The rising alternative star caught up with NME backstage, shortly after performing at the festival for the first time – something they have dreamed of doing since they first came as a 16-year-old.
“This has been on my bucket-list for a long, long, long, long, long time – so it is crazy to actually be playing the thing,” said the London-based artist, real name Zander Sweeney.
With an audience they describe as “very slay”, ZAND said the turn-out was very representative of their fans who tend to be “probably non-binary, or just queer as fuck if not!”
“They probably have dyed hair, or just some part of their head shaved,” ZAND explained. “They have fantastic style, every time. I hate this term but probably some sort of misfit people who feel that they find some sort of community in my music. A lot of the queers and the sex workers love my shit, and I love them.”
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) August 20, 2023
Before heading to Reading & Leeds, ZAND’s previous gig was in Sheffield with former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – in a bid to “to save The Leadmill, and bring awareness to music venues and landlords fucking them over”.
Describing her time with Corbyn, ZAND said: “He’s a G. He was a lot funnier than I expected him to be. When that came about, I was in my dressing room and they were like, ‘Oh, Jeremy wants to come and say hi. He comes through and he’s like, ‘Can I touch your hair?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah…’ We were taking hip-hop duo photos together. He’s cool and he’s very passionate about what he does, so it was really an honour to collaborate with one of the last politicians in the country who has a beating heart.”
ZAND continued: “It was really fucking random how it came together. His Peace & Justice Project DM’ed me on Instagram, just reaching out in solidarity and said they wanted to get involved in something.
“I didn’t have ‘ZAND and Jeremy Corbyn collaboration on my bingo card for 2023’, but everything is happening this year so… wows!”
Another recent career highlight came when ZAND supported Peaches on tour – an experience they describe as “insane”.
“When I got the email about that, I was literally screamed so loud in my room,” said ZAND. ” The night we flew out to the first date in Amsterdam, she just came out to my room and was like, ‘Hello!’ and I was like, ‘Mother!’
“Her entire show is just insane as well. Everything is just so theatrical. She literally brings out a giant inflatable penis and shoots shit out of it. She’s crazy, and the definition of a real artist.”
Next month sees the release of ZAND’s new ‘SEWERSTAR’ EP, taking their concept of “ugly pop” into ambitious new territory.
“The concept of this EP was, ‘Let’s go to this underground sewer realm where there’s some gremlin, dragonoid, humanoid creatures creating debauchery and fucking society,” they explained. “Each song is its own character and narrator and maybe not a hero, but an anti-hero of some sort telling their own story.
“I like the idea of creating different characters and alter-egos in my music. I’m obsessed with cartoons. I’d rather it be like that some kind of straight tunnel-vision.”
And what’s next after that?
“I have some really fun collaborations coming up, like bucket-list shit that I’m excited to have out. One of them is a good friend of mine whose name starts with the same letter. The album is also in the works. That’ll be coming some time next year.”
ZAND releases the ‘SEWERSTAR’ EP on September 7, with a full UK headline tour following in October. Check out full dates below and visit here for tickets.
21 – AATMA, Manchester
22 – The Garage, Glasgow
24 – Headrow House, Leeds
25 – The Victoria, Birmingham
26 – Old Church, London
27 – The Moon, Cardiff
Check back at NME here for the latest news, reviews, interviews, photos and more from Reading & Leeds 2023.
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