ZLUTZ burst on the scene in late last year with a scorching sound energized by political rage, industrial-grade synths, and trauma-inducing beats. Their debut LP, Digital Wrath, unleashed in early 2019, was a solid agitprop collection of seething sociopolitical commentary soaked in waves of distortion and chaos. Highlights like “Cold Water,” “Heaven (Cheap Entry),” and “Fear Me” were absolutely next-level nightmarish bangers, and presented the band as nu-witch electropunk warriors poised to take over the world–or completely annihilate it whilst trying.
ZLUTZ are Jenny and Charlie, two rather sweet British youths who aren’t at all as menacing as their ominous soundscapes would suggest. But that’s rocknroll, innit? When their forces are combined and full ZLUTZ mode is activated, a true beast of a band is summoned. Charlie’s sinister productions cascade beneath Jenny’s evocative, often dissonant vocals. The hounds of hell? They scamper when they hear ZLUTZ coming! I avoided listening to ZLUTZ on a recent flight because I was worried their provocative frequencies would somehow mess with the plane’s instruments in the cockpit. And I say this is a testament to their true power! ZLUTZ contain a potent sense of purpose and a distinct sonic arsenal, and they are prepared to weaponize their discography in their audio crusade against tyranny and repression.
ZLUTZ captured my imagination with the intricate layers of discordant disco embedded in their sound. And ZLUTZ captured my heart with their brilliant, downright poetic lyricism and incisive commentary. In short, ZLUTZ captured me, and I am now imprisoned in the subterranean ice castle within a meteor speeding toward a devastating collision with our planet, which is from whence their sounds originate.
My dispatches from the pop underground are focused on the emergent, future sounds of subcultural art. Some might think ZLUTZ couldn’t be any further from pop, but I disagree. Despite the heavy distortion and twisted beats that inform the ZLUTZ sound, there is an element of pop embedded in their song craft and production.
Perhaps ZLUTZ are not a pop group in the traditional sense, and may be closer to something resembling anti-pop. But anti-pop is still pop. Traces of it are apparent in the blistering, anthemic chorus of “Trash,” in the haunting melodicism of “Grievance,” in the alluring intro to “Fear Me.” ZLUTZ may be the sound of pop music ripped asunder and set ablaze, but in the context of the underground and all its permutations, that still counts!
If you drill down, you will find that the basic elements of Charlie’s production structurally emulate archetypal dance pop forms, and that Jenny’s voice is quite lovely and pure when she’s not in full malevolent banshee mode. However, ZLUTZ quite intentionally employ their dystopian disguises to mirror the chaos and horror of the world around them. They are using ZLUTZ as a weapon, and this sonic assault is a reaction to the oppressive forces of modern society. ZLUTZ are performing an angry, primal scream back into the void that unbridled capitalism has created. Charlie and Jenny are purveyors of noise pop at its finest, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see aspects of their sound infiltrating the mainstream as the future unfolds.
I once famously described ZLUTZ as a band that can “rock harder and better than any guitar-based band could,” and I am happy to announce that on the eve of their newest release, this keen observation remains true. ZLUTZ are back and rocking harder than ever before. Please be fully prepared to throw your devil-horns up when you hear their new single, “Get Real.” The release, from their forthcoming sophomore album, drops on September 20, and it is a searing slice of anti-pop brilliance.
“Get Real” finds ZLUTZ addressing the disastrous state of the environment head-on by painting a portrait of a burning planet, teetering on the brink of being snuffed out like a Roman candle. “Get Real” is ZLUTZ in peak form, boiled down to a dark and pointed minimalism. They are continuing the political mission that they instigated on Digital Wrath, and the sound, like the subject matter, is stark and confrontational. It begins with simmering, metallic synths that gradually rise to boil, as Jenny’s sings chant-like above the rising cacophony. The angular rhythm is plodding and measured, and builds toward an apocalyptic climax that perfectly reflects the increasing danger and calamity our own planet faces as it hurtles toward ecological disaster.
Jenny’s lyrics are concise and brilliant as ever, drawing parallels between Dante’s Inferno and the burning Amazon rainforest, and implicitly connecting the impacts of unchecked capitalist greed to the ravaging of the environment. Her voice on this track is distorted to the point that it sounds like an emergency alert siren (or perhaps mimicking the sirens of myth? Or both??). “The system was blinking red” is the entire vibe of this track. ZLUTZ are challenging the audience to continue ignoring the mounting crisis every living being on the planet is presently facing, to go on as if everything is normal after they’ve assaulted your senses with their message.
The release of “Get Real” felt like the perfect time to catch up with darling ZLUTZ, my earliest pen pals for the Pop Notes series. Jenny and Charlie were as bright and articulate as ever, and it was a pleasure to find out what one of my favorite new bands has in store for us next!
BUNNY: What was the most ZLUTZ thing to happen to ZLUTZ in 2019?
JENNY: This year we made the shift from 90% collaborating over the internet and 10% working in person to Charlie quitting his job and moving down to Brighton so we could work together 24/7. So, a lot of stuff has happened that we could say. But we’re just … we’re just not going to. I will mention the time we were introduced to the stage at Brighton’s incredible non-profit anarchist cafe, very dear in our hearts, The Cowley Club, with: “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage, Jenny and Charlie, thhhhhhhhhhhe SLUTS!”. I swear half the audience were expecting a strip-tease. Nevertheless, it was still our best show yet, the audience were insane. I love everyone there.
CHARLIE: I will say that we, as a household at ZLUTZ HQ, made the astronomical discovery of the sweet elixir that is Dragon Soop (not sponsored but very much would love to be, hint hint @dragon_soop). We can only describe it as the UK’s answer to the US’s Four Loko, only we party so much harder than y’all could ever dream of. That shit is like rocket fuel.
BUNNY: Get Real seems to be a dire warning about the destruction of our environment. Can you tell me a little about what inspired this track?
JENNY: The Amazon is on fire. And this problem goes far beyond the recent news items and public outcry about it. Burning the rainforest is routine in the meat and dairy industry. Fire is used to clear large areas of forest so that soya and palm can be grown in the fertile soil. 90% of the soya grown in this way is fed to livestock. The Amazon alone contains 10% of the known species in the whole world so it’s no surprise that we’re in the middle of Planet Earth’s sixth mass extinction with 200 species going extinct every single day. That’s a faster rate than the mass extinction that killed off the dinosaurs. As it stands, we’ve destroyed 83% of animal species and 50% of plant species since the establishment of civilization. 60% of mammals on the face of the planet are us and our livestock. People say our music is too intense or even scary. To that I say that the reality we deal with in our music is much scarier. The human race is an endangered species. I suppose this song is a call to arms about that. In Greta Thunberg’s words, we are failing, but we haven’t failed yet.
CHARLIE: After our song Grievance from Digital Wrath, we felt compelled to revisit the topic of animal agriculture, but we wanted to take a more holistic approach and so this time round we chose to write about the environmental consequences. Everything in nature is connected so there really is no time or scope for being singularly minded about it.
BUNNY: When we last chatted, you were about to do your first live shows ever. Now ZLUTZ have played your first festival this summer! Tell me about that experience. What was the most memorable thing that you saw or that happened to you, aside from performing on stage?
JENNY: It was interesting. We had an amazing time and ended up playing an extra set. Guess you could say we killed it.
CHARLIE:I think I was way more excited about getting to see Robyn than I was to play my first festival set, I’m not going to lie. Sharing the bill with her was a real pleasure.
BUNNY: I’ve got to ask you about CYA!. I love the idea of you breaking from your regular sound and doing a pop house record (credited as ANG3L featuring Jenny Eva) and it’s such a fun single! What inspired you to moonlight as purveyors of a more conventional pop style? And can we expect a follow up?
