The LoFi PANDEMIC Series #2 Young Muscian Zena Mohamad

Zena Mohamad

Squid Fishing https://www.facebook.com/SquidFishingMusic/

Joel Imber talks to aspiring and incredibly talented young musician Zena Mohamad about all things music and her awesome band, Squid Fishing. This is one not to miss!

Tell us about your music journey, when did it all start you? Do you come from a musical family or did you just pick up that instrument by yourself?

Well my family is all Arabic and not very creative at all! So not much music in my family but I got given this little MP3 player that had no screen and maybe two buttons on it like ‘pause’ and ‘play’ and that was it! I had maybe 30 songs on it that my big brother had given me, which were either old school pop songs or indie bands. I remember hearing Story of a Girl, for the first time and listening to it as a 10 year old and being like “THIS IS AWESOME”. I remember driving to Launceston and just listening to it on repeat and thinking “why do I love this so much?!” haha. But I had that feeling in me, you know when you just listen to something you just love so much, and I it was probably the earliest memory of me thinking, “Oh my god, I love music so much!”. From there I was just absolutely hooked!

Prior to that, not much music influence through Primary School or anything like that?

Um, I did a lot of choir and things like that when I was in primary school. It was always like ballet-y type stuff or the national anthem. I always enjoyed singing as a kid, not that I was good at it but it felt naturally good to be singing, whether good at it or not! As a child I absolutely loved it but when I hit those teenage years I realized it was something I truly felt good about. Choir was fanastic but it didn’t really invigorate passion or excitement, rather it was kind of like an extracurricular activity that I did after school or had to go to at lunchtime and stuff like that.

She’d always shout at us like, “YOU’VE GOT TO HIT THE NOTE FROM THE TOP”…it honestly was so helpful, Haha.

It was definitely the Indie-punk sound that was like an awakening for me. I was like “Oh my GOD, music can sound like this?!!” haha. It brings back some stuff that I still remember and still think about sometimes, like my singing teacher back in grade five was so fantastic but just so aggressive. She just didn’t know how to speak to kids, she’d always shout at us like, “YOU’VE GOT TO HIT THE NOTE FROM THE TOP! DON”T REACH UP TO THE NOTE. YOU’VE GOT TO GO FROM ON TOP OF THE NOTE!” and sometimes I think about that when I’m practicing and it honestly is so helpful, Haha.

So what were the groundbreaking moments during High School? Is that where you wrote your first song?

Yeah definitely! Going into High School I found that I could sing and I’d always kind of done it. I don’t know what it was in me, but I suddenly felt the need to stand out in some sort of way. I could see that not many girls were playing instruments, a lot of them were singing and stuff like that but I was just so determined to play guitar of all instruments. It was me in grade eight just bashing away my head into my guitar learning chords and trying to teach myself tab and how to take away and pull away from all these other artists, to write something that sounds like me but is also like the stuff I love to listen to! It was definitely groundbreaking for me to play guitar, to learn it and perform it. Something that I had started from scratch a bit later than my friends had. People were going into High School having done years of lessons, lots of piano lessons since they were kids and stuff like that and then there was me who never even came from a musical family, and didn’t really get that upbringing, I was just entering that scene! And for a guitarist too, my god there was some shredders when I was 15, 16 yrs old! Haha and there I was struggling to play a ‘D’ chord!

So it was really satisfying and I still feel proud of myself because I stuck with it because as an adult I think we lose the ability to be persistent with new things. It’s so much more comfortable to just do what you know and do it well.

Name your first performance, what you did and what came from that?

I think what I count as my first legitimate gig as someone performing my own music was a little acoustic show in Launceston at Club 54 just down in the beer garden. It was just me and my acoustic guitar just smashing out stuff that I had newly written as a 16 or 17 year old, something like that. It was absolutely terrifying! I don’t get nerves much anymore but I remember that and I was absolutely poo-ing myself haha. I was only playing to about 10 people maximum but when you’re performing, even if you’re not looking at the crowd very often you’re always taking in how the audience is perceiving your performance. I could actively see when I looked up at people; they were either tentatively listening or closing their eyes and listening. No one was really chatting to each other or talking over the top of the music, everyone was just listening. Then I’d do a big note or shout or do a big scream because that’s where I started doing the growling vocal and I would see people shake their head a little like “oh my god”, and yeah it was incredible! It was absolutely amazing. It was successful to me, to do that as a 17 year old who had only just picked up guitar, it was amazing.

