Sofia Zadar emerged in the landscape of niche music as an alter ego exploring emotions and social topics in experimental lo-fi songs. Her intimate and atmospheric sound mixes bedroom pop features with spoken word, queer and feminist perspectives.

CVLT: Hello! First things off, could you introduce us to how you first started this project?

Sofia: Hi there! Sure, here’s some of the story. I had been living in different places outside of Romania for a few years. Then in 2018, I decided to come back to Bucharest and get serious about doing music. I took on Sofia Zadar as a band name and started doing everything pretty DIY, putting together the best of the songs I had written in recent times, and started gigging anywhere that would have me. I found a lot of support in Bucharest from friends and community, which was beautiful and surprising, but it all moved at quite a slow pace at first – I had to take on other projects to support myself, didn’t have that many resources to put into my music, etc. And then the pandemic came and everything stopped altogether, but right now I feel like I’m coming into this space of finally being fully dedicated to this project and having gathered way more resources to bring into it, and that feels incredible.

(c) Anca Bilciurescu

Growing up, was music always a big part of your life? Can you recall your first ever musical experience?

I can’t remember which one of the made-up songs I did when I was 3 years old was the first one, but it was definitely around that time that I realized I could link a word to sound and rhythm and it was my favorite game to play. Music was always a huge part of my life and it played so many roles throughout time. When I was a child, it made me feel less alone and it was an outlet for my imagination. Then it became a way to create togetherness with the people around me – a lot of my friends in school loved singing and we would write songs and sing together all the time. Later, it became a way to unload and process emotion, but also to express my values and things I cared strongly about. Not to mention I learned a lot from all the music I listened to, and also growing up as a queer kid and having no information about LGBT stuff, finding music by queer musicians was so important! It taught me a lot and steered me away from so much potential shame and self-hatred.

Take me through your sound design process. Is this a quick process, or something you might obsess over and re-visit?

I was always quite intuitive and impulsive about music, mainly writing songs in one go and then revisiting if I felt like it. It was only recently that I started thinking way more about the arrangement part and it was mainly through the people I met who had that approach to music. Before, my process was heavily vocal-driven, carving out melodies and clusters of lyrics, which usually came very quickly. For the work, I did this year I took a different approach, collaborated with a producer and dear friend (Andrei Bobiș from Cirkular), and ended up being very nitpicking and detail-focused, more of the obsessive type as you said. (laugh)

Does the conception come first or does the song evolve naturally – do you have a clear idea of what it will be before you start to make it?

I often have no clue what a song is going to become. Sometimes there’s an issue that rationally I find important and compelling and I want to write about it. So I sit down and think ok, let’s do this. And nothing comes out. But if my heart is really in it and I feel something strongly, not just on a mental level, it pours out in seconds and I might not even know that it was so pressing deep down. Which is great cause music is connected to my intuition in ways that I can’t really access otherwise. And if I write something over a few days the song can take on different perspectives, or really have a trajectory so vast that no one could have anticipated at the very beginning.

Do you find it easier to write the music or the lyrics? What comes first?

There’s no rule but most of the time they come together. Usually when I start playing a progression or melody it comes with some version of what later becomes the text. I write quite automatically a lot of the time. When they come on their own, it’s usually melody first and then writing words to fit the mould. When I write bits of lyrics with no melody in mind they are usually dense and hard to fit into melodies, so I just integrate them as spoken word parts, instead of taming them or cleaning them up to fit the music. I use a lot of spoken-word, I love how you can be musical with just syllables, rhythms and tone, and how that complements melodies.

There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions?

For me the ideal state is rested, nourished and having no other commitments for the day. Which, you know, for a lot of people is a luxury, since we have to support ourselves, work, do house work, show up for the people we care about, and a lot of us don’t even get enough rest and self-care in the process. Living under capitalism, when work is more often than not exploitative and exhausting, having mental space for creativity can be a huge luxury. So really the main challenge for me is carving out that time in itself and getting proper rest and care for my body and mind. After that, it all comes flowing and feels like a huge relief.

Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely love to work with in the future?

My first personal icon, from when I was 13, was Patti Smith, and she stuck with me for years. Her mix of melodies and spoken word that was speaking truth to power had a huge influence on how I’ve always approached music. Other grounding inspirations that I keep coming back to are Anohni, Laurie Anderson, Crass and Nina Simone. Locally, my fave band is definitely Zimbru. And if I could choose anyone in the world to work with it would have to be Dev Hynes.

If your music was going to be featured on any TV show that is currently on right now, which would you love it to be on? Or if you prefer, what is a movie that you love that you wish your music was featured in?

I’d pick a movie over a TV show and it would have to be one of the queer and feminist cult classics, like ‘Jubilee’ or ‘Born in Flames’.

We know that music is a form of cultural expression and, like any other type of art, it can be educational. Considering your music, do you think is educational in some manners?

Well, I write from a critical perspective, one that mixes ecofeminism, queer theory, and anticapitalism. And a lot of the time I apply this lens through the metaphors and lyrics of my songs. At gigs as well I’d use the platform and opportunity of being in front of a group of people and holding the mic to open up critical conversations about social issues. Now I wouldn’t call that educational cause I definitely don’t consider myself a teacher and there are so many others who are better qualified to educate on these matters, but I do believe that all art has social and political implications, and you either choose to support the status quo by remaining silent about injustice or taming your message, or you position yourself clearly against oppression. And it’s important for me to always aim for the latter.

Do you look for a certain niche where to unfold or does your music simply pop out as you feel it and the stylistic framing remains to the public’s appreciation?

I think it’s an ever-evolving thing, I definitely have periods of time when I listen to certain subgenres and get into exploring those moods in writing, but it’s never for too long. I also have musical safe spaces that I tend to go back to in waves, but not because I seek a certain niche or genre, it’s usually just styles that speak to me emotionally.

How would you describe your music if it was to be a photograph or a painter?

It’s the cover image of my coming EP, you’ll know it when you see it!

When I’m listening to Sofia Zadar I should…

…go outside, if possible in nature.

Where would you choose to perform between these two locations: a cat walk or the opening of a football game?

Ah, neither sounds like my jam, I love more intimate spaces where you can actually look people in the eye and feel more of a connection. Opening for a football game would be hilarious! I can’t imagine the crowd would be too thrilled to hear my music though, it’s probably too mellow.

Do you have anything planned to share with us? Some collabs, any musical goodies?

Yesss! So we’ve just released ‘Coming of Agency‘ and that’s actually the first single from a 5-song EP that will be coming later this summer. I’m very proud of this album, every song is incredibly special to me and there’s been so much loving work put into it. It was all produced with Andrei Bobiș at Cirkular, which was incredible (I still cry happy tears sometimes when I think back to those weeks – we clicked so well, had so much fun and it was one of my favorite creative collaborations of all time). So yeah, can’t wait to share it with the world! There’ll also be some live video sessions and a little soundtrack for a series that’s coming out this year, but more on that later. (smile)

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Cover photo: (c) Maria Năstase