Interview: Zebede

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!

 

PLAYLIST: Pride 2020

With no marching, no gatherings and no physical prides this year, it’s more important than ever to remember why Pride started. Remember the lengths the LGBTQIA+ communities have come, but more importantly, how far we still have to go. The LGBTQIA+ communities and their allies need to stand strong and united with each other, but especially the black and transgender and gender non-conforming communities.

This period of lockdown has been, and is an incredibly difficult time for everyone, with increasing levels of anxiety, isolation and loneliness. Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline, where I am Co-Chair, has seen a 40% increase in contacts to their services, and a 42% increase in people who are transgender and gender-non conforming getting in touch. People have been reaching out for support all across the LGTBQIA+ communities, from young people feeling the pressures of the closure of schools, to trans people self-isolating within transphobic families, to the elderly – an already isolated group – who felt they may not see a friendly face for a very long time.

The lockdown has had an unimaginable impact on all of us, especially folx from marginalised communities – magnifying any existing situation people may be in from domestic violence to transphobia, biphobia, homophobia but especially loneliness and isolation. Something members of the LGBTQIA+ communities have been battling heavily against for a while now.

What Pride means to everyone within the LGBTQIA+ communities will be different, but as a queer person I stand and I protest for every single one of those people’s rights. For LGBTQIA+ rights, for anti-racism, for black people, for people of colour, for transgender and gender non-conforming people and every intersectionality in-between. We have to learn from our history and we have to work together where we support the human rights of each and every one of us. People should be free to live without fear of judgement or discrimination. People should not have to fear for their lives because of their sexuality, gender identity, race, socio-economic class, disability or religion.

If your pride flag doesn’t include black and brown stripes, it’s outdated. If your pride flag doesn’t include the transgender flag, it’s outdated. So wherever you are, at whatever Pride you are supporting, spread the word and make it known – equality is for everyone, but most importantly, black lives matter, trans lives matter, black trans lives matter.
Tash Walker (Co-Founder of GIHE & Co-Chair of Switchboard)

 

The GIHE grrrls have put together a playlist full of their favourite LGBTQIA+ artists to help celebrate Pride 2020. Read about their choices below and scroll down to the end of the post to listen to the playlist on Spotify

Janelle Monae – ‘Pynk’
A brash celebration of creation. Self love. Sexuality. And p-ssy power! Need I say more. (Tash Walker)

Amaroun – ‘Perish’ 
Amaroun talks about the themes she evokes in her music which consistently touch on her journey of being a black queer woman, overcoming struggles with sexuality, and the importance of emotional honesty in music. In Amaroun’s words, “this track is an autobiographical reintroduction of myself”. It’s one of my faves. (TW)

Foxgluvv – ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’
A sparkling, sultry tune inspired by the 1985 film of the same name, ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’ is another example of Foxgluvv’s natural ability to create “hungover pop” tracks that celebrate her queer identity. We’re big fans here at GIHE. (Kate Crudgington)

TABS – ‘Love Like This’
We had the pleasure of having TABS on our radio show back in 2019, where she sang the original of ‘Love Like This’ and we savoured every moment. Whilst signed to major labels (Polydor, BMG) TABS felt misunderstood. As a club promoter of Butch, Please! – an amazing lesbian club night which we love – she connected with butch lesbians all over the world and began the journey of making her EP of the same name. Seeking authenticity, she self-released this EP with the support of her queer community, and we are so glad she did. (TW) 

Lido Pimienta – ‘Eso Que Tu Haces’
When I interviewed Lido Pimienta earlier this year, she described herself as “the grey area” in Colombian culture – “but very gay, very queer, very feminist.” I’ve been captivated by her music and her artistic vision since listening to her second album Miss Colombia, and feel that no-one else makes electronic music sound as warm and meaningful as she does. (KC)

Arlo Parks –  ‘Black Dog’ 
I cannot get enough of Arlo Parks and her mesmerising music, so full of emotion I get lost in every second. Her latest release ‘Black Dog’ is no different, a frank, heartbreaking insight into the the darkness of depression. Mental health awareness within the LGTBQIA+ communities is so important, especially with rising levels of isolation and loneliness. From talking, to supporting, to asking and reaching out for help is so important and totally OK to do. The more we can look out for each other, the more we can encourage and show people that asking for help is a sign of strength not weakness, the more we can combat these rising numbers. (TW)

Brown Belt – ‘Lamplight’
Brown Belt self-described as the non-binary boi band of your dreams, and we couldn’t agree more. I’ve only just come across them with their latest release ‘Lamplight’ a super catchy number, with a rad video to accompany it. Looking forward to hearing more from this trio, certainly ones to watch. (TW)

Personal Best – ‘This Is What We Look Like’
Headliners at one of our last Finsbury gigs, Personal Best perfectly brand themselves as “classic rock for tragic lesbians”. Closing their set for us in December, front person Katie dedicated this track to the queer community. As a sea of buoyant voices joined in with “I wanna kiss you in the street / where everyone can see /’cause this is what we look like”, the poignancy of the lyrics in these uncertain times was overwhelming, and an empowering sense of unity took hold as the crowd danced and sang in solidarity. A perfect anthem for love between anyone and everyone. (Mari Lane)

