Zeeshan Zaidi talks with Acentric about The Commuters' upcoming EP Before I Was Born
Indie rock band The Commuters might hail from New York, but their kinetic, personal anthems capture an alt-rock essence that aspires toward a worldwide appeal.
The band, consisting of Zeeshan Zaidi (vocals,guitar/keyboard), Uri Djemal (guitar/keyboard), Ben Zwerin (bass), and Paul Amorese (drums), has announced their upcoming EP Before I Was Born. Set to release on August 12th, Before I Was Born marks their first release since 2012’s debut full-length Rescue. The band’s forthcoming EP fuses together longtime influences such as David Bowie and Peter Gabriel with modern progressive artists such as The Killers and Bon Iver to create intriguing, engaging rock songs that are destined to connect with you on a visceral level.
We got to chat with Zeeshan Zaidi to talk about their brand new EP. Check out the interview below!
Angelica Nicolle Abalos: I know each member has grown up or spent time in various countries and cultures. How did you all meet your current band mates?
Zeeshan Zaidi: Uri and I grew up together in the Philippines—we’ve been friends since the age of 6 when we were classmates in the first grade. But the rest of the band came together in New York city once we were all living here. Uri and Ben had worked together before, as had Paul and Ben. We were all born outside of the city but we’re all New Yorkers now.
ANA: Has this knowledge and appreciation for these cultures impacted you as a group?
ZZ: Definitely. I think it makes us more open to sounds, ideas, and perspectives—gives us a respect for different ways of constructing and arranging music.
ANA: Tell us about your new EP Before I Was Born. What was your creative process like while writing and recording it?
ZZ: Very similar to the last time around. I wrote the songs over the past few years and created demos in my home studio. Then brought them to Uri and we created arrangement and production ideas. Then brought the other guys into the studio to record/arrange and then Uri and I spent a bunch more time laying down more parts, mixing, etc.
ANA: Do you currently have a favorite song off the new EP?
ZZ: That’s like picking a favorite child! Right now I would say it’s the title track, because it’s top of mind. But as we move through different singles I’m guessing that will change.
ANA: What makes Before I Was Born different from Rescue, your last album? This can be musically, lyrically, methodically or any other way they might differ.
ZZ: More than anything I think it’s that the songwriting and the sound is more evolved. We’ve been at it for longer and I think have sharpened our craft and our ability to communicate a message through this medium. I think that comes across.
ANA: You’re very big on the topic of hope. How did you come to the conclusion that you would specifically write songs to about triumph over trials versus just putting out feel-good songs?
ZZ: I don’t know if it’s a conscious decision so much as it is a reflection of what moves me. When I sit down to write I gravitate towards what inspires me emotionally. I have nothing against pure feel-good songs—straight up love a lot of them—but when I put pen to paper that’s just not what flows out. I look around the world and I see a lot of trials and a lot of people rising above their struggles and I want to tell those stories.
ANA: The stories on Before I Was Born are “100 percent from personal experience.” How did this factor affect your writing process for the album?
ZZ: It made it both easier and harder. Easier in that I have a wealth of personal experiences and emotions to draw from. Harder in that when you’re writing about something so personal and meaningful, you really want to do it justice and get it right.
ANA: Other artists write songs and tell another person’s story, though they never personally experienced it. In what ways do you think the personal experience factor strengthens your message?
ZZ: I think it just magnifies the emotion behind the song—especially when performing, which is huge since we’re a performing act. I know lots of brilliant professional songwriters who do what you’re describing incredibly well and are masters of the craft. They can take any story they hear about and convey it through this medium with great skill. Not taking away from that at all and I wish I could be as good as a lot of them. But I have to get up and sing these songs so I just do a better job when they come from a place within me that I can connect with.
ANA: You’ve said these songs personal but general because you want to be able to reach out everywhere they resonate. In what ways do you think The Commuters are accomplishing/have accomplished that goal?
ZZ: I think we’re getting there. Even though the songs start from a pretty specific place, I try to write them so that the messages and situations are universal enough that people from different walks can relate. It’s a balance but I think right now we’re striking a good one.
ANA: Considering all that has been happening in the world lately, we need hope more than ever before. Is there a specific message of hope you’d like to share with our readers today?
ZZ: I agree—looking around, we’re living in crazy times. But, by and large, people are good. And in the long run, love and light always triumph over darkness. I’m convinced of that.
The Commuters are doing great things in the world with their music and message of hope. Be on the look out for their upcoming album and get familiar with their music if you haven't already! We'll surely be hearing more of them in the future!