South London five piece Zebede were set to take 2020 by storm, but obviously Covid 19 had other plans… However, despite the difficulties of navigating lockdown, they’ve just released their new single ‘Love Me Enough’.
We caught up with lead singer Leah Cleaver to discuss music’s role in the Black Lives Matter movement and what changes we all need to see in the music industry.
Hi Leah, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Starting from the very beginning, how did the band come together? Did you all know each other from before?
Before I moved to London I was in one of those really tacky uni bands and we all decided to meet up at a party in Fulham. I started talking to a guy called Henry and we became very good friends – we ended up basically getting into bands with each other. He was a drummer and we were doing soul covers and writing a little bit. We had booked this one gig in AlleyCat, which was one of the last good venues left in Denmark Street. It was our first gig in London, and the biggest deal ever. Henry tells us that he has just broken his arm, so I told him that he’s out the band! I was so savage! I already had a replacement as I had been playing in university as part of group work, and so I got in a drummer called Max. He was in the band for a little while. About a year later, Henry got back to me and told me that he had started playing on keys, so the three of us just started writing songs and hanging out for hours and hours. We also needed bass and guitar. In fact, I could have just had bass – you need bass! I enlisted Mike Jones which is just the best name for a bassist. He was so quiet but then he would play and it would be enormous. I had also been watching a guy called Charlie play in class who was just so good. I knew I had to poach him.
Zebede’s music is a very gentle blend of so many genres, so do you all bring different influences to the song writing table?
100 per cent, we all write the songs together. Sometimes I’ll write a melody and bring it to the boys, or one of the guys will have the chords. To be honest, 80 to 90 per cent of the time we’re all in a room and we all chip in with everything. I love Soul, Motown, Blues, R&B and Funk. Charlie is a massive jazzer – he loves Jazz. Mike is a Motown King, and Max is completely ’90s Hip-Hop. Max is my ‘go-to’ guy; I don’t know what it is about drummers but they’re always the coolest people in the band. Henry doesn’t really have a set genre, but as a pianist he writes very beautiful melodies. We never try to go for a certain genre, it just comes out as it comes out.
What can we expect from your new single ‘Love Me Enough’?
‘L.M.E’ is the first single which we recorded in the new studio. The song is about the classic thing of you love someone, and they love you, but you have the moments of “do you love me ENOUGH?” It is absolutely crazy and irrational but you get yourself into this wormhole. The song is a complete journey because you can turn it on at 3 minutes and then 3:55 and it will sound like two completely different songs – which we love! Recording this song was like “we’ve paid for this session, a lot of money and lot of great equipment – I want to use everything!” Zebede has been up until now figuring out we want to record, but looking at it now ‘L.M.E’ is like a new start point.
You’ve all been pro-active in your support of the Black Lives Matter movement across your social media, are you hopeful that music can be a positive force of change?
Yeah, 100 per cent. I feel that people listen to music more than they do to people and it’s that comfort, it is everywhere. I do think that people have these massive platforms now, especially with Instagram being so big. All of our references and all of our inspirations come from black music in Zebede – also generally because all music comes from Blues. right? With us it’s how we feel, and hopefully the rest of the world will feel too. If you feel a certain way you should always write it down, in a haiku or chords and just release it. It doesn’t matter if some artists feel that they can’t talk about these topics because they don’t have a big enough platform. If you have ten people who are following you or like your music, they are going to listen to what you have to say. You just have to say it and put it at the forefront of your art. At the end of the day, I am black and the boys are very freethinking, so our music has these topics. I don’t think we’ll ever not talk about it.
What changes would you like to see in the music industry?
I would actually like to see women represented better across all genres. At the Brits there was only about four women nominated out of twenty categories and it was like – what are you listening to? We are half of the population! There are so many great women artists who are underrepresented, and I think black and minority artists are underrepresented too. We keep them to their ‘genres’ which is a problem, we label everything. People say “oh, you want to listen to black music? Oh, that’s Hip-Hop or R&B.” That’s not true! There’s some of the biggest in Pop, Techno, Drum & Bass – all kinds of people in there. We need to get rid of the labels. All of the major radio stations and Spotify playlists need to be representing this because they have so much reach.
Despite the lockdown, what are you all hoping to achieve by end of the year?
I think we want to grow our fanbase and following. We want more people to hear us, but it’s obviously very difficult right not because we’re not gigging. I would love for us to start planning a tour with some of our favourite local artists like Brother Zulu. We love them so would love to plan a show. We just want to release music and just keep releasing. We also want to keep expanding on our message. As each song goes by, we’re figuring more out about ourselves. I want to experience everything with Zebede, so we’re putting that into place for next year.
Massive thanks to Leah for answering our questions!