Tsarzi's Last Decade of Love
Tell us a little about your new record, what are the inspirations and how long have you been working on it?
Last Decade of Love is my first album. I call it eccentric pop – it’s fun and catchy, but there’s an undercurrent of dark humour.
There’s no single inspiration, though the title is kind of a reference to your 20s – it feels like everyone is telling you this is the best time of your life and you better enjoy it, so you have this sense of time running out, like the world’s going to end when you hit 30. Especially as a woman – there’s this idea that it’s game over after 25 and no one will ever want you. So a lot of the songs are reflections on some of the, shall we say questionable, relationship choices I made based on that impending terror.
It’s taken me two years to record. I didn’t think it would take that long, but the sound’s really developed and changed along the way, it’s become something completely different from the demos I first took into the studio.
What have you been doing in the run up to the launch?
A lot of gigging! I played 4 solo shows on Tramlines weekend alone, which was a personal best (and involved some of the worst panic parallel parking this city has ever seen).
Also a lot of rehearsing with the band – there’s quite a few of us onstage so it’s a bit like organising a military operation. And, sadly, a lot of admin. That’s the side of rock and roll they don’t tell you about.
You've got a really unique sound - what's your musical background?
Thank you! I suppose it’s quite odd because I trained classically as a kid on violin and piano, but I was terrified of playing in front of people. There was such an imperative to get it right that this kind of took over and I used to just shut down. So I thought, I guess I’m just not very good, and stopped playing for most of my 20s.
Then – plot twist – I took an improv class, got over my stage fright, started playing guitar, started writing songs; moved to Sheffield, got quite into folk; joined a synth band; played with a bunch of different musicians and styles – and now here we are.
I think because I came to it relatively late, there’s this naiveté to what I’m influenced by and the sounds I like. I don’t really have a sense of what’s cool or not, I just throw everything into the mix. I think that’s what allows the sound to be completely its own thing.
What inspires your work? Is it books, movies, other musicians or something totally different?
I love books, so I think there’s a love of wordplay that comes out in the record. And I also adore film and visual language, and people often say that the songs are quite cinematic. I’m massively influenced by Scott Walker in that regard – these vast panoplies that he creates in his lyrics, they’re like novels.
It sounds trite, but I’m inspired by everything really. I love art and films and music, but I also love eavesdropping on people’s conversations in cafes and watching interactions on the street. I’m probably a terrible friend – I’m definitely easily distracted. For me, everything is a potential song, or poem, or something.
I wrote one song about a man going through a terrible divorce after I cycled past a bloke carrying his lunch in a plastic bag down by Park Square on my way to work. The thought just pinged into my head that he had to use the plastic bag because he couldn’t find any Tupperware since his wife left him. I think it’s possibly my best song.
Is there a theme to your record, what does it mean to you?
I suppose vulnerability is a theme – getting it wrong and trying again. There’s a bittersweet sense of looking back over the past – even if the characters aren’t the same, I think people can relate to the emotion.
A friend once said to me, you write such mean songs! And I think there’s definitely a dissonance, because the sound is often quite jaunty and fun, but there’s this biting edge to the lyrics. But I don’t think they’re mean songs, I think they’re just very honest. Honesty makes us vulnerable, and that makes us uncomfortable.
I think maybe that’s what the record is trying to get at, this disconnect between what we say and what we mean; the happy face we put on things and what’s really going on under the surface.
Where can people see you playing live?
There’s the launch at Yellow Arch on the 14th, obviously! That’s going to be a real showstopper, with full band, cello & backing singers, so if you want the full Tsarzi experience I advise coming to that. After that I’ve got a few shows out of town, then I’m hoping to do another big show in Sheffield around Christmas.
The live band for the launch is everyone who played on the album, so at the moment I’m putting together a more permanent band to gig more nationally with. (Any drummers interested in Kate Bush/Amanda Palmer style eccentric pop please get in touch!) I love Sheffield, but I’m keen to spread my wings too.
Where can people get the record?
You can stream it on Spotify, buy it on iTunes etc. If you’re one of the saviours of modern music who still buys physical CDs, you can get these online via Bandcamp or my website, or at a gig. It is a thing of beauty, so I’d strongly advise it as an investment.
If you haven’t watched the wonderful videos WI Productions did for me, please do stop by my website – www.tsarzi.com – to check out them out. We won the 2 Weeks 2 Make It competition last year and had so much fun we decided to keep on making stuff together. Filmmaking is a real love of mine so I’m hoping to do much more of this in the future.
And please do come to the launch! We have support from local acts Banjo Jen, who’s splendid if you haven’t seen her already, and I Set the Sea on Fire, who are lots of fun and very loud. And it’s hosted by Conor Houston – he’s still not told me exactly what he’s going to do, which could be worrying.
Last Decade of Love is released on 7th September. The album launch party is happening at Yellow Arch on 14th September – get tickets here.