The first time I met Jess Zanoni, we talked about multipotentialites. It’s a word I couldn’t pronounce confidently – I still can’t – but nevertheless, I’m quietly confident that Jess is one. By “one” I mean a multipotentialite; Jess’ passions are in multitudes, she never truly stops. She’s constantly working on more than one thing at a time, dipping her toes into new creative spaces left, right and centre. Jess explores horizontally and vertically, in worlds we’ve imagined and worlds we haven’t even got to yet.
Over the last few years, Jess has been recording music in Melbourne with her band Arbes; you might have come across their EP Psalms through Sports Day Records back in 2016. If you’ve been itching for something new to listen to, you’re in luck – as of today, Jess has a new single to share, within a new solo project of her own, under the moniker Za Noon. We caught up to dive into this new project and the debut single that comes along with it, which to no surprise, lingers in-between the dream worlds and real worlds that Jess tends to live in herself.
Slumber: This is your first time releasing music under the banner of your own solo project, rather than with your band, Arbes. How would you describe this new project to someone who’s never heard your music before?
Jess Zanoni: I’m reluctant to describe the project in a broad sense, because I feel like I’m still in the early days of exploring different styles/sounds that interest me, and I anticipate that the next thing I put out might sound completely different to “Premonition.” But I guess for this song, it falls into a bedroom, dream-pop sound, with some jazzy licks and immersive, sweeping harmonies/vocals.
Pat Telfer who mastered the song said when he first heard it, it reminded him of a Laraaji song called “I Can Only Bliss Out (F’ Days)” —an interesting (and flattering) comparison. I remember telling my friend Steph this and she said “I feel this also—the emotional energy,” which, in my most generous interpretation, could indicate that they both share a similar sense of wonder, and interest in tender moments of mystery and beauty.
Slumber: What’s the process been like, writing music on your own, in comparison to writing music with Arbes over the years?
Jess: So different but gratifying. In Arbes, I make specific contributions with my voice, lyrics and bass playing, so the bulk of my creative input takes place within these realms. Arbes is a fusion of my, Sam and Anita’s individual expressions, but they manifest uniquely because they are intimately informed by each other.
It’s definitely been a big learning curve, figuring out how to map out entire songs alone! But I’ve loved the process— experiencing the magic of seeing a song shape-shift and reveal new things to you just through spending time with it. It’s definitely very absorbing and addictive, spending hours/days transfixed on one little element of a song. With that though, comes more room for frustration, perfectionism, feeling lost, and overthinking things. A great thing about being in a band is that you’re forced to make a decision. You’re accountable to something greater than yourself, so there’s a clearer sense of direction.
“It’s definitely been a big learning curve, figuring out how to map out entire songs alone! But I’ve loved the process— experiencing the magic of seeing a song shape-shift and reveal new things to you just through spending time with it.”
Slumber: If you had to describe the sensations of your new single, “Premonition,” in three words – what would they be?
Jess: Romantic, transportative, foamy.
Slumber: Can you tell us about the artwork for this release? What was the process of designing that like, between you and the artist?
Jess: I was very lucky to have Steph dedicate the time and energy in creating an artwork to represent this song. Her artwork feels like an extension of them as a person—intuitive, playful, bold. I sent Steph the song earlier this year, and gave her free reign to respond however they wanted to, and they sent me a few different options. The piece we went with is a painting on a canvas that I have sitting in my room. It speaks to the narration of the song, I think— of many selves unfolding, and echoing each other.
Slumber: I know that, outside of music, you juggle a lot of other creative projects. What have you been juggling lately – have you started working on anything new, or maybe even tried out a new hobby?
Jess: Arbes are in the process of recording our debut album at the moment, so I’ve been consumed by writing/recording vocals. For this record we decided that I’d record the vocals by myself (in the past I’ve always had Sam present/engineering in the room), so I’m spending a lot of time putting so much care into every element of it. I have grown, and am growing so much in the process, and have set a bar for myself beyond what I’ve done before. Naturally there are lots of highs and lows, which is to be expected with anything creative you really pour yourself into.
Otherwise, I’m writing a prose performance piece in collaboration with Melbourne musician Hyphira to perform at Emerging Writers Festival at the end of June. I haven’t written in this way before so I’m very excited to see where it goes.
“I have grown, and am growing so much in the process, and have set a bar for myself beyond what I’ve done before. Naturally there are lots of highs and lows, which is to be expected with anything creative you really pour yourself into.”
Slumber: Speaking of writing, do you have any favourite lyrics, maybe from a favourite song of yours?
Jess: I’ve been in love with Adrianne Lenker’s music since songs came out. Her lyrics are so stirring because they have such striking, poetic images and metaphors, and they’re emotional in a really pure, distilled way.
Not a lot, just forever is a perfect lyric (and song) to me. There’re a lot of lyrics I wish I wrote, but this is high up there. It encapsulates something that feels so deep with such lovely simplicity:
Not a lot, just forever / Intertwined, sewn together / As the rock bears the weather / As the wren bares her feathers / Not a lot, just forever
Slumber: How about the songs you’ve written – any favourite lyrics of your own, from over the years or more recently?
Jess: There’s an Arbes song called “Silver Rings” that we’re recording for the record, and I back myself with those lyrics. I wrote them about four years ago, but they still feel like a true, real embodiment of what I wanted to say at that time, and interestingly, they’re lyrics that I didn’t need to labour over. They felt like they were formed internally for some time, so when I was writing, it was like just reciting them down on the page rather than searching for them. The opening is:
There is more to us than just this / old silver rings that won’t loosen from fingers / a perfect metaphor of you and me
Slumber: Outside of your musical influences, what are you inspired by? Possibly a space you gravitated towards, or an image you couldn’t get out of your head when writing and recording for this new project?
Jess: When I was writing last year during lockdown I was fortunate enough to live at my family home, where I would walk up and down the beach every day buried in my thoughts. There’s something grounding about working through problems, untangling thoughts and working out melodies while literally “wading” through the shallows, climbing rocks and trudging across the sand. I am spatially very inspired and soothed by the ocean, the coast, cliffs, open air—those things centre me in every sense, especially creatively. Thematically, I’m inspired by intimacy, desire, relationships, people, and the way that I remember them.
“There’s something grounding about working through problems, untangling thoughts and working out melodies while literally “wading” through the shallows, climbing rocks and trudging across the sand. I am spatially very inspired and soothed by the ocean, the coast, cliffs, open air—those things centre me in every sense, especially creatively.”
Slumber: What’s your premonition of what comes after “Premonition”? The hopeful kind, not the sinister kind.
Jess: The relief and support that you receive in releasing something is fuel for me to keep going, or to start on the next thing, so I’m excited to feel that! I don’t have anything big planned for this project this year, with my time and energy being so focused on Arbes, but I can see myself sitting at my desk this winter playing with my korg, finishing some of my songs on guitar and wanting to play them in front of people, so that feels like a small, tangible hope.
Slumber: Finally, I have to ask – have you ever had a premonition of yours come to life? Or a dream that’s teetered on the edge of reality?
Jess: Dreaming/fantasizing is such an important part of my reality and the way that I cope with life that the dream world/real world bleed into each other a lot. The idea of a “premonition” in the song, speaks to a sense of not necessarily “knowing,” but rather “feeling” or “imagining” the possibility of something. But within that feeling, there is a choice to give it a bigger power or to just let it be. I think the experience of a “premonition” in itself is so strange and distinct because of its unique placement between reality and unreality. That space feels very important to me.
Listen to Za Noon’s debut single “Premonition” – officially out today! – below: