood and who I was becoming. In addition to that, I’m Russian, and in Russian culture that day was a huge holiday, so it just all serendipitously came together.
So, you moved from Moscow to the Bay Area. What was that move like?
That whole transition what was incredibly formative. I moved here when I was only six or seven and I really just remember like it being a tornado of emotions and new stimuli. It was an incredible adjustment because my entire family lived in Moscow and so overnight, I went from a huge family and then all of a sudden it was just like me and my immediate family. But it was what made me who I am and definitely influenced my choice to go into music because with all of the new languages and experiences I was having, it just totally expanded my perspective, even at that age.
What was your favorite part about growing up in the Bay Area and did that influence you sonically?
Oh my God dude I don’t think there was a better place to grow up. Obviously I’m biased, but especially at that time, like in the 90s and 2000s, before the tech industry took over it was just such a melting pot of cultures. Having that exposure really expanded my palette, and introduced me to all of my biggest influences today.
So, who are some of your biggest influences?
The list is endless! Honestly, I’d probably take up like 3 hours if I look at all of them, but it’s because I have such a range of artists and genres that I listen to. I grew up playing classical piano and watching a bunch of Soviet movies and listening to Soviet records. But as I got older, ABBA was a huge part of my love for music and the greats such as The Beatles or Queen.
Once I moved to the States the number of things I was consuming just exploded because none of that was available in Russia. I got really into all of the Bay Trues and hip-hop head stuff like E-40 but was also being exposed to some just amazing singers like Whitney Houston and Christina Aguilera.
Right now, I’ve been listening to a ton of Kali Uchis, I guess I’m just in that zone.
And what was the final push that made you decide to pursue music full-time?
I mean I’ve been making music since before I could speak, so it had already been in my life for so long just in a different form. I’m a classical pianist too, which is obviously very different from what I’m doing now. When I decided that I wanted to sing, I had just gotten out of college and to be honest, it was definitely a series of decisions instead of one day waking up and dropping everything. I had to get to a space where I could confidently say that this was what I wanted to do with my life, because I knew it wouldn’t be easy.
I knew it might be very tumultuous and a lot of times unrewarding. I feel like I had to go through the ringer a few times and eventually realize that even in the most difficult moments, I still wanted to do it. I just knew that if I wasn’t doing this, I’d be miserable. I wanted to write, and collaborate with people, and be in the studio every day. So yea, it ended up being an amalgamation of decisions that kept spitting me out on this path.
I’m curious about your songwriting process, what does that look like for you?
Well for a long time I was working from beats that were just sent to me, so I’d kind of approach writing like a rapper would. I would come up with melodies and lyrics really quickly, but lately it’s definitely been more of an ebb and flow. I will get that inspirational spark and just start humming, and usually the words are just vomited out of me. It’s kind of crude but that’s the best way to describe it.
Recently I’ve been expanding into more cowrites which is always interesting, because you have to really go with the flow of the energy in the room. But usually, it follows a similar process where we just find a spark in a melody and letting the words come from that.
And you’ve worked with some of the best music minds in the industry such as Djemba Djemba. What’s it like going into those sessions and do you ever get nervous?
I think I definitely still get nervous, but it’s more of like an excited nervous because I feel like I’m realizing a lot of the things that I’ve been manifesting for so long. When I initially got to LA I would walk into sessions thinking about whether this person would like me, or if we’d have chemistry, and then I realized the more centered I am, the more I believe I have something to bring to the table, the better the music will be.
I always remember that I put in the time, I put in the work, I put in the hours that it takes just to get into those rooms, and that when I walk in there, I’m bringing my unique essence into the space. So I still get nervous, but I wouldn’t describe it as anxiety, or anything that holds me back from really being myself in the studio.
You mention manifesting, are you a spiritual person?
Yea that is a major part of my life especially in the last two years of my self-discovery journey. I try to soak up as much information as I can about anything that aligns with me spiritually because it is such an integral part of who I am and my work. I write these songs because I spend a lot of time in introspection and meditating. The more that I practice that part of me, the more I end up putting it into my work, even if it’s funny! I’ll put a Fuccboi song out but underneath that was a lot of self-discovery and a lot of the pain of realizing that I can’t allow this behavior from men anymore, or even wondering why I was attracting this type of person in the first place.
Along those lines, when you’re crafting a new song, are you going into it with a clear intention of what you want the listener to get from it?
Yea, I think that it’s obviously hard to see the spiritual underpinnings of a song like “fuccboi anthem”, but overall, the message I try and send is being unapologetic about being yourself and putting yourself fully out to the world and embracing kindness. I think that’s a thread that carries throughout all of my work, even if it takes a more lighthearted shape on some songs.
Do you have a favorite song you’ve written?
I think my favorite really depends on my mood. I have a song that’s going to be out on this EP that we’re dropping in the summertime called “Get Gone”. It’s a song that I wrote in the middle of a really devastating breakup where I’d been with this person for nearly a decade and I remember him taking boxes out of the house and having to sit there and watch him leave. That song becomes a favorite of mine at that moment because I wrote it from such a vulnerable place. Pretty much everybody I play it for says something without even knowing the story behind it. They’re just like, I feel something different here. Yeah, there’s just different songs for different moments, you know like “Fuccboi Anthem” is lighter because it was written in a moment of just levity. But when I am going through other heavy moments in my life, I can throw on either of those songs and tap into those different energies.
But if I had to choose one it would be my first single, “What You’re Looking For” because something about that song is just really special to me. I feel like it’s really the epitome of who I am as an artist and a person. It reminds me of that Whitney pop music I used to love in the 80s and 90s.
If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing?
Therapy. I think being a therapist or using music as a form of therapy. I still teach music lessons and I love doing that too!
And finally, what are you most excited for in 2021?
I’m really excited to see how different the world will look after all of this. I’m hoping people will be kinder to each other. I can’t wait to release my new project, and eventually go on tour. I just can’t wait to see what new energetic portal we’re all going to be entering after a year of isolation, and I’m looking forward to seeing how my music evolves with that.