In Widescreen—An Interview with Unbloom

By Eleanor Laffling

The nu-funk undercurrents of UNBLOOM, the solo project of Canadian musician Jonathan Zarola, are beautifully textured with electronic synth and restrained vocals. The nuance of UNBLOOM’s sound are a maelstrom of the emerging local electronic scene. Demo caught up with UNBLOOM to converse about Canadian electronica, cultivating sounds and Tears For Fears.

DM: How would you describe your sound in just one sentence?

Jonathon Zarola: Widescreen, 80’s tinged, grooved-based electronic music.

DM: Widescreen is an interesting choice.

JZ: The phrase was actually coined by Gold Flake Paint creator Tom Johnson. I think the idea was to encapsulate a sensation of being faced with this panoramic experience–an experience that is filled with both minute details and bold melodies. Literally speaking, I try to make the songs have a wider stereo image. This is an attempt to wrap the listener.

DM: I very much enjoyed your work with the bedroom pop based band Snow Mantled Love. Unbloom is quite different stylistically, was this synth-electronic artistry the direction you intended to go with when you decided you wanted to start a solo project?

JZ: The synth approach was generated by necessity, really. My primary instrument is the drum-kit, and I have no knowledge of how to play a stringed instrument. The keyboard became the most readily available and learnable instrument because of its rhythmic and percussive qualities. As a result, the synth became the primary instrument of which I began to write songs on. In parallel with learning to play the keyboard,  I began to experiment with the various tones and sounds it could create, sparking an interest in the glitchier or electronic aesthetic I’ve been toying with.

DM: Would you say your sound is organic then?

JZ: I guess the sound is organic insomuch as I’m experimenting with sounds on the fly in a naive sense. This gives the music a “human feel” but I also combine this with synthetic elements like rigid chord rhythms or jabs. The idea is to marry both organic with synthetic.

DM: Can you explain a little bit about your creative process?

JZ: My creative process is one that begins with a foundational gut-feeling; I ask myself, “What do I want to convey? What do these chords do, both emotionally and musically?” If I find something that ensnares my interest, I’ll pursue it, otherwise it will be discarded. I’m my own worst critic, perhaps excessively so, so I ensure that the song is interesting on a variety of levels.

DM: Are your lyrics self-referential then?

JZ: The lyrics are both personal, and impersonal. Most of the time, they are conversations with myself, or with another whom the conversation applies to. It;s sort of a way to work out my own thoughts or worries.

DM: Your track Hold Your Youth has been on repeat for me lately, I’m fascinated about the narrative behind the song, lyrically it just feels so relatable. There’s a fitting contrast between the upbeat electronic sound, and the lyrics “I know we’ve got some things to figure out about us.”

JZ: Narratively speaking, Hold Our Youth was a song meant to describe the shifting of geographical location between two lovers, the yearning to recover one’s youth, and the indeterminate nature of the entire situation at hand. The song is sort of a fight between optimism and pessimism.

DM: Were there any particular musical influences that influenced this project?

JZ: This project has a piecemeal of influences, but I suppose the common thread is that each project consists of only one person: Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Caribou, Tame Impala, and POMO. Each artist “do” electronic music, albeit in a fashion that is completely their own. So it’s something that I’m trying to negotiate with—cultivating my own sound in a genre with so many original participants. I also have a strong affinity for 80’s groups like Tears for Fears.

DM: Favourite Tears For Fears song?

This is actually super tough. So I’m going to cheat. It’s a toss up between “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”, “Sowing the Seed of Love”, and “Change.”

DM: I suppose a good follow up would be about what you are currently listening to – do you have any personal recommendations?

JZ: As of late, I’ve been listening to Tame Impala’s new material: “Let It Happen” and “’Cause I’m a Man,” both are exquisitely well crafted songs.  I’ve also been listening to a group by the name of Nouvel Age—it is essentially POMO plus a singer—in particular their song “What Have You Done For Me?”: really hooky, and phenomenal production.

DM: What’s next for Unbloom?

JZ: The next big phase for UNBLOOM is releasing an EP. I am working on one as we speak, with a hopeful summer release date. I have been really fantasizing over using more organic instrumentation, and I think I’ll try to incorporate it in the new batch of material. The EP will probably include Hold Our Youth.

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