Going from high highs to low lows
When arriving at Maze Club in Berlin Kreuzberg on the 6th of November, one could tell that the word had spread: Lolo Zouaï is in town!
5 hours prior to her anticipated stage time we meet Lolo’s fans outside the venue, eagerly waiting to see the singer and songwriter. Asked about Zouaï, the girls’ faces instantly light up and one can sense their deep admiration. Lolo Zouaï doesn’t shield herself from a conversation but rather meets her fans (and us) eye to eye.
Inside the location and after a first hello, we happily educate Lolo on German swear words – she happily lets us be present at her sound check. Effortlessy she switches between English and French and enchants every listener with her authenticness and dry humour.
Lolo takes the time to sit down with Interview in her dressing room and goes on a tangential journey about her love for mobility, her sense of style and why she is tired talking about her cultural heritage:
Julia Deutsch How is tour life treating you? Do you like the tour bus experience?
Lolo Zouaï It’s really fun. We already did that when I toured the US, so I have gotten used to it and I know how it works now. It’s hard because the bus is really cold. It has to stay cold for the cleanliness. I got sick and had to do five shows. Going from performing only every other week to singing my heart out every night was challenging.
JD Do you have an emergency plan for when you get sick on tour?
LZ I drink galleons of water – water heals everything. It’s fun to be on the bus. I love changing, I love seeing new places – getting a taste of a new city.
JD Do you have a happy place on your tour bus?
LZ Yes, I have the back lounge, it’s not a bedroom but I put all my clothes there. That’s where I get ready and I watch friends back there because the driver has every single episode of it.
JD Is it a sentimental thing?
LZ No it just makes me really happy.
JD You have French and Algerian roots but you grew up in the US, ist that right?
LZ Yes, I am called French-Algerian by the media. I am kind of done only being identified by my cultures because I talked about it so much. It’s also kind of irrelevant because I want people to focus on my music. I feel more American. I have definitely put my cultures into my music – at the same time I just make music that I like to make.
JD I have the feeling that people want to understand you and your music – your origin and culture are strong reference points. I like the vibe of your music, I think it’s something fresh and different.
LZ Oh, thank you!
JD How would you describe your music?
LZ I love Hip Hop and I like good pop music too. Genres don’t matter that much nowadays. I am not afraid of calling it pop and I’m not afraid of calling it R’n’B either.
JD Do you also speak Arabic?
LZ Very little. Like two sentences, But I can pronounce it.
JD In which language do you dream?
LZ in English!
JD You’ve been able to make your childhood dream come true and become an artist. Does it feel as good as you imagined it?
LZ I think it’s so hard to live in the moment and acknowledge what I’ve done. Sometimes I have those moments and I step back and I picture my seven-year old me. Singing in the room, wanting to be a singer and being really shy about performing. Sometimes I think I am not at all where I want to be at. That’s the kind of mindset I feel like successful people are always in because they are always thinking about the next move. At the same time I get reminded by my friends and family on how proud they are of me and that I’ve actually accomplished a lot for my age. I’m trying to embrace it a bit more. Things just take patience and time. I am trying to build a world-wide audience.
JD It’s really cool to see, also today, that people were outside the venue like five hours before the concert started.
LZ It’s really crazy. I have amazing fans, I call them lo-rïders. They are so cute, they bring me gifts and write me letters.
JD What was a really remarkable gift that you’ve received?
LZ I got a few. I got two hand-made fan books where people were rounding up everyone on twitter and asked for quotes about a song and moments when they connected with my music. So every few days I read something new because I don’t want to read it all in one. In London I just got this huge flag and they wrote notes on it like: London loves Lolo. I like when they make things.
JD You also dived into the high fashion world quite recently. You were a guest at the Saint Laurent show?
JD How did the high fashion world welcome you?
LZ I feel they really welcomed me well. I feel honored. I know it’s kind of a hard world to get into – maybe it helps that I was born in Paris and I have the French aspect – High fashion is pretty much Paris. I grew up buying cheap clothes, thrifting, I never spent much on clothes, like less than 20$. I still feel like it’s a lot, haha. It’s weird going from just buying cheap clothes to getting a lot of free stuff – it’s also fun.
JD You mentioned that you were born in Paris. Can you maybe identify French women’s chic? Or what do you think of the concept?
