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Get To Know: ZOF

Photo of ZOF posing in front of a lilac and orange hued backdrop

Get acquainted with ZOF, the rising Seattle-based songwriter, producer and DJ whose exploratory electronic music pays homage to artistic reclamation

A few years ago, Zoe spent the majority of her waking hours sifting through data in labs of the Pacific Northwest. Like many rising producers, the artist better known as ZOF (a childhood nickname that stuck) held a full-time position, doing her best to make ends meet in Seattle.

“I was working so much, I barely had enough energy to go see my friends on the weekend,” she tells DJ Mag on a video call, describing the workplace stress she accepted as inevitable. After carefully banking a few months’ savings, she quit to reconnect with creative ambitions — a wise move that’s since landed her on labels like HE.SHE.THEY., Popgang Records, and Box Of Cats, as well as stage time at EDC where she appeared as part of the 2023 Insomniac Discovery Project roster.

“I had a couple of weeks of just staring at a wall and deciding what my life was going to be, then I was like,’ Okay, I have time to do music,’” she shares of that inflection point. “I got really serious about learning the nitty-gritty of production and the more technical stuff, because musically all the skills were there.”

Those revelations find life in ZOF’s forthcoming debut LP, ‘Nostalgic Premonitions’, arriving later this year on the Dome Of Doom imprint. “It’s actually a very anti-capitalist album, low-key,” she explains of the long-time-coming project. “There’s a theme, at least, about the push to make people work so hard that they don’t have time to do anything else, or think about anything else, other than just working or getting a pay-check.”

The defiant commentary is expressed through ZOF’s own vocals, which flow with airy, filter-drenched bravado over expansive compositions. Ping-ponging between realms of electro-pop grooves, downtempo melodies, and skittering drumlines, the insightful collection is as much an homage to ZOF’s artistic reclamation as it is a love letter to all things music. “I feel like sonically, the sounds all mesh together, even though there’s a lot of genre variants in there,” she adds.

The single ‘Day One’ dropped last month: It’s a dreamy drum & bass cut that puts its creator’s attention to detail in full view, with stunning topline treatments and lush, ultra-layered progressions. As a whole, the thoughtful long-player is a departure from the West Coast producer’s previous club-adjacent releases, which might be described as techno and breaks-driven, often touting a dark, unexpected edge.

Its diverse qualities are perhaps a result of ZOF’s early exposure to instruments. “My parents realized it probably wasn’t normal for me to be playing Mozart from little keyboards, and thought, ‘Oh shit, we should probably get you a piano teacher,’” she remembers. By middle school, ZOF was highly skilled, bringing her talents to the stage for fun. “I did my fifth-grade talent show, and I sang an Avril Lavigne song and played the piano there, and it was... pretty awesome,” she recalls with a pause and a chuckle. “There are no winners in the talent show, but I mean, I might have won if there was.”

Those early experiences performing before friends and family cemented the creative spirit that led ZOF to DJ in college and tinker with Ableton. It was stifled momentarily by the demands of the corporate lab, but COVID-19’s uncertainty produced a rare moment of clarity.

“Mentally, it was like a turning point. I thought, ‘All right, the world is super fucked up, and I’ve been worrying about doing the ‘right things’ — I went to college, I got the STEM degree, and then I worked a grown-up job, and it sucked ass, and I didn’t make enough money. And then a pandemic happened!” she exclaims, throwing her hands up as in an act of surrender. “So I was like, ‘Why the fuck would I not try my hardest at this music shit that I’ve always wanted to do?’” It seems the “right thing” just needed the “right time” to take off.

Megan Venzin is DJ Mag North America's deputy editor. You can follow her on Twitter @Meggerzv