Lets talk real quick about your band ‘Squid Fishing’, how did you form the band and what have you been up to so far?

We all met in college and it was initially it was a little three-piece acoustic band, kind of folky, punky and a bit of rock. It was pretty DIY for a while, we were just young and stupid, wanting to bash out the instruments and feel good about music we wrote in our bedrooms. College was a really good place to teach us how to enter the industry. We took a couple of courses and our teacher Lachlan who is a legend, had previously done lots of touring taught us so much! The benefit of having him give us his wisdom as we left college, we decided we wanted to do this really seriously. We also met a couple of interstate bands that knew DIY labels and so we made contact with them and they organized us a little tour. Then through the touring we met more people like engineers and so we started recording. We went to Brisbane and then Melbourne to record songs, and yeah it just got progressively more serious and it’s been incredible. It’s been a difficult process too, I don’t know how professional bands do it but maybe its easier for them because they’ve got a bit more money up their sleeves and have their managers and bookings people to take care of stuff for them. But for us, we’re all trying to work and support ourselves to go on tour because with something like touring you see money on tour but you don’t really get it until the end, ‘til you’ve got those door sales or ticket or merch sales. So to have to book your flights first and your van hire, all that stuff is huge but if you’ve got like-minded people in your team who want it just as much as you do, they’re going through it with you.

Why did you call the band’ Squid Fishing’?

I wish I had an exciting story to tell but honestly, one day I walking through somewhere in the Huon Valley with a friend of mine and he was pointing out all the boats y the water, saying which boat was capable of doing what type of things. Then he points at one boat and goes “and that’s where they go squid fishing” haha. I was like “squid fishing?” and he goes “yeah”, and then I say, “I’ve never heard those words together in my life! I LOVE IT! haha, I’m going to call my band that!”. Fast forward three years and I’m like “Hey guys, let’s be called SQUID FISHING!” Haha, and everyone was like, “okayyyy I guess so” Haha. I don’t know what it is about it, but when I heard those two words together I just thought it rolls, it sounded beautiful to say. The connotation of fishing as well, it makes me think of two people sitting out in the middle of nowhere on a boat, just going for a fish. It’s silly but its fun. For the sound that we are, which is definitely quite emo, it’s definitely a very happy name!

So you’ve gone through this band journey and then you got the Falls Festival slot, that’s a big one! How did it go?

It was incredible! We were stoked to have the opportunity. It was so good playing on a huge stage; I thought I was going to be nervous – we all thought we were going to be nervous. Then we stepped out onto the stage on the day and just immediately felt calm. I t was fantastic and so nice to have perfect equipment around us, nothing went wrong and the engineers were attentive. It was just incredible and I was just so stoked to do that!

In a world where we return to live music events post pandemic, what do you and the band hope to ultimately achieve?

Ultimately every musician wants to travel and tour the world, playing arenas and all that kind of amazing stuff. But for me personally, when I write music I’m really critical of it. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’ve just listened to and seen so much good art in the world that I know what I want to achieve and that I want people to feel and understand something that I’ve written. Being able to convey the sound, a feeling or an idea. So probably a real personal goal for me is that I’d love to be able to produce music that I know has perfectly encapsulated the feelings that I’m trying to convey, that’s my ultimate idea of success.

What’s your general feeling about music in the current Covid-19 scenario?

It goes without saying, the whole situation absolutely sucks and everyone is being affected. Ultimately for me and the band, we’ve just had to cancel all our gigs and a tour that we had planned for later in the year. We’re just trying to do our best to use the time now to be really productive, writing some new music which I think every artist is doing. I think most artists right now are probably thinking, “okay I’m going to tuck myself away and I’m going to write good stuff in this time that I have to be at home. Then we’ll hit them hard later in the summertime!”. It’s times like these though that really force you to count your blessings unfortunately. But I’m feeling really thankful lately that I’ve got somewhere safe to sleep and a family who checks in with me, and people who message you to see if you’re doing okay, like my friends checking in. So yeah, I’m just so thankful at the moment and just hoping that it’s all over soon.

If you want to hear more, be sure to checkout their fan page for SQUID FISHING too at https://www.facebook.com/SquidFishingMusic/

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