[INTERVIEW] THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF LOLO ZOUAI
Lolo Zouaï is a an artist that you can connect with on various levels. Somewhere between her cerebral lyrics, contagious humour and undeniable beauty, you find star quality that sets her apart from the competitor — even at this early stage in her career. All of her experiences, trials and tribulations have led her to this moment.
Before headlining the legendary Corsica Studios on her return to the UK, I had a chance to sit down with Lolo to discuss Algerian heritage, earliest memories of music and greatest fears.
Who is Lolo Zouai?
Lolo is a real, honest bad bitch with an attitude (chuckles). I’d like to say I’m a singer, entrepreneur and businesswoman. And evidently a comedian. You’ll find that half of my shows are comedy where I like to tell stories in between songs and believe that humour is one of the most important aspects of my life. I’m just a person.
How much if your music is owed to your French/Algerian heritage?
Lyrically, probably about 7%. If you think about it, most of my music is in English, but it terms of the influence, there’s a lot of Algerian Arabic vibes which I think makes it that much special. Somewhere between 7-25% I’d say.
What would you say are the main differences between Paris and San Francisco?
They’re both really small. I’ve only lived in Paris about 6 months of my life but I’d say the main difference is that I know one of them like the back of my hand… Paris is like a fantasy to me, a dream. I would love to eventually have an apartment in Paris. The city offers me so much as an artist; music, fashion. San Francisco is a tech city with a big rap scene, where artists tend to move to L.A to pursue a music career.
They are so different. In San Francisco, for example, it is legal to be naked. San Francisco gave me greater independence and open-mindedness. I would explore, take the bus from a very young age, witness homeless people, various types of gender fluidity, I would thrift. It was amazing.
If you could label the genre of music you create, what would you call it and why?
What you get with me are bittersweet banger with a strong R’n’B influence. You also get pop tones, hip-hop and trap too. Somewhere in between a turn-up and a sad song. You could be turning up one minute, and in bed thinking the next. Lolo’s music is very lyric-heavy which is why opening for Alina [Baraz] made sense.
What is your earliest memories of music?
Probably in my bedroom singing to Britney Spears (I had a poster of her in my room), looking at music videos and attempting to imitate what I saw in my mirror. I listened to the radio a lot and tried teaching myself how to sing like Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston… until I found my own voice.
What lessons would you take from your earlier experiences as an artist and your time in LA as a 19-year old to where you are today?
When I was starting out in the industry, I honestly thought it was a case where someone else could help my dreams come tru, so I was less reliant on the talent I had as a musician. I would go to L.A with labels and produce songs that wouldn’t be released, or even be available to me.
After Summer 2017, I was done with that so I restarted. I met Stelios [New-York based producer who has worked very closely with Lolo] and we just took a chance that worked really well. Now, I feel I’m no longer in a position to rely on others and I can do this. Once you have self-belief you realise that everyone else around also starts believing in you.
Explain the creative process of High High to Low Lows.
There was a post last summer on my Instagram with the caption, ‘Low Lows and High Highs’, and I wanted to use this is in a song. It was ironically, a low point for me. However, in my mind, I was certain that this was the path I wanted to take. So when I went into the studio with Stelios, I explained that I wanted to do a song with that title so we started to experiment with the beat and he totally got what I was trying to achieve with it. Then the ‘high highs to low lows’ hook happened and we took it from there. We just couldn’t stop writing it… at home, in ubers, everywhere, until it was done.
What advice would you give to a younger Lolo?
I would probably tell myself to not worry as much because from a young age, I believe that’s how you develop habits and that has sometimes made me, at times, an unnecessary stress-head. To take a step back and realise how far I’ve come should be enough to know that everything is going to work out. And don’t be so hard on yourself!
Describe your stage presence in 3 words.
Energetic. Confident. Passionate.
Name 3 artists (dead or alive) you’d love to work with.
Édith Piaf, she’s the GOAT. I’d love to do a collaboration with The Weeknd, like a remix for Desert Rose [what!!]. And Ty Dolla $ign, he’s such a great writer, or maybe E-40.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
Probably this year as a whole. I’ve been able to quit my restaurant job and set up a business and a steady income. It’s been big.
What is your greatest fear?
It use to be performing but I overcame that. I think death, because I want to live. I want to be able to accomplish everything I want to. When I think about death, it reminds me that I shouldn’t take life too seriously because at moment everything that means so much can be relative. It allows me to stay grounded.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Two or three albums deep, my own place, my mother no longer having to work, touring, opening another businesses, maybe along the lines of clothing. Comfortable.
Check out my music, you won’t regret it… That sucks, right?
Not in the slightest. We at Viper give this artist a ‘one to watch’ stamp of approval… Watch this space because Lolo is destined for greatness and we look forward to checking in on her development in the near future.