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BOTW Interview: San Zhi

We speak to our BOTW about how they got together, new music, Guillaume Briere, Sam Duckworth, and popcorn death.

You’re a fairly new band, and there’s not much on the internet about you, so tell us about your backgrounds in music.
We first met at a wayward music college in London, where we were taught to make music on computers by the legendary Dennis Leigh (aka John Foxx), but our big breakthrough came when we met Guillaume Briere (AKA The Shoes).

When you started San Zhi what did you set out to make? Did you both have sounds in mind?
We wanted to create a new world for ourselves, whilst ignoring the one we lived in. The sound itself felt organic, matching our mood and emanating from anything available to us. Neither of us are professionally trained musicians but there is a synergy in Suraya’s tone of voice, which allows it to meld with diverse bits of equipment involved.

How do yall know each other?
We met at college a while ago, and we got the rest of the band together through friends at the beginning of this year when we were getting ready to play live dates.

I saw you play at the Sebright recently. Where’s your favourite venue to go to in London? For sound quality, atmosphere, etc?
London is a weird one for vibe – The Sebright is run by a good friend of ours and seems to have the ideal combination of great sound and good meat! They treat you nicely and feed you with burgers. There’s a lot of competition in East London between some really great artists for the good venues, but we like it nice and dark.

What are the differences between your live and recording set-ups?
The wide-ranging, elastic nature of our sound in the studio is created through an expansive mix of electronic and live instruments.  When it came to doing our thing live, it required bringing in friends to dilate the sound. We try and keep the intimacy of our recordings but also strive to make the sound come alive.

What inspires you lyrically? And why?
Using words and moods that evoke a surreal feeling. Our song ‘Ice Light’ is loosely based on a book called Ice by Anna Kavan, which ties in post-apocalyptic scenery with relationships and death.

Artwork, videos, Tumblr pages, etc. are all increasingly important nowadays – so what inspires you aesthetically?  And why?
Places we want to go and things we want to see.

You’ve covered Lauryn Hill. Why did you choose ‘Ex Factor’?
It’s a song we’ve been listening to together since we were kids and it’s one of the greatest tracks in our lives, so we covered it mostly because we liked it!

How are The Shoes and Sam Duckworth involved in your project?
The Shoes (AKA Guillaume Briere) is like our brother – we stay at his house in France, we eat together and we make music.

Sam works out of Amazing Grace Studios, where Spiritualised used to work – he’s a really good friend and he definitely gets what we’re trying to do.

…French-side magic, and the Duckworth touch.

What are you looking forward to most as a band this year?
Playing more festivals, less broken limbs, our first release, and the music video we just made with new genius director Kieran Mithani.

Where do you want San Zhi to be this time next year?
Maybe in San Zhi (in Taiwan).

Which new bands are you into at the moment?
Amateur Best and Night Works are making music that will soundtrack our future. We managed to catch a bit of Swim Deep at Festival Number 6 in Wales; they were nice lads and sounded interesting.

You’re on death row and get to choose your last meal. What do you choose? Starter, main, pudding?
1kg of raw popcorn kernels, followed by the electric chair. Put a film on. Snacks for all. Pudding: heaven!

-Bronya Francis

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