VAMPA & ZÍA Talk Collab “New Levels” & Getting Back On The Road [Mix+Q&A]
Two is always better than one, so it’s an extra special occasion for VAMPA & ZÍA. The bass music artists and friends both made their Circus Records debut earlier this month by joining on the fire-y single, “New Levels.”
VAMPA brings her genre-fluid approach, along with unmistakable melodies and vivid sound design. Riding high off her GRVDNCR release, “Blood Moon,” her catalogue is decorated with placements at Big Beat, Kannibalen, Boogie T’s Drama Club Recordings and Zed’s Dead’ Deadbeats.
Philadelphia-native ZÍA is another rising talent and close friend of VAMPA. Their B2B sets at events like Big Dub and Drive In’s give each artist the chance to showcase their own style and clash to create something new. ZÍA will also be joining HE$H and Bommer later this year on tour.
For their first official studio collaboration, ZÍA’s distinctive style complements VAMPA’s craftiness.
Check out our full Q&A with VAMPA & Zia, who discussed how they met, “New Levels,” and how their styles compliment eachother:
Tell us about your history. How did y’all first meet?
VAMPA: I was on my first tour with Boogie T.rio and we stopped in Philadelphia towards the end of the tour. ZÍA was friends with the whole crew and I was so stoked to hear she was planning on coming out to the show, since we had been internet friends for a while leading up to that. We clicked immediately and it felt like we were long lost sisters, honestly. Since then she has become my rock through this journey and one of my best friends in the whole world.
ZÍA: The first time Emily and I met in person was when she was on the Boogie T.RIO tour and they played a show in Philly, my hometown, that also happened to be on my birthday. We had already been chatting a ton, having the same management had allowed us to build a pretty solid online friendship! We instantly hit it off, and later that year we did a tour together; needless to say, we bonded a lot during that time.
What was the first time you two performed together? What are some of the challenges performing back to back’s?
VAMPA: Our first back to back set was at Elektricity in Pontiac, Michigan. It was such an amazing time joining a close friend up there; the energy was distinctly high, and we got to incorporate midtempo into our set which was a new approach for both of us. Back to backs are usually incredibly nerve racking for me, especially when I’m with someone I don’t know as well personally. These sets usually have no planning involved, so a lot of concentration is necessary to get into the groove and complement their flow with your own. Track structure of different genres can vary greatly as well, so the more confident you are improvising the smoother it will play out, and the more fun you can have with it.
ZÍA: The first time we played together was the first stop on our tour together at Electricity in Pontiac, Michigan. It was also the first time we had ever played back to back. It was wild and the room was packed, which we were not expecting. The crowd’s energy was so amazing, and our B2B went effortlessly, especially considering that it was our first time playing together. I’d say our biggest challenge while playing b2b is that we DJ at different paces; I love long, dramatic intros, and Emily has a much more fast-paced mixing style. We compromise when we play together. I mix a little faster, and every few tracks, I’ll play one of my long intros so it all evens out!
How do you think your styles are compliment?
VAMPA: With ZÍA’s arsenal of deep and experimental dubstep, and mine being mostly heavier dubstep, we complement each other perfectly. ZÍA’s style is best described as that wobbly, sub-heavy dubstep that hits in your chest on every beat, while mine is that high energy neck breaking type vibe. The set always lends itself to a super balanced flow in this way.
ZÍA: I think our styles complement each other quite well! My deeper, more wobbly selections mixed with her super heavy style gives our sets a nice balance. Emily also has impeccable song selection and plays a lot of tracks that meet in the middle. They’re heavy, but not all tear out dubstep, which sets me up to play some of the more experimental music that I enjoy playing.
How did ‘New Levels’ come together? When did you two first start the collab and how was the process of finishing it remotely?
VAMPA: I believe I sent the initial project over to her back in January of this year, it was a deeper one than my usual style so I thought she would be the perfect person to collaborate with on it. As expected, she gave it her own touch that really made the track come to life. Within that track we were able to blend our styles together which was so cool to see in my first collab with another artist, it really set the bar high. Finishing this project remotely was not as stressful as I thought it would be. It was actually fun not knowing what to expect on her behalf until she bounced me her revisions. As I had laid out the rough skeleton of the tune, she polished everything and added her touch to a point where we didn’t need to do much more back and forth to make it an amazing track. I think when you trust someone in their execution it becomes a lot less stressful and more exciting to see what it can become, outside of what you could’ve imagined for it yourself.
ZÍA: “New Levels” was originally Emily’s project that she brought to me, thinking it would be up my alley. It already had a really solid drop with a catchy melody, and I was stoked on it right away. The production process was a lot of sending the project back and forth for a few months, tweaking things the other didn’t love, but we didn’t have too much trouble. I think “New Levels” is a good representation of where we both are now as artists and how our production has evolved.
Why is it you like the dark, heavy side of dubstep? What about it appeals to you as an artist and as a fan of the scene?