LZ It’s crazy because I never really lived there but I did live there for six months when I was 19, just to see. I was already dressing really street and then all the women were wearing classy clothes like trench coats. Everyone looked so put together and it was very simple. I think that’s what the chic is: a classic, simple look with a red lip – keeping it timeless.
JD You mentioned people speaking about the moments where they connected with your music. I actually wanted to share my moment: I really love the line in your song ‚Challenge’ that goes like: Platinum dreams end in single nights. And then you ask: When did I get so unimpressed?
LZ Oh you do?
JD Yes, I was really feeling it. Are you unimpressed in terms of love? And did you already figure out when you became unimpressed?
LZ thank you, by the way, because the platinum dreams end in single nights was one of my favourite lines I’ve written. It’s about a single going platinum and when you dream big, a lot of men are intimidated. Like when you want to work hard, there is no time to really date when you are career focused – I am sure you know. No one will get in your way.
JD Maybe there is a partner that can keep up with you, haha.
LZ Yes but when they start holding me back – I don’t need this. I enjoy romance but I really don’t need it. I was just unimpressed by people that wouldn’t get that I really didn’t want a relationship and thought that I’ll fall in love and in the end…
JD … you were never impressed in the first place, haha.
LZ haha, I could be impressed for like two days.
JD But you know what they say: When the right person comes along, then it will work out, blah.
LZ Maybe! Who knows, haha
JD You sing about going from high highs to low lows, is this only meant in the sense of struggling with money?
LZ It is a lot of things actually. Mostly about mental health – about feeling really optimistic and then really depressed. Also about going from being in a nice hotel, flown out by somebody and then coming back to New York into my apartment, working in a restaurant. The contrast of my life, my emotions, my hopes. It wasn’t about money, it was about being broke.
JD Would you say that you are more creative when you are emotionally struggling?
LZ Definitely, when I’m sad or angry it’s easier for me. I’m more passionate when something is affecting me. It’s easier to know when you are sad than to know when you are happy. You don’t acknowledge being happy.
JD Do you put out something creative straight away, or do you sit with a feeling?
LZ It’s funny because sometimes when you feel it I sometimes avoid it. Which is the worst thing to do. You don’t want to go through with it, with your emotions, and you lose the creative part and it just gets worse.
JD It comes back to you anyway.
LZ Yes, it’s important to do something with it.
JD Your visuals often feature cars, motorbikes – also your fans are called the lo-riders. Would you say you have a special love story with, well, mobility?
LZ I don’t know if that’s the reason but: My French family they live near Le Mans. Every year there is this big race with loads of race cars around the city. When I was sixteen I went to the race and I was the girl who gave the drivers the champagne and I was also on TV, haha.
JD Your first seconds of fame!
LZ Haha yes, I don’t know, I always liked how cars looked and I have always worn clothes with cars on them – like today. It’s just something I’ve always been into.
JD I heard you also do your visuals yourself?
LZ Yes, a lot of them. I do all my show visuals myself.
JD Do you photograph, retouch and stuff? Or how do you do it?
LZ So I film certain videos and I edit them or I use stock websites. And then just edit the pictures and make all the show visuals from that.
JD That’s cool.
LZ Thanks. I have different colours for each song – you’ll see later. There was this company who was trying to charge me 10.000 Dollars for show visuals. And I found that they would just go on these websites and edit the videos. I thought I could just do it myself – it took me forever but I did it.
JD That also gives you creative control.
JD Would you say that you are an old soul?
LZ I don’t know if I am. I think if you are an old soul only somebody else can tell you that. I sometimes feel like there are people in dogs. Does that make sense? Sometimes I see humans in dogs and I am like, what did you do to become a dog? Haha.
JD haha I read about that stuff.
LZ I also saw the movie called the Lobster. That was a lot. Did you watch it?
JD I watched like half of it a year ago – I still haven’t finished it.
LZ It’s a little boring but it’s a really interesting concept. So I like to think about those things, but I don’t know. I have always been mature for my age. Growing up in San Francisco, or any other big city. You just see everything earlier. There is so much going on. In San Francisco there was this big homeless population and as a kid I always thought about what happened to those people. Seeing so many different people keeps you with an open mind. I grew up really fast.
JD I have one last question. Do you have a message for your fans?
LZ First of all, I love my fans. They are the lo-riders, they keep me going and they send me love and messages. It feels to me more like a friendship. Before and after the show it’s an easy conversation. It’s great to have people that support me. They spread the word and try to get me heard too. So thank you!