I meet Zee at The Hope & Ruin in Brighton, a venue that’s very much a staple for upcoming bands. The stickers and doodles on the walls are a testament to that – a Black Midi here, a Gaffa Tape Sandy there. At the time of writing, their debut album has been out for a week, and it’s an exciting time in the world of Zee.
I might have interrupted the band’s pre-gig rehearsing, but Zee seems only too happy to talk to me. I ask how the tour’s been going so far – “Really good,” Zee replies, “The dynamic changes as soon as an album’s out, for a band.” And what it’s like to have the album out? Zee refers to the album as the band’s “mission statement”, which I have to agree with; it’s an emphatic, no-holds-barred stormer of a record. “It’s like okay – this is our flag in the ground, this is Queen Zee. Let’s go from there and see if you like it or not” continues Zee, laughing.
I ask if Zee had always wanted to be in a band, or if it was something that fell on them: “I’ve always loved music, but I never necessarily wanted to be in a band. I loved drag and queer culture as a kid – live music came later when I was discovering punk and stuff.” Certainly, as a band Queen Zee combine queer culture and punk to killer effect, resulting in their memorable live shows, and what could potentially be one of the albums of the year. Zee continues, “I’ve always wanted to be in this band – not necessarily just a band.” It rings true. Although they’re grouped in with the current punk scene, Queen Zee are unlike just about anyone around right now.
Speaking of the punk scene of the last year or two, Zee has only positive things to say: “There’s still a lot to do and there’s a long way to go but I love a lot of the bands that we’re in a scene with, like Dream Wife and IDLES. It’s a fantastic scene and we’re really happy to be part of it; I’ve always felt really welcomed and really positive about it.” They’re no strangers to the scene, having toured with Dream Wife, as well as Cabbage and Marmozets.
With the album finally out, we had to ask what inspired the songs. Zee ponders for a moment: “So, the album was recorded in a bit of a weird way – we worked on each track almost individually, so it was done over a year. The themes really kind of changed throughout the record as well.” The current socio-political climate definitely had an impact too, as Zee goes on to explain. “I always say that to put Queen Zee into context, it’s never existed outside of Brexit; Brexit’s been happening the whole time we’ve been going on – that kind of climate with the right wing being really prevalent, Trump in America and his policies on LGBT politics and so on.”
“I think that’s definitely just fed into the subconscious of Queen Zee – I like to think of it as trying to create a beacon in the darkness, almost like a glittery party in the oasis in the desert. I think that’s what we try to do, it always just goes back to that.”
Would you consider yourselves to be a political band, I ask? “I really don’t like artists to feel pressured to be political – I want a band to be a band first and make great music, and then I think a lot of that does mean there’s not necessarily a political but definitely a cultural relevance to the music.”
“That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s got to be political, like it’s got to reference the politicians that are surrounding us and so on, but even just writing songs about mental health, anxiety, depression and those kind of mindsets. They still have a cultural reference with what we’re surrounded by.”
Frankly, I’m in awe of Zee’s mentality. It’s refreshing to see a band being political without being preachy, and it’s still early on in their career. I have to ask about their future plans, and it looks like there’s a lot to be excited about.
“it’s all about new music and second record and getting that going,” Zee starts. “We’re sitting on a lot of songs right now that we want to work on; we’ve got a really busy festival season but that’s the weekends. In the weekdays it’s in the room working on new stuff.”
The ride is only beginning. Welcome to Planet Zee.
Words by Adam England