Interview: Zëta Ræ on the bold choice to record alt rock in a city that favours country

Zëta Ræ delves into Nashvilles underground music scene, and the tenacious, passionate, wise, and talented artists that reside there.

Zëta Ræ, the genre-defying artist, has unleashed ‘INFATUATED‘, a track that marries hyperpop with grunge rock, capturing the electrifying rush of a newfound crush.

With an uncanny ability to seamlessly navigate between pop-punk, rock, and hyper-pop, Ræ refuses to be pigeonholed by genre conventions.

Zëta Ræ single 'INFATUATION'

In an exclusive interview, we sat down with Zëta Ræ to delve into her world, from her diverse musical influences to the vibrant Nashville music scene.

Get ready to discover the artist behind the groundbreaking sound.

Zëta Ræ single 'INFATUATION'_1
Credit: Jesse Paul

Happy: What are you up to today?

Zëta Ræ: Today is my day off from work, so I’m taking the opportunity to relax and catch up on some fun, music related work – like this interview!

Happy: Tell us about where you are from? What’s the scene like in your neck of the woods?

Zëta Ræ: Growing up, we moved around a lot so I can’t say exactly where I’m “from” per say. I spent the majority of my time on the east coast and in midwestern/ southern states of

the US, and I currently live in Nashville.

The scene here is uniquely inspiring. I recognize that pursuing rock and alternative music in a place that favours country is a bit of a bold choice, but that’s exactly why I love it here. 

Nashville’s underground scene is bursting with some of the most tenacious, passionate, wise, and talented artists I’ve ever met. 

Going against the grain in such a solidified industry creates this sense of restless camaraderie – which makes for honest and innovative art.

Happy: Describe an average day?

Zëta Ræ: Everyday is a little bit different, but I do have a few core things that I try to implement. I love slow mornings and try to wake up early enough to play a bit before I get into the day. 

Always coffee, usually laughing with someone I love. I try my best to avoid my phone unless it’s something urgent. 

Sometimes I have to rush into work, but if I have time, I’ll do some kind of puzzle or craft. 

Lately I’ve been really into The New York Times Mini Crosswords and embroidery. Then, I look over long term goals try to tackle at least one practical task and one creative task per day. 

Dinner is my signal to break and after that I let myself do whatever – see my friends, sit and think, journal, clean, watch TikTok. This part of my day is where a lot of my songs are born.

Happy: What did you listen to growing up that fuelled your passion for music?

Zëta Ræ: My mom is a singer and my dad is a guitar player, so I grew up hearing them play mostly gospel music. 

Watching them perform and understanding their connection to music has fueled that passion more than anything else.

They both have a love for classic rock – so vocal runs and heavy riffs have both been there since the beginning.

I was also a big musical theatre kid and listened to a lot of show tunes.

Happy: How did each member of Zëta Ræ initially get into music, and what inspired you to pursue it professionally?

Zëta Ræ: I met Jake (Jacob Saint Patrick) at the Pavement on Boylston St by Berklee. I was at a low point and was considering dropping out and/or quitting music altogether.

I felt called to send him my stuff and, after introducing me to his roommates Matt Bolton and Josh Parra (Vaudlow), we’ve all been working together ever since. I was inspired to really pursue it after I met them.

I wanted to do what my peers were doing at school, but didn’t have any confidence in my abilities. They believed in me and in the music and have given me so much space to grow into myself over the years.

Happy: Can you share a bit about your individual musical backgrounds and how they contribute to the collective sound of Zëta Ræ?

Zëta Ræ: Everyone is a multi-instrumentalist and contribute in a number of ways. Matt plays guitar and handles the heavy lifting when it comes to production and engineering. Jake plays bass and Josh plays drums. 

Typically I’ll compose something and demo it out, then we collaborate on the final parts and production.

Happy: What are some of the band’s musical influences that have left a significant mark onyour sound or style?

Zëta Ræ: We tend to find inspiration in a lot of the same places. Ambient music, industrial metal, big soundscapes. 

They’ve taken a step further in every direction I’ve wanted to go while keeping the core intact. 

Heavy, still, or experimental – my music always sounds like a more refined and interesting version of itself once they hop on.

Happy: How do you approach the creative process when writing and producing new music? Are there specific rituals or methods you find particularly effective?

