Jeremy Zucker on the Pre-Apocalyptic Beauty of 'love is not dying' [Q&A]
Photos: Meredith Truax
Listening to Jeremy Zucker often feels like grasping onto a fleeting moment in time. Nowhere does this sentiment ring more true than on the New Jersey artist's highly-anticipated debut album, love is not dying. The 13-track offering is the culmination of the past few years, which have seen him emerge from the suburban town of Franklin Lakes to stand as one of pop's most promising artists.
With sold-out tours across the world and over two billion cumulative streams to date, it may come as an initial surprise how deeply intimate love is not dying feels. From its very opening moment - "still," a cinematic and swelling intro that is sonic personification of watching a Super 8 film - Zucker establishes his debut as one near and dear to his heart. Blending sampled audio clips of the world and people around him with dynamic production that runs the gamut from meticulously-crafted minimalistic soundscapes to euphoric bouts of catharsis, disparate collages of sounds and memories flood in and out of focus at a moment's notice.
In love is not dying, Zucker makes good on his promise as a new generation's burgeoning soft-spoken pop star. We had the pleasure of catching up with Zucker via email to talk about his long-awaited debut album, leaving suburbia for New York City, and what one moment of his life he would relive.
What do you miss / not miss most about Franklin Lakes?
I miss suburbia. My parents have since sold our house there, so I miss having that escape so close to the city. At the same time, I feel so fortunate to be living and working in the greatest city in the world :)
It would be no understatement to say you've had your fair share of success without having yet to put out an album. What is it about this collection of songs that made you want to deliver them as your debut album?
As soon as I started the process of working on the album, I knew it was going to be a long one. The first songs I wrote were “always, i’ll care” and “julia.” Those are two of my favorite songs I have ever written, so I set my standards for the album pretty high from the jump. They’re also such different songs. I just knew that I wanted a full-length project filled of music that really expressed all of the different ways that I think and feel, and I knew that I would have to “fill in the gap” between those songs, so to speak. I ended up doing that; it was a long, emotional experience - punctuated by headline tours around the world - taking place over the past year and a half.
Can you talk about the "love" present on your love is not dying?
The “love” part is pretty self-explanatory. The part that may need explaining is the “not dying” part… but if you really listen the album, it’ll all make sense.
Is it largely autobiographical?
100%. I approach music the same way I approach therapy, lol.
What do you hope people take away from love is not dying?
I really just hope that people feel the same things that I felt while writing it. I know that if they understand and can relate to those emotions and stories, they’ll be comforted and inspired the same way I was (and still am).
You have a wonderful gift for blending minimalistic soundscapes with unexpected flourishes of production and instrumentation. From a sonic point of view, how do you go about crafting a song?
Well thank you, haha. Not everyone has an ear for production, so it makes me really excited when people notice those things. You may have described it better than I could have… soundscape is definitely the right word. I try to layer together sounds that all have a common theme and elicit a very specific feeling. Whether it’s synthwork or sample-based, those first couple layers usually inspire the whole song. Once I have a skeleton, I fill in the spaces with ear candy that fits the mood of the song. I usually overdo it and end up stripping a lot of those really cool elements that I’ve created away because they don’t feel 100% right.
How would you describe the feeling of your debut album without using any genre terms?
To me it feels like the sky is falling, like the weight of the world about to crash down around me, but it hasn’t yet. Almost pre-apocalyptic. It’s like looking into the sky and watching a life-ending meteor rush towards you. The thought is horrifying, but in imagining it, that moment also holds a lot of beauty.
How have you been staying safe and sane in quarantine?
Quarantine has been tough for sure… but honestly looking forward to my album as been the main thing really getting me through. Having things to look forward to is important. My roommate is getting a dog next week. We’re really looking forward to that.
If you could relive one moment of your life again, what would it be?
That’s a serious one. The first one the came to mind was my show in Tokyo this past fall. Some of my best friends in the world were there, and I had sort of low expectations going into the show. I kept hearing from artist friends that crowds in Tokyo were generally less hyped for concerts and a little stiff / hard to connect with. It turned out being one of the greatest shows I’ve ever done, there was so much love and energy in the room, it makes me want to cry just thinking about it. I can’t wait to go back.
Who are your Ones To Watch?
Henry Jamison, Andy Polk, brakence, Porches, to name a few!
Listen to love is not dying below: