ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: UNBLOOM

With less than two weeks until Crescendo Live, we're spotlighting a new artist every day of the week to give you to a better taste of what to expect at the show November 23 at Adelaide Hall. Crescendo sat down with London based DJ UNBLOOM for the lowdown on when he discovered his passion for music, his creative processes, and so much more. Get your tickets now for Crescendo Live at Ticketfly

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Tell us who you are and a little bit about yourself.

My name is Jonathan Zarola and I perform, write and produce under the pseudonym UNBLOOM. I live in London Ontario, it’s about 2 hours away from Toronto which is about the only way people will know where I’m from.  I produce for myself and I produce for other people, and I engineer for myself and other people.

Where does your pseudonym come from?

I did a major in English and a minor in Philosophy and I did my masters in English literature right after that. So the name UNBLOOM comes from sort of like a motif of a poet by the name of Thomas Hardy who would use the prefix ‘UN’ in front of words to bring and draw attention to the root word itself. For example like he would use the term uncoffined as opposed to buried. It was just kinda like an interesting play on words that I thought worked well with either light or darkness and at the time of the UNBLOOM project I didn’t know what direction per say I was going to go in, so I wanted a name that could sort of catch everything. Whether it was something that was a little bit dark, something light, something that was a bit of both. I thought that UNBLOOM was a feeling of light but also the taking away of lightness at the same time.

When did you discover your passion for music and how did you get started?

I think I’ve always had a passion for music.  My earliest memories are of my Dad playing typical ‘Dad-Rock’ and playing a lot of weird electronic music.  He used to crank euro-dance music all the time from the mixtapes while he worked out.  I remember vividly the bass and the rhythm section just coming through the walls as a kid trying to get some sleep because he would always work out in the mornings. So there was that, but then it was solidified when I was 13 when I got my first drum kit for Christmas. I tried to practice as much as I could and then that became my primary instrument. When I went into high school I joined several stage bands, studio bands and jazz bands and then finally made my own band and that sort of just trickled into doing more projects for more people.

Tell us a little about your writing style and the creative process behind making your latest EP.

The writing style for me gets way more complicated than it needs to be, probably because I’m such a perfectionist. Typically it just starts out with a chord progression or an engaging beat, like there has to be something in the initial stages of writing that really grabs my attention. I’m such a tough critic of myself that if it doesn’t do anything for me than it’s like trash. I have to be in love with it immediately or else it’s not going to go anywhere. So if there’s something in the nucleus of the idea that makes me go ‘ok I can vibe with this’ then I’ll attempt to write lyrics either for myself to sing or for a guest collaborator to sing. So it just depends on the type of song that I’m doing, but it has to have an interesting or engaging idea to start with. It could be a really cool drum flow that I accidentally programmed, or a weird sample I found somewhere and I dropped it in, did some weird stuff and thought ‘oh that’s a lot cooler than I thought it would be.'  And then I just try to make it interesting for myself. It’s difficult to make dance music and pop music at the same time, or even just music that makes you move if you want to call it body music I think that’s appropriate too.  I’m in the business of making people move and making people have this emotional response whether it’s on a dance floor or just a solo experience, and if a song doesn’t do it then it’s not working.  So you’re just trying to build these levels of intrigue as the song goes to make people continue to dance or to emote and just constantly engage with them.

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I’m in the business of making people move and making people have this emotional response whether it’s on a dance floor or just a solo experience, and if a song doesn’t do it then it’s not working.

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When it came to filming the music video for your hit single 'No Other' did you have any input WHEN IT CAME TO THE CREATIVE VISION?

Of course, I think I did, but I really put a lot of trust into my team to figure out something for it.  I was really blessed to have great cinematographers and directors work on the video. The premise was like ‘let’s go out and see if Davey, the lead performer, can just go out and have fun with it.’  We just kinda went everywhere and anywhere we could around London to make it not seem like we were in London, and just try our best to make something like that happen.  And I think later on as we were doing it we were kinda realizing that this song kinda narrates and lives within a house party environment.  I find that a lot of my friends are playing the song as house parties and get togethers and that’s super humbling, and I thought ‘that’s so cool that we have Davey on the outside looking in.’  The lyrics kinda suggest that Davey is having a good time but it’s like ‘well maybe this party isn’t the one for him.’  So it’s kinda interesting that we’re in residential areas at times but he’s never actually inside a house.  I thought that was really interesting, apart from the part at the end when we’re jamming inside, when it’s just him doing his thing outside that’s what you see.  That’s what I was thinking post-haste, but in the moment really it was just ‘let’s see if we can have fun with it.’  

How did the collaboration with Davey for the song come about?

I think it’s something that just organically happened.  Him and I have known each other since grade 6. The funny thing is that he was a new kid in grade 6, we weren’t in the same classroom so I didn’t really know how but I knew of him! Where our friendship solidified was Habbo Hotel, our school used to host rap battles in Habbo Hotel.  So we were rapping, I was trying to type as fast as I can, spitting out bars, and all of a sudden this guy comes in, and absolutely rips me apart.  And the next day I didn’t know who it was, and I was like ‘YO WHO IS THIS GUY?’ and I went to Davey and said ‘Who is this guy?’ and he went ‘Oh that was me’. So right from that point, we became good friends.

Where do you find some of your inspiration and are there any Canadian artists who are influencing you by now?

I know it’s such a lame answer but I’m really influenced by everything.  I try not to listen to too many of my contemporaries unless it’s a real standout thing that it’s just like I have to get into it. Lorde’s Melodrama was one of those albums that I just had to listen to, but that didn’t necessarily influence the EP. What I have been listening to a lot though lately though is a lot of Michael Jackson, like a lot of like Off The Wall, his first album, a lot of 1980s and late 70s stuff.  Just getting in the dance mood getting into a frame of mind where that every musical impulse has to be focused on some sort of progress of movement.  There can’t be lateral moves, it has to move forward.  The music from that era really encapsulates those moments.  In terms of Canadian contemporaries, I have been listening to a guy named Pomo who is based out of Montreal.  

I'm really trying to immerse myself back in the past of what sounds good, what music from the 80s could be some sort of inspirational use to me.

What advice would you give to young aspiring musicians and what resources and tools would you recommend they use?

I mean it’s so tough.  The thing is, I have not even made a scratch and yet I feel like I’ve done this 10 years longer than I have.  The UNBLOOM project technically started 3 years ago but I was only doing it part time because I was in school.  This past year was the first year I’ve been doing it full time. Really the suggestion is that you have to treat it like a business and if you’re going to be an entrepreneur then you have to dedicate 100% of your time and resources to this.  It’s not something you put on the back burner and just occasionally do from time to time if you are serious about trying to make even like an inkling of money.  You have to be able to write every day and record every day if you have the means to do that. I’m going to connect and email anyone I can every day just to see if someone will reach back.  And it won’t ever be fruitful at the start, I don’t think anybody gets 7 emails written back to them after they’ve sent out 10.  When I started UNBLOOM I was personally emailing any blogs that I could, from blogs that had 10 followers to ones with 100,000, and only about a handful of them wrote back.  But that handful has since continued to be fans of UNBLOOM and has followed my progress.

It’s also important to understand that you need to spend a bit of money in order to make some social headway in the business. For example hiring a PR company is really important for a young artist, apart from just emailing whoever you can, I think it’s important to have a dedicated PR person that are backing you and getting you into the right positions to succeed.  If at the very least they get your name out there.  If someone’s not going to listen to you after seeing your once, they’re not going to see you after the first time.  It’s only after the fourth or fifth of seeing your name on their Twitter feed that they’re going to be like ‘Ok, what is UNBLOOM about.’  So it’s about establishing brand recognition. So I guess in terms of resources I think a publicist would be the way to go. Unfortunately Zuckerberg has forced our hand into using Facebook advertising, which is another way to engage with an audience. If you put a video up, only 50 people will see it but if you pay $5, 1500 people will then see it. It’s an unfortunate but pragmatic thing to realize. It’s not all doom and gloom but it certainly is tough and you have to have thick skin and you have to say ‘I’m in it for the long haul.’

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It’s not all doom and gloom but it certainly is tough and you have to have thick skin and you have to say ‘I’m in it for the long haul.’

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When can we expect more music from you?

I’ll say this, I immediately started writing after the EP session, so I’m already on the next batch of materials. Just before this conversation I was working on a new song with another collaborator. I’m hoping to play maybe a new song or two at the Crescendo Live set, which will be my first song in Toronto. You can expect new music early 2018.

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