Electropop Trio ARIZONA Chat About Their Recent Success and Upcoming Headlining Tour
While A R I Z O N A, the band, not the state, sits with us at Lollapalooza 2017, they seem as relaxed as ever after performing their Thursday evening set. This Boston-grown, Jersey-based electropop trio have quickly risen to success in recent months due to the release of their debut album “Gallery,” though as they say, they’re not feeling the pressure. Zach Hannah (vocals), Nate Esquite (guitar) and David Labuguen (keys) have been producing music for a long time, but it wasn’t until just a couple years ago, during their respective stints at Berklee College of Music and Emerson College, that they started creating music as a team. A few charted singles later, including a huge success in the form of international DJ Robin Shultz’s remix of their song “I Was Wrong,” A R I Z O N A have burst onto the indie-pop scene, with an excited following to back them up.
2017 has seen the trio booked at a number of high-profile music festivals such as South by Southwest, Governors Ball and Jay-Z’s upcoming Made in America, but now they are still riding high on their Lollapalooza performance, an event that brings in an average of 100,000 music fans per day. Zach, Nate and David sat down with Entertainment Voice on what they call “earth fur,” a.k.a. grass, to chat about these exciting times.
Your debut album dropped this past spring. Ultimately, what do you want people to take away from “Gallery”?
A good experience of listening to music that they can enjoy when they want. It’s like the normal thing that you’d expect to take away from an album, but that’s what I want people to think. Like, ‘Oh this was a good album. These songs went well together and it was an experience for me to listen to this.” We’re kind of funny in the sense that we try to avoid telling people what our songs are about because we find that people connect with the songs in their own way. We have a lot of people who are like, ‘your song got me through a breakup’ or ‘your song got me through this part of life.’ Rather than kind of spoil that connection that they might have with the song, we would rather leave it open ended so people can connect in their own way. It was a genuine experience for us to write the song and I think that for people to have their own experiences that they can have ownership of, that’s important to us.
Your single “Oceans Away” helped launch the band into the mainstream, garnering all sorts of attention. Can you talk about what inspired this song both sonically and lyrically?
Well that kind of goes against our last answer (laughs), but I can say this much: sonically I think all of our records are a product of the weird places that we like to venture and weird sounds and weird ways we like treating instruments, mixed with an upbringing in producing pop music for other artists. You know, we were producers before we were in a band. We just get to have a lot of fun. We have no limits for ourselves sonically so we just get to do whatever we like and whatever we think is cool. We just throw it against the wall and whatever sticks, sticks. Lyrically, I think that particular song, not to broad stroke this, but I think all of our other (parts) of our record come from a collection of our experiences where we might go through a negative that we like to spin positive or things that are positive that we like to spin to be open-ended. I think “Oceans” was a mix of a lot of different emotions coming into one, a lot of different experiences coming into one. I know it was different for literally each person. We were pulling from a different place. If you ever wanted to talk about, one on one, what our experiences were, (that’s a) totally different question. But I think the good part about songs like that is that people do get to take it and draw from it what they will, which is good.
What did you think of Robin Shultz’s remix of your track “I Was Wrong?” How did it feel to be remixed by such a prolific international producer?
When we wrote “I Was Wrong” initially, we were in England and one of his records was like really big on the radio at the time, there before it got here. We were really inspired by his sound. It was during a time where he was one of our inspirations. So when we got signed, the first thing they come to us with was, ‘We’d love to do a remix of “I Was Wrong” and we think Shultz is going to do it.” (It was) just the biggest full-circle in the world. It was funny because the process was very indicative of the way we acted as a band, like we never expected to be a band. We love it when people re-imagine our records. We give it to people and we want to see what they can do with it. We were so happy that we made it a real collaboration with Shultz. It was a real fun thing.
Given the band’s sort of abrupt rise to popularity, do you guys feel any pressure to live up to the hype or are you simply riding the wave day-to-day?
We’re just riding the wave, going with it, doing our own thing. The pressure doesn’t necessarily come from people looking; the pressure comes from pursuing excellence. You doing the best that you want to do. As far as all the crazy amounts of, like, the 9 million people on Spotify and all these things, and interviews, people that are interested and watching what you’re doing…yesterday it was someone else, today it’s us, tomorrow it’ll be somebody else. I don’t know why this is, but it never really gets to us, honestly.
Zach, who are some of your vocal and lyrical influences?
I love a lot of 80s Brit pop, not even just that. Morrissey, the sing-songy, low, weird vocals, almost tongue-in-cheek. All the really rhythmic, R&B, almost Michael Jackson-y falsetto, high, stabby kind of vocals…that’s just groovy dude. I like shit like that. As a dude who’s been a producer my whole life, I was literally never a singer. People would hear the original A R I Z O N A records and be like, ‘Who the fuck is singing?’ (laughs) and it was so out of left-field for all of us. Whatever feels fun and jams well is what I’ve always liked for me. It was stuff like that.
Nate, how does it feel to uphold the long-standing tradition of musicians performing barefoot on stage?
It’s something I don’t even think about. I never considered it like that to be honest. It’s just one of those things that I do to be comfortable. I’m way more comfortable when I don’t wear shoes. One day, it was literally like this kind of setting, we were playing outside and I just wanted to feel the grass. Then (my bandmates) were like, ‘Yo, we gotta play.’ and I was like ‘Why would I put shoes back on?’ From then on I was just playing without shoes and it’s way better. I guess I’ve joined the club and it’s a club that I’m very proud to be a part of.
David, did you grow up playing keys?
I was classically trained. (I had a), I don’t want to say stereotypical Asian upbringing, but very stereotypical Asian upbringing (laughs). My parents moved to the states from the Philippines and they were like ‘We never had piano lessons so you’re gonna have them.’ To the point where my private teacher was also a professor at Julliard and Manhattan School of Music. So that’s the route my parents thought I was going to take. It’s funny. I used to annoy them when I was doing scales. They used to sit while I was practicing like I was giving a private concert. So I would do scales in rudiments with my eyes closed, so I could kind of take a nap and be fulfilling my hour of practice (laughs). But it would help me later on because all the technical stuff is there. But it really annoyed them.
You’ve said recently that you already have plans to start working on a second album. Can you give fans any hints at what to expect from your follow-up?
More cowbell (laughs). There’s a lot of hints on a lot of things, not just the album. Album two is obviously happening. We’re making music. It’s not like we’re not making music. Just in general on what’s coming up, we sold out our headliner in September. We’ve been considering putting out some music before (the second album). We’ve been considering a Europe tour, lots of new YouTube content because we do all our own videos.
As a band that formed in Boston during your college days, are you guys looking forward to performing back in your old stomping grounds this upcoming tour?
We’re looking forward to being back in Boston for this headlining tour. Boston is like home to us, (but) our real home is Jersey and New York, but Boston is always special to us. The college days happened there and a lot of our “bro-downs” happened in Boston. Lots of partying…and partying (laughs). Boston is always a really good show. People in Boston are great. We’re looking forward on this tour to go back to all these awesome places that we have all these memories from, including Boston. And Chicago!