Bitch Hunt – ‘Spaceman’
Since first meeting at Roller Derby, London based all queer/non-binary band Bitch Hunt formed at First Timers Fest, and have been going from strength to strength ever since. Filled with catchy, scuzzy hooks, a subtle tongue-in-cheek wit and the gritty deadpan vocals of front person Sian, ‘Spaceman’ is an observational and relatable slice of punk-pop. A spot-on reflection on the sickening arrogance of all those cis male ‘splainers and ‘spreaders we so often have to endure in our day to day lives. An uplifting raging anthem inspiring us all to take those men down a peg (or four). (ML)

Kermes – ‘Time To Shut Him Up’
Self proclaimed “anxious rock for the gay agenda”, Leicester band Kermes were due to headline for us at The Finsbury in August, and I’m desperately hoping we can get this rescheduled for as soon as it is safe to do so! Addressing issues such as gender dysphoria, sexism and dysfunctional relationships, their infectious emotion-strewn punk-pop oozes a raw, angst-driven energy and scuzzy shimmering power. ‘Time to Shut Him Up’ is taken from Kermes’ 2018 album, We Choose Pretty Names. (ML)

Ms Mohammed – ‘Pandora’
‘Pandora’ and its rolling, rumbling drums – such a tune by Ms Mohammed who we had a total blast with in the Get In Her Ears studio last year. As well as being an artist in her own right, Ms Mohammed founded the Clit Rock movement in 2013 as a way of speaking out against female genital mutilation. As a champion of cross-cultural tolerance and an out queer artist who advocates for LGBTQIA+ rights and visibility, Ms Mohammed is challenging prejudice through her music and we stand by her every step of the way! (TW)

Le Tigre – ‘Hot Topic’
Pioneers of queer culture and ultimate faves, Le Tigre’s ‘Hot Topic’ is a celebratory ode to those who’ve inspired us. Paying homage to some queer feminist champions of the ‘90s and earlier, it’s an empowering and joy-filled protest in the face of adversity. (ML)

Planningtorock – ‘Non Binary Femme’
This track is take from one of my favourite albums of all time, Planningtorock’s Powerhouse. Unarguably paving the way for not only a better understanding of what those words mean, but also leading in acceptance for transgender and gender non-conforming people. Planningtorock and their music, has unquestionably helped me on my own gender identity journey and I’m sure many others. (TW)

Bishi – ‘Who Has Seen the Wind’
Last year as part of the Southbank Centre’s 2019 Meltdown Festival, Kate and I had the privilege of meeting Bishi. An incredibly talented singer, electronic rock-sitarist, producer and performer born in London of Bengali heritage. She is also the co-founder of WITCiH: The Women in Technology Creative Industries Hub, a platform elevating Women & Non-Binary in tech through commissions, performances & panels. (TW)

Blonde Maze – ‘Hold On To Me’
NY based GIHE fave Blonde Maze consistently writes heartfelt shimmering electro-pop reflecting on life and love. Taken from last year’s EP Hold On, ‘Hold On To Me’ is an example of the utterly enchanting euphoric soundscapes Blonde Maze is capable of creating. I listen to Blonde Maze whenever I need to feel calm; I just can’t get enough of the iridescent hooks and blissful, emotion-filled romanticism. The perfect soundtrack if you need to take a break this Pride to stop and refuel before continuing to protest, organise and celebrate. (ML)

Husk – ‘Below The Neck’
“I would never change being trans. I would never change being a trans musician. And the industry should support us. Book us. Play us. Listen to us. We have so much to offer.” A poignant sentiment this Pride from Trans, Non-Binary artist Husk, who combines ’80s synth-pop nostalgia with fresh leftfield pop to create their signature sound. A colourful, high-energy offering, recent single ‘Below The Neck’ is the perfect danceable anthem for any Pride party – though, for now, sadly, dancing around your bedroom/living room to it will have to do. (ML)

Bronski Beat – ‘Smalltown Boy’
This track was released in 1984 at the beginning of the AIDS crisis by openly gay Bronski Beat, ‘Smalltown Boy’ is a heartbreaking story given an empowering beat. In 2020 it may feel like we have come so far from the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 80s and 90s but those lost will never be forgotten, and we, the LGBTQIA+ communities still live with the impact today. (TW)

Lady Gaga – ‘Born This Way’
I know I add this Gaga track to our GIHE Pride playlist every year, but it’s such a BANGER and so fun to dance to. She’s always celebrating being the best version of yourself, and for that reason, I can’t leave Gaga out! (KC)

Hercules & Love Affair – ‘Blind’
Taken from their self-titled album released in 2008, the same year I attended London Pride for the first time, this is without a doubt the theme tune to me fully embracing my sexuality, feeling proud of who I was and strong enough to come out happily in all aspects of my life. (TW)

