There’s a unique sound behind Chicago-based band Zigtebra’s music. Self-described as lo-fi indie rock, you can’t help but move to it. But it’s not just the synthetic beats or spunky lyrics that make the music mesmerizing. After talking with Emily Rose, 28, and Joe Zeph, 34, the “dream pop duo” behind the band, I quickly learned how their love for the music translates to their audience, making even a newcomer to the sound love their music too.
Joe grew up in church and was therefore exposed to music at an early age whereas Emily’s background is in dance. But although delayed in formal music training, Emily’s passion for music has always been present, which is apparent in her dedication to the craft.
In 2017, Zigtebra wrote one new song every month of the year and went on a 120-day summer tour. The following year they toured for nine months playing house shows and alt spaces around America.
Emily described the tour as a learning experience that was “totally personal” and “satisfying.” She says, “It was the best kind of hard work. I would rather show up to that kind of hard work than hard work I’m not passionate about. That year changed everything. It grew me more than anything I had ever done.”
That year, Joe and Emily started writing songs together – a process that transformed their songwriting journey. All of their music comes from personal experiences they’ve gone through whether it’s “scorching heart ache or longing.”
Emily says, “The coolest part about our music is that it’s not the story that we own. It’s a story everybody knows and we want to write music that people can hear and think this is how I feel because falling in love, being dumped or missing somebody is a universal thing we all go through.”
“When you realize your friends or even strangers have felt the same jealousy heartache, loss and embarrassment, it brings everyone together and I really love that – it makes me feel a little bit closer to everybody.”
And that’s what Emily and Joe want fans to get from their music – simply knowing they aren’t alone in whatever they’re going through, no matter how good or how bad.
Emily, who doesn’t come from a music background, also says she hopes people feel empowered to share their creative or artistic ideas with others.
“I never want to come across as pretentious or too cool,” she says. “I want to feel connected to everybody because that’s what makes me really happy is going to shows where the artist is accessible.”
She adds, “We always try to come on stage already thinking we’re connected to the audience instead of feeling self-conscious about how we look or what we’re doing.”
And by doing that, Emily and Joe have created a space where anyone and everyone can feel free to be themselves and connect with one another through their shared loved of music.
Emily and Joe have come a long way since they first started making music and performing together, and in terms of their career, they still have a long way to go until they make it “big” so to speak, but they’re eager to see what the future holds and look forward to seeing it through with their fans.
“In two years, it would be great to have an album made that I am in total love with,” Emily says. “To be able to go further and deeper down the hole and extend beyond the release of Major Crush.”
She adds, “If you start with realism and then go toward expressionism, Major Crush was our realism phase. We passed art class 101 and now we’re going onto weirder stuff.”
And as for what’s next on the agenda, Emily and Joe would both love to sign to a record label and go on tour through Europe.
They’re big dreams but dreams that don’t seem that far-fetched. Emily tells me she knew when she met Joe that they were going to make music together for a long time.
“Everyone knows how that is,” she says. “When you have a friend that gets the same things you get and are curious about the same stuff. Regardless of what people thought of Zigtebra, we both knew it was going to be something we loved and that it wasn’t going to be perfect but we were going to do our best to make it get there.”
The process hasn’t been easy. They’ve sacrificed a lot along the way and they’ve had their fair share of challenges, but it’s been worth it.
“In this moment, we’re better than we ever have been in our craft,” she says. “And we can only continue to get better from here.”