Born and raised in Hackney, Szjerdene (pronounced J’er-deen) is a name you might not have come across before. Her voice, however, is another story. Having penned collaborations with Lapalux, Robin Hannibal, Slugabed and Bonobo amongst others she’s begun to carve out a space for herself releasing “Find Me” on her own imprint at the end of last month. Pulling together a shortlist of her favourite tracks exclusively for Wonderland, we sat down with the woman herself to talk tours, Twitter scanning and Holland living.
How’s it been working on the EP?
It’s really weird because I wrote and recorded “Are You Here” last year, way before I thought about starting this epic EP project. I remember showing to a few friends and they responded really well to it so I thought, lets take everything down and see if I can make something of this. It’s been about 9 or 10 months since then and whilst this is being released I’m already working on the next one, creating videos behind the scenes. Everything is happening at once. It’s mad! My head is in so many different places.
Were you nervous about starting your own solo project?
I don’t really associate nerves with recording. Live performances though. I’d feel much more rejection if someone didn’t like a live performance that I’d given.
Singing to the crowds at Glasto and Ally Pally must have been tough?
It was so surreal that it even happened! I was watching Glastonbury on TV this year (catching up on Kanye’s set) and it’s mad to think about all the people watching him and then you remember we were there last year. It was one of the highlights of my life let alone my career. People talk about losing yourself in the moment but you just can’t describe it.
Do you have any best and worst bits from the tour?
Singing, just doing it every single night and challenging my voice was the best teacher for me. I could try different things, different pitches, different styles. I could look at Twitter and find out how people were responding, what was working. That helped me grow so much. I think my lowest point was when I lost my voice. Inflamed vocal chords. They thought I might have to fly home! I had to eat dark chocolate and cranberries, rest my voice, try not to talk or shout too much and thankfully it all worked out.
I imagine it’s quite different writing for yourself, compared to working with guys like Bonobo and Lapalux?
The Bonobo tracks were pretty much finished when he got in touch asking if I could write the vocals and play a couple of shows, ha, I didn’t know then it’d be two years! With Lapalux, I sent him a batch of songs that I’d written and produced and he took Closure and completely reworked it. We’d constantly tweak and change it back-and-forth over Skype and Dropbox it was a really collaborative process. As for my music, most of the material is drawn from feelings I’ve experienced or observed. I try not to make it too biographical, breakups, the ending of friendships, stuff that everyone has experienced and can relate to. Find Me is self-reflexive, it’s about not being sure where you stand. There was definitely a time when I was like, who am I? Should I start from scratch? What is it that makes me happy? It’s kind of a conversation with myself to try and find out my purpose.
Is that what led you Amsterdam?
I’d lived in the same house in Stoke Newington all my life. I have a great relationship with my family but I needed to learn who I was. This guy called Full Crate found one of my songs, uploaded it to his playlist on 22tracks and asked me to come over for one of their shows. As soon as I got there I remember thinking, I’m going to move here. I had an opportunity to live with this artists community where the rent and bills and everything are a bit more flexible so I gave it a go and have stayed here for 3 years.
Apart from catching up on the odd episode of Eastenders? I’m working on some visuals for the EP and concentrating on the live show, bringing the band together, making sure I’m happy with how it all fits together.
“The Texture. As a vocalist I am often drawn to the texture and colour of other voices. From smooth to piercing, it has the ability to grab my attention and pull me in. The songs I have selected here are performed by singers with beautiful natural tones and melodies that compliment them.”
Hejira – “Gypsy of the Soul”
Lapalux – “Puzzle ft Andreya Triana”
Andres Hænder – “Boom Clap Bachelors”
Sarah Yewande – “FLUX 01 (Gold)”
José Gonzalez – “Leaf Off / The Cave”
“The Vibe. Sometimes you want to just shut your eyes and dance. Be it in a club, at a festival or in the comfort of your own bedroom. The following tracks are guaranteed to get me moving whatever the weather, wherever I am.”
Fantastic Man – “St. Elmo’s Theme”
Burial + Four Tet – “Nova”
The Gaslamp Killer – “Flange Face”
Shakka – “The Jungle”