CHARLIE: I was coming home from a Christmas walk last December with my family and the song Real Life ft. NAATIONS by Duke Dumont and Gorgon City came on in the car and I instantly fell in love with it. I’m not usually a huge fan of popular house music, I’m more into old school house if anything, but something about the song really grabbed my attention. I decided I could not pass up the chance to make a song like that considering I was so inspired by it at the time. So I started CYA! and finished it all in one day. Once it was finished I knew exactly who I wanted to do the vocals. Jenny, obviously. Me and Jen worked crazy hard on the track and we had so much fun with it. It was never a serious track for me, it was always just something to work on when I needed a break from ZLUTZ. But when I announced the release the tweet kinda popped off and I knew that the track was something more than just a bit of fun. People f*cking love that song. It warms my heart to see so many people enjoying my music just because it made them feel good, and not because it was political or whatever. As for a follow up, I’m not really sure. I definitely want to do a follow up track and I have a few demos but I just don’t think I could make anything that lives up to CYA!’s standards. I’m kinda terrified of releasing anything under ANG3L knowing that I absolutely will never make anything as good as CYA! again.
JENNY: I was really excited at the opportunity to break away from our more dark and intense stuff for a minute. Recently, I’ve been finding that I’m way more inspired when I’m in a positive mindset than I am in a more negative or pessimistic one. At the moment, when I start writing about how terrible everything is or something, I can’t get past line five. Since doing a course of CBT I’ve found that even when things are going wrong or I’m not actually feeling very positive, if I write in a reasonably optimistic way I can write pages and pages and find myself actually getting somewhere. Recently, my housemate and best friend kindly shared with me the author Elif Shafak and her idea that we should have pessimism of the mind and optimism of the heart. I’m kind of seeing ZLUTZ and ANG3L as fulfilling both those things for me at the moment. I want to keep doing this with ANG3L and see where it takes us. I’m going to snap Charlie out of the whole “fear of releasing a follow up” thing, don’t worry!
BUNNY: What influences (both musical and non-musical) have shaped ZLUTZ 2? And what can we expect from your follow up album?
JENNY: I don’t want to give away too much, but I guess I’ll take this opportunity to reveal that we’ve been making a concept album based on a single canonical text that everyone will have at least heard of. Originally, it was just one of the books I half-mindlessly grabbed off the shelf when Charlie sent me the first folder of demos for the album. Then I found myself coming back to it, and back to it again, and again. Every time it seemed to vibrate with significance. There was something in this. It’s a text that people have been using for hundreds of years to imagine the human condition and our place in the universe. I was starting to understand why. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a really f*cked up text. There are lots of ideas in there that I really don’t agree with. It’s difficult to explain without giving it away, but for now, just trust me when I say that this is a forward-looking album. I really hope it comes off that way. It has nothing to do with resurrecting the old and outdated. It has far more to do with watching the architecture of those ideals crumble. It has something to do with recognizing that God was made in our own image. That God is human. God is love. We explore what happens when human bodies find themselves removed from all that. Like many others before us, we’re using this text as a mirror through which to see ourselves and how we relate to others in a world where everything is becoming increasingly unfamiliar. I think that’s important right now.
CHARLIE: Musically, this album is inspired a lot more by soundscapes and the imagery within the lyrics coming out in the geography of the sound. When I started the album I was listening to a lot of noise-inspired music, and I think that definitely resonates in some of the tracks on this album. There are a couple of tracks that are like 2 minute bursts of complete chaos, but then there’s also a ten minute long track that’s more like a journey than anything else. Something that we’ve been able to do this time round is creating everything in collaboration rather than working separately. There are a couple of tracks that started on Jen’s guitar and ended up as something we couldn’t have dreamed of with Digital Wrath. But don’t worry, we still rock harder and better than any guitar based band could 😉