Princess Nokia – ‘Sugar Honey Iced Tea’
Openly queer rapper and all round inspiration, Destiny Nicole Frasqueri – aka Princess Nokia – writes powerful, feminist anthems promoting self love and body positivity. A strong advocate of intersectional feminism, having founded the Smart Girl Club with Milah Libin, a podcast where she discusses healthy living and urban feminism, Princess Nokia offers a hopeful and empowering presence in these times when pushing for change is so important. (ML)

Lotic – ‘Burn A Print’
Born in Houston USA but now a familiar face on the Berlin underground club and electronic music scene, Lotic (aka J’Kerian Morgan) shared her debut album, Power, in 2018. The record showcased her vocal and songwriting abilities for the first time, consolidating her skills into a coherent message about transforming fear in to fierce autonomy. ‘Burn a Print’ continues this narrative, as Lotic explains: “to burn your print into this Earth, because when you go, you need to remind the future bitches that you was here.” (KC)

Mykki Blanco (feat. Devendra Banhart) – ‘You Will Find It’
Queer pioneer and musician/rapper extraordinaire, Mykki Blanco has been an inspiration for the GIHE team for quite some time, and their voice is more poignant now than ever. ‘You Will Find It’, their latest offering, oozes a glistening, soulful splendour as shimmering hooks and swirling atmospherics provide the backdrop for Blanco’s trademark gritty power. Replacing their usual glitchy energy with a soothing aura, they have created a perfect tranquil interlude; an alluring soundscape to immerse yourself in and find blissful cathartic release. (ML)

kate can wait – ‘to be alone with you’
Molly Kate Rodriguez – aka kate can wait – is a collective member of Grimalkin Records, a US-based benefit label and queer artist collective. Rodriguez lives in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico and she crafts dark, haunting folk sounds. She’s not on Spotify, but you can listen to ‘to be alone with you’ via bandcamp. (KC)

Phantómódel – ‘Passing Through’
Another band on Grimalkin Records‘ roster, Phantómódel are a post-punk three-piece who explore the internal struggles of gender dysphoria and body image, systemic oppression and mental health through their dark sounds. Phantómódel describe themselves as a “TRANS GOTH POWERHOUSE of darkness dismantling white supremacy at every turn. We are phantoms of the night, goblins who lurk in the shadows, and demons of chaos and magic, here to enchant everyone we meet.” (KC)

Gordian Stimm – ‘Miscellaneous Body Parts’
The solo project of Maeve Westall of itoldyouiwouldeatyou, Gordian Stimm’s sound is visceral, distorted, yet at times totally dance-able. They remind me a little of early Passion Pit or Crystal Castles, and I recommend listening to their debut album, Your Body In On Itself, released via Amateur Pop earlier this year. (KC)

Perfume Genius – ‘Jason’
Having been a huge fan of Perfume Genius for many years now, it’s been wonderful immersing myself in his poignant latest album, Set My Heart On Fire Immediately. Reflecting on a one night stand he had with a straight man over fifteen years ago, ‘Jason’ resonates with its twinkling musicality, nostalgic lyrical story-telling and the raw emotion of Hadreas’ trademark heartstring-tugging vocals. Throughout changes in his musical style over the years, Perfume Genius never fails to captivate and inspire. (ML)

Antony & The Johnsons – ‘My Lady Story’
A strong advocate for trans rights, feminism and climate action, Anohni (formally of Antony and the Johnsons), is a necessary and powerful voice that we need now more than ever. On identifying as transgender, Anohni once said in an interview with The Guardian: “I was never going to become a beautiful, passable woman, and I was never going to be a man… It’s a quandary. But the trans condition is a beautiful mystery; it’s one of nature’s best ideas. What an incredible impulse, that compels a five-year-old child to tell its parents it isn’t what they think it is. Given just a tiny bit of oxygen, those children can flourish and be such a gift. They give other people licence to explore themselves more deeply, allowing the colours in their own psyche to flourish.” (ML)

Jackie Shane – ‘Any Other Way’
We’ve played Canadian soul-singer Jackie Shane multiple times on the GIHE radio show, and included her on many a playlist and we’re certainly not stopping now. Jackie was a pioneer for transgender rights in the 60s & 70s, a time when being your true self was not always welcomed, or accepted. (TW)

 

LISTEN: Amaroun – ‘Rise’

Having received support from the likes of BBC Radio 1’s Huw Stephens and BBC 6 Music’s Chris Hawkins, GIHE fave Jay Brown – aka Amaroun – returns to grace our ears with the fifth in a string of new singles she is releasing each month.

Flowing with shimmering hooks and glitchy beats alongside Brown’s rich, emotion-strewn vocals, ‘Rise’ continues the theme of being a queer woman, which has run throughout each of the tracks she’s released this year. Oozing a stirring, effervescent power, juxtaposed with a gritty energy, it’s a truly poignant reflection on rising up against oppression.

Of the track, Amaroun explains:

When you fall or get knocked down, do not stay down, do not let them hold you down,  rise up, rise up against oppression. If you are marginalised, if you are queer, it’s hard out there! Tell your story proudly, see yourself, your change and your journey as beautiful and as growth. You are an ever changing authentic being so just be exactly that.

 

Co-written with Boris Labant, ‘Rise’ is out now.

Mari Lane
@marimindles