The ugly pop pioneer talks new EP and their gritty pop sound.


2021, prepare yourself because Blackpool-born artist ZAND is ready to cause a stir with their unapologetic and empowering sound. Dropping their liberating new EP “UGLY POP” today, the singer offers us plenty of tongue-in-cheek bops filled with assertive lyrics and pouring bass lines. Featuring cheeky hit single “SLUT MONEY”, the singer dives into the world of sex workers and delivers an ode to those who have the right to whatever they want with their bodies.

Talking about the tune, the singer said, “while it’s a tongue in cheek bop, I wrote it as a liberating bite back at whorephobes and an ode to the sex worker community as well as it being an empowering for anyone who’s been judged for demonstrating their right to bodily autonomy and sexual liberation.”

Coining the term “ugly popstar”, the singer has been serving up a gritty pop sound for while, pulling inspiration from teenage obsessions such as My Chemical Romance and Imogen Heap. With their new EP finally here, we sat down with the singer talking the creative process, the meaning behind “ugly popstar”, and what we can expect next.

Check out the interview below…

Hi Zander – how have you been during this uncertain time? How has it impacted your music and creativity?
Thank you for asking, I’m doing just about okay. It has stunted my creativity in some ways, but then propelled it in others. Managed to smash out an entire EP in lockdown holed up in my room somehow, which I’m really proud of and excited for the release.

How did growing up in Blackpool influence you sonically? Who are your musical heroes?
So my family moved us to Ireland when I was four, and then we came back when I was 12. I loved a lot of icons like Britney, Rihanna, Xtina, Hilary Duff, Ciara, Kelis off the top of my head growing up and then later in my childhood and teenage years much of how I consumed music came from the television – for example: watching music channels in both countries, like Scuzz, Kerrang! etc. That’s how I discovered bands like Paramore, Fall Out Boy, All American Rejects, My Chemical Romance, Linkin Park and countless more who were all trailblazers for me in discovering “heavier” music that wasn’t pop. For Christmases and birthdays, I would just ask for their albums. And then I also discovered – and continue to a large chunk of music through film: like Hans Zimmer’s work in The Prince of Egypt, The Lion King, Spirit Stallion of the Cimarron, all of which I became obsessed with the orchestral, “epic” sonic elements that sparked emotion. And then lastly was the internet, MySpace being where I found so many artists like Imogen Heap, Millionaires – who I’m convinced don’t receive anywhere near enough credit as they’re due!, Secondhand Serenade, Dashboard Confessional as a young teenager… I definitely grew up on a huge mix of genres and artists. I can’t do all of them justice here. I’m always forgetting and remembering, then adding to the “influences” list.

You describe your genre as “ugly pop” – why?
It’s a multi-faceted term by all means, but it’s there as a descriptor for the “messy” pop music I’m making; whether it’s lyrically exploring somewhat dark, uncomfy matter (depends on the person listening) in order to empower myself and people who can relate, or instrumentally it’s poppy with inky lashings of industrial warp whilst banging out earworms at the same time, or both simultaneously. The possibilities are endless. Ugly Pop is definitely a catch meets all term for my project. I like mixing it up and having fun with it but for the most part, it’s definitely feminist vibes and all for self-empowerment.

Feminism, gender, rape culture, transphobia, homophobia, sex work – you address a wide spectrum of topics in your music – where do you pull your musical inspirations from?
My anger, mostly.

You’ve got your EP “UGLY POP” out now – why that name?
Seeing as that’s the term I’ve coined for my own genre, I think it’s a good way to introduce people to ugly pop and myself as an “ugly popstar”, per say. Having self-produced most of it, excluding “Inappropriate” which I produced with Daktyl, it feels like a very intimate project and as though I’m birthing a little part of myself into the world. So I feel a bit vulnerable but I’m still stoked.

What ties all the tracks together as a body of work?
A common theme that tends to run through my music with each song is they feel quite tongue in cheek, despite whatever topic is being explored, especially on this EP. The first track, “Bald Bitch”, is a simple introduction to me, to ugly pop and what to expect from my music and myself as an artist, as I feel the rest of the songs Inappropriate, “Slut Money” and “Freak” do the same. “BB” is definitely a more light-hearted track and isn’t really touching on anything dark at all, it’s just me having fun, taking the piss out of other people and reminding them how hot I am and to stop touching my bald head! Then comes “Inappropriate”, which is kind of a sly hit back at “suits” in this industry and the way in which artists “like me”, anyone who isn’t a cookie-cutter cis-het manufactured stereotype are viewed through a judgmental lense. Meaning if you don’t fit a certain mould, you’re straight-up “Inappropriate” – so with this track, I’m kind of reclaiming that term, again taking something negative that’s been used against me and using it to sneer at those same people with. “Slut Money” is about sex work empowerment and bodily autonomy, and then “Freak” is a somewhat autobiographical track encapsulating my journey as a non-binary person and is solely for non-binary, trans and gender-nonconforming empowerment. It just feels like a well balanced, varied body of work that represents me and each song strikes a different chord.

Do you have a lead track or lyric from the EP that you hope your fans will resonate with?
“Inappropriate” is the lead single, as I mentioned earlier it’s about embracing being “too much”. I made it with my friend Daktyl (Ultra Records) in LA and then produced more of it/finished it when I got home, adding distorted guitars (performed by my brother), vocals, piano, sorting the structure out – lots of ad prod. Taking a word I’ve been described as an artist and putting a sarcastic, embracive spin on it: Kinda like, yeah okay if I’m “inappropriate” in the eyes of you boring vanilla cis-hets then let’s run with that honey! It’s high-key aimed at some people I’ve worked with that were happy to blow smoke up my arse but didn’t necessarily have my best interests in mind.

What do your want fans to take from your music?
I hope that it can act as an uplifting catharsis for the underdogs and as some sort of education for those that can’t relate to the themes I’m writing about.

What’s next for you? What are you looking forward to next year?
I am hoping to actually get to play some live shows next year, and obviously, release more of that sweet ugly pop. You’re probably sick of reading those words by now but it rolls off the tongue quite nicely!


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