Zëta Ræ: I’m mostly inspired by sound. Sometimes toplines or lyrics will come to me, but usually I have to make a beat or pick up an instrument to have any kind of inspiration. The music informs me on what I’m feel the need to say. Every so often I learn a new instrument or try a new method. It’s really easy to get stuck in your ways as a writer.

Playing around, not knowing what I’m doing, and being silly all help me grow and stay excited.

Happy: What has been one of the most memorable moments or experiences for Zëta Ræ as a band so far?

Zëta Ræ: In 2021, I was asked to do a Berklee showcase for Atlantic Records… three days before it was happening. The band was in Nashville and without hesitation they were on their

way to Boston. None of us had played all together in a room or practiced as a band before, and I had never performed my original music. We blindly went up there and killed it. It was one of the coolest moments of my life.

Happy: In terms of live performances, how do you prepare for shows, and what do you enjoy most about connecting with your audience in a live setting?

Zëta Ræ: We practice a lot on our own, and then have one full band practice. I try and practice until I get to a point where I can completely let go and just have fun. There’s nothing better than being in the present moment onstage.

It’s so cool to see people sing along and even cooler to hear their feedback face to face. I started releasing music in April of 2020, and although online responses are super meaningful, there’s nothing more meaningful than sharing the experience in person.

Happy: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects, releases, or events that fans can look forward to from Zëta Ræ?

Zëta Ræ: We’re wrapping up the music video for INFATUATED which will be coming out very very soon!!! I’m very excited about that.

Happy: “INFATUATED” is described as capturing the sense of divine and infinite adoration for a crush. Can you share more about the creative process behind this track and what you hope listeners will take away from it?

Zëta Ræ: Matt sent me the initial instrumental a few months back and I was absolutely obsessed.

It felt like a shaken up soda ready to pop. This was the first time we collaborated from the ground up. I came up with a melody and wrote the lyrics with him in the studio. It has a lot of unbridled, restless energy that I hope is cathartic to people.

Happy: The songwriting process for “INFATUATED” began with the simple theme of having a crush. How did your personal experiences influence the song, and what was it like transitioning from hypothetical scenarios to writing about real emotions?

Zëta Ræ: Writing really is the voice of your subconscious sometimes. My goal was to try and write about a basic, general topic in an interesting way. So I picked having a crush and wrote about it through the lens of biology and space metaphors.

However, I was falling for one of my friends, someone I knew not everyone would approve of and so I was in denial. The more I wrote, the more the truth reflected back at me. By the time we were finishing the second verse, I couldn’t ignore my feelings anymore. I sent the song to them and we’ve been together ever since :)

Happy: The visual aspect seems to play a significant role in Zëta Ræ’s artistic expression. How do you approach incorporating visuals into your projects, and what do you aim to convey through this medium?

Zëta Ræ: The visuals always come after the music. Prior to moving to Nashville, I’ve done all of the visuals myself. A lot of it has been off the cuff and based on aesthetics that I like.

Only recently have I started collaborating and being more intentional about it. There are so many ways to visually present an idea, but I always strive to convey the same feeling that the song gives.

Happy: The cover art for “INFATUATED” is credited to Anna Jedrejczyk, and promotional photos to Lindsey Webb and Jesse Paul. Can you share more about the collaboration with these visual artists and how their work complements the music?

Zëta Ræ: Anna is one of my best friends from high school and one of the most talented painters I know. I’ve been wanting to collaborate on something for years and have been waiting for the right song. There’s a lot of lyrics about biology in ‘INFATUATED’ and eyes are her specialty. I was completely blown away when I saw it. Jesse was the first person I shot with when I moved to Nashville.

He is so kind, talented, innovative, and is so great to brainstorm and collaborate with. His portraits were made for magazines. Lindsey shoots for my talented artist friend Maggie Miles and I fell in love with her style. She’s become one of my closest friends and we’ve worked on everything from music videos, to promo, to live shoots together. She totally gets me and understands my vision so well. I love working with her.

Happy: Looking ahead, what can fans of Zëta Ræ expect in terms of future releases or projects? Are there any exciting developments on the horizon that you can share with your audience?

Zëta Ræ: I’m finishing up the next single titled ‘It’s Fine’ which will be coming out sometime within the next few months. It’s completely different from ‘INFATUATED.’ It feels very mature and I’m excited to show people a new version of my artistry.

Happy: Lastly, what makes you happy?

Zëta Ræ: Little knickknacks and trinkets.