VAMPA: I think darker, heavier dubstep offers an incredible outlet to release emotions in a constructive way. Throughout high school I was working through some of the lowest points in my life and I felt misunderstood by many in my town. Going to dubstep shows in Chicago gave me an outlet to be part of a community of music lovers and people that could shed all their worries together. The heaviness of dubstep lends itself to such a high energy environment with everyone head banging and really moving on their feet, that it’s hard to really be in your head in those moments. Strangely enough, I learned a lot about presence through these feelings and I want to provide that for crowds that I play to as well.
ZÍA: While I love almost every kind of music, both electronic and other genres, I’ve always been attracted to heavy music. My dad got me started REALLY young with Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Pink Floyd, Stevie Ray Vaughan and a lot of other heavy-ish bands. My late cousin Daniel, who was like a big brother to me, took it even farther and showed me Slayer, Metallica, Pantera, Iron Maiden and other metal bands. I kept up with this pattern on my own as I got older, digging into the punk scene and falling in love with Sex Pistols, Minor Threat, Dead Kennedys, and eventually getting in to newer metal bands like Slipknot, Korn, Tool, etc. It was only a matter of time until I found all the different pockets of heavy electronic music that sucked me in right away.
What about this track stands out to you?
VAMPA: I love the ebb and flow of this track as a whole. It’s arranged in a way where in the beginning, the beat is simple and catchy, which sets the stage and vibe for the rest of the track. The second drop takes a step back and is especially minimal in structure, with the main bass really highlighted in this section. Approaching the third drop, I think it’s easy to expect a return to the first drop’s arrangement again, yet this one takes a surprising turn and shines a whole new light on the track. Being the most complex section, it is by far my favorite way to wrap up the tune.
ZÍA: Although it’s a pretty heavy track, my favorite part of “New Levels” has to be the catchy melody, as well as the diversity in the drops. I think we were able to have something out of the box with the first drop, something for the headbangers with the second drop and my personal favorite, a super long-note in the third drop.
What was it like working with Circus Records on this release?
VAMPA: I grew up going to Flux Pavilion and Doctor P shows and these two artists shaped my love for bass music in such an instrumental way. Suffice it to say it was a full circle moment for me to release on their label now, something I never could have imagined possible back when I was just a concert goer. Circus welcomed us into the family so easily and we really felt confident in this release through their words of support. LOVE THIS LABEL!
ZÍA: Working with Circus Records has been nothing but an honor. I still can’t believe we’ve released with them. I’ve been listening to Flux Pavilion and Doctor P for over a decade, and Circus has always been one of my favorite labels. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have our song on such a legendary label, it feels like a dream.
This past year was a trying and challenging time for all. How was this past year perhaps helped shape you as an artist and person?
VAMPA: Honestly, it was just the type of break that I needed to address parts of myself I had let fall to the wayside, especially concerning my physical and mental health. I didn’t realize how much touring had tired me out until I had a moment to rest and reflect on these aspects. After a while I was itching to get back out there again and did feel trapped in a state of uncertainty, which challenged me to further make peace with my present moment and never take a moment for granted. As an artist I had the opportunity to gain inspiration from other environments than live music, which had previously been a huge motivator for me. Connecting with nature gave me the peace of mind to reflect on my emotions in a new light, which led to some of the best lyrics I have ever written. In the end I am grateful for how much lockdown taught me about my place in this world as an artist and more generally, as a human being.
ZÍA: Yes, this past year has indeed been hard. At times I felt more lost than ever. I was pretty emotionally crippled by the shock of everything for the first couple months and couldn’t bring myself to work on anything for a bit. However, after a while, I jumped back to it and have been working on so much music, both electronic and a few other projects that I’m really excited about. I’m so thankful to have been able to keep my project going and be back playing shows and releasing music again!
After a year of no shows, what are you most looking forward to about getting back on the road:
VAMPA: There is so much excitement surrounding shows coming back for artists and fans alike. As a DJ there is nothing that makes or breaks a set more than the energy in the room; if everyone is having an amazing time it feeds into what I feel on stage. Since everyone has lacked their live musical outlet for so long, I can’t imagine how stoked they are going to feel finally being free from their cooped up home space. I expect this time to be a newfound moment of ecstasy in all of our lives, and seeing them getting down in the crowd will be a long awaited treasure.
ZÍA: I am soooooo much looking forward to the bus tour with HE$H and Bommer! I just can’t wait to be back on the road, playing shows night after night, meeting more fans and living the tour life again.
What else do you have on the horizon that we should be looking forward to?
VAMPA: I have been working and re-working my EP for months now, making sure the style expresses how I have grown as a music producer in the past couple years. I am always aiming to embody what I am feeling through my music and I finally feel I am reaching a point where I’m able to properly convey the feelings I would like to through my music. With a list of headline shows on the way, I can’t wait to play out these new tracks for people and see the crowd’s reaction before it comes out. With the amount of work that’s gone into it, I think it will be incredibly special for me to watch that response come to life.
ZÍA: I have so many things on the horizon! I’m currently working on wrapping up my next EP, adding to the visual experience of my sets, and leveling up the ZíA project as much as possible!!