Tell us about yourself in your own words.
I am Zoe. I make music. I grew up on the Central Coast and now live in Sydney. I make music by myself and with other people and I work in disability support.
What musical projects are you currently involved in?
I play in the band Sports Bra and that’s kind of my only active thing at the moment. I’m always kind of making shit by myself but at the moment kind of slow with it. I just started a band with my partner - a two piece. I’m going to start a noisy screamy band because I’ve got a lot of shit to yell about.
You used to have a solo project called Dog Dirt too didn’t you?
I stopped doing that because it stopped feeling good and I’m a big fan of finality. I finished doing that maybe 6 months ago. I did a last little tour with my friend Jack and that stopped feeling good and I don’t want to do music that doesn’t make me feel good because it’s a thing that is supposed to make you feel good and I didn’t like it anymore so I stopped doing it.
When did you first start playing music and what made you take an interest in that?
I started doing guitar lessons in primary school because there was an old man who came to our school and did guitar lessons on a Friday during the time where it was ‘free play’. Friday fun day kind of - you could do whatever you like and I didn’t have lots of friends and also didn’t really know how to have fun so I was like ‘this is a way for somebody else to decide what I’m doing’. So I did guitar lessons and learned basic chord stuff there and then stopped doing that because I didn’t really like it.
How old were you then?
Maybe 10 to 12. I did it for a couple of years but was never really good or super into it. Maybe a few years later I was like 14 or 15 I went to my friend’s house and he had a drum-kit and a guitar and a keyboard. He played guitar and my other friend played drums and I played keyboard. I didn’t really know what the fuck I was doing and then got home and was like ‘I’m in a band now, I’m gonna get a keyboard’. I got all the money that I had and went to Kmart and bought a keyboard. Obviously it wasn’t a band, but I thought it was and nobody else thought it was serious so I thought I’d learn keyboard but I didn’t because keyboard is hard and guitar is easy so I went back to guitar. Guitar hero was also a thing that made me want to play guitar. I thought if I was going to be playing guitar hero I may as do it on a real thing.
Do you feel like a guitar hero now?
Were you in bands before Sports Bra or is that the first band that you played in?
I was in bands in high school - shitty indie rock stuff. It was fun. We played shows on the Central Coast, we were called Two Steps Twice. It was fun, I was writing a lot of the songs and it was chill. I played guitar and sometimes bass in that band and then I was in another band where I played bass because I was the worst guitarist. The three main songwriters in that band - all of their favourite band was Radiohead. There were some cool songs, we had some songs that I liked but I was definitely the least musically capable so it was just kind of cool to absorb their knowledge. That was fun and then I just kind of stopped doing bands for a few years. I was in those - the first one stopped when I was maybe 17 and the other one stopped when I was 18 and then I didn’t do anything for ages. I wanted to do stuff again when I was 19 or 20 and I didn’t know anyone who would want to sing for it - I can’t really sing but I wanted to try it anyway. I was in a weird spot where I’d been afraid of trying anything in general in my life and I just wanted to embrace being bad and so I started doing Dog Dirt stuff and I started doing solo shows.
Can you tell us about your experiences with Sports Bra? What’s been the most rewarding experience?
I really like the making and writing and creative process. I really like coming up with a tiny idea and then 3 people who I love and greatly admire the musicality of, adding their shit to it and making it so much better than if I’d just done it myself. I really like that feeling of the first time you play through a song and you know it’s done - this song is written. I really like the look - you just look at each other and you’re like ‘oh that’s it’ - that’s a song now. I love that - that bit specifically is my favourite shit. I really like playing shows. Any time we get to play Canberra is very nice, I love going to Canberra. I just like that people like it, because I like doing it and I would keep doing it if people didn’t like it but it’s really nice that people like it particularly young queer and trans people or queer and trans people in general. I’m happy it resonates with them because their the most important audience for it I guess apart from the 4 of us in the band. Also my band mates are just 3 of my favourite musicians. I wanted to be in a band with Naif and Allie, mostly because I wanted to be friends with both of them and because I wanted to play music with other people again and so I approached them both. At the start we had a different drummer who quit 2 weeks before our first show and then we found Kate who is fucking great!
Is there a big difference in your creative process when you’re writing things solo and when you’re collaborating with a band?
Yes. I am much more perfectionist when I’m with a band. For me, doing solo stuff is kind of just an emotion purge and mostly coincides with my mood and bipolar. There was a time where I just did a whole Dog Dirt EP in a day and then the next week did this weird EP for a thing that I called Ibuprofen. I put these weird restrictions on it so I had 2 drum machine tracks, 2 bass tracks and 2 vocal tracks. That was the constraint for the whole thing and I did an EP of that, just because I had all this manic energy. For all of those things before uploading it I only really listened to it back once before putting it out. Writing with other people, I really think about how my parts fit the whole. Also it’s way less pressure because you have 3 other people to lean on and I find it much more creatively stimulating rather than feeling like I’ve got to get this feeling out of my body.
Have you noticed that your creative processes have changed over time since you started writing music?
I kind of think about it more now. I also feel a lot less pressure. I don’t really know why, I just find it less pressure.
Do you think it’s because you’ve found your style?
Not really, I think I’m still kind of figuring it out. Maybe it’s that I don’t feel like I have to have a style. Being in a band with people who I feel on the same level with - in most regards - I still am in awe of all of their skill but I feel like I can contribute whereas in the past maybe I’ve felt very inferior to the other people that I’ve been working with - so there’s a lot less pressure and I feel like my ideas have value. I have more confidence in what I’m doing.
Do you think that’s because of the approach of the other people in the band as opposed to their actual skill?
I think so. I think they all make me feel really comfortable. It feels comfortable to write together and to play together which I think is really important and I’m not stressed about it.
What sort of themes do you explore through your music?
It depends. I kind of focus on mental health stuff and queerness and trans-ness and those have been my main things lately that I’ve been writing about. I don’t like writing break up songs. I think breakup songs are fucking boring but I do like friendship breakup songs. I’ve written a lot of friendship breakup songs. Mostly about one friendship breakup. Mostly very internal stuff, but the ways that my internal stuff interacts with the external world and the common lived experiences of people with depression, people with bipolar and people who are trans and people who are queer. It’s a way of saying ‘This is all my shit - what does yours look like?’
Are those the kinds of people that you’re trying to reach with that message?
I think so. I’m happy for anyone to listen to what I do. I feel like I don’t really write with an audience in mind but once I have written something the kind of people that I most want it to resonate with are other queer and trans people.
What do you as an artist stand for?
I don’t know, I feel like as an artist I stand for the same shit that I stand for as a person. I don’t think you can separate art from artist. I think that I stand for equality and empowerment and connection and community. Trying to raise other people’s voices, and trying to use my platform and my privilege to help other people. Facilitating connection in whatever means - whether that’s somebody connecting with something I’ve done or somebody connecting with somebody else via the medium or something that I’ve done. There’s a big gay love song that I wrote on the Sports Bra second record and I’ve seen a bunch of people do drawings and paintings around it or people’s Instagram stories tagging their significant other and I think that’s super fucking cool. So maybe I just stand for gay love as an artist.
What is the biggest obstacle you face when expressing yourself creatively?
Just my own insecurity mostly. I go through periods where I think my ideas have value and what I’m coming up with is good. But then I’ll go through 6 months where I just won’t let myself write or I feel like I’ll come across these internal roadblocks where I think everything I’ve ever done is fucking bad and I can’t do this. I haven’t written a song in a really long time and I don’t know if that’s because I’m stopping myself. So I find myself to be the biggest roadblock in doing that. There are obviously so many structural inequalities that prevent particularly marginalised people from having a platform and a voice but also the internet makes it easy to do that. I feel like when I come up with shit the dissemination of the content is really easy and people will listen to it if they want to - people might not. I don’t really care about that bit, I care about the making mostly.
What is the best piece of advice you could give to young women and queer folk who want to make art or music or just be seen and heard?
Just fucking do it. If you feel like you can’t do it by yourself - do it with someone else. It doesn’t have to go anywhere at first. You can just do it for yourself. You can do it for one other person. You can do it for a hundred other people. I think that people - women and queer folk - get told that they can’t do it and it’s hard to find representations of themselves doing it - so be that representation for yourself. Look for people around you who are doing what you want to be doing or who inspire you and talk to them. Ask them to do a band with you. Fuck anyone who says you can’t do it because it’s not worth having external obstacles. Find whatever you want to do and do it. If you aren’t getting booked for shows, book a show. If you can’t find people to collaborate with, do it yourself and then somebody might approach you. Surround yourself with people who share the same values with you - even if you don’t share the same musical values. Just be a good person and make shit - it doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad, all that matters is that you make it.