Jeremy Zucker is the melancholic musical artist for a new generation. It’s no surprise why his Spotify streams reach the hundreds of millions with each single he releases – there is a wild, raw emotion that aches behind the otherwise lo-fi, minimalist production in his critically-acclaimed debut album love is not dying (2020), hitting unexpectedly hard
And considering how he’s just released the brent ii EP earlier this year (with Chelsea Cutler), Zucker works hard and is the gift that keeps giving, with his sophomore album CRUSHER already on its way, slated for release on 1st October.
Preceded by the singles “18”, “HONEST,” “Cry with you”, and his latest release “Therapist”, CRUSHER marks a departure from his previous sound. “love is not dying, thematically, was a doomed love letter,” he comments. “A desperate plea for compassion and understanding in the face of destruction. Making music during a pandemic is a difficult task enough, but ‘love is not dying’ felt like a pretty impossible project to follow up.”
One ‘pandemic’-inspired song felt like enough, and not much was going on in my life, at all. The well was dry, so to speak. I was slow to realize that the person I wrote love is not dying to (not for), actually hadn’t acknowledged any of it.
“CRUSHER is my response. I take back everything I said. It’s no longer about us, or me. It’s about you,” he continues. “During the writing process of this album, I became more myself than ever. It’s a more raw and confident me. I found new influences sonically, and I finally learned how to have fun making music again. I focused on more energy-driven elements of music production: live drums, saturation, and a bit of yelling.”
The album’s title takes its name very literally from the idea of a person who has managed to crush and destroy someone emotionally. The album art however, plays with the literal meaning of the word, and shows Zucker in front of heavy machinery actually used to crush physical objects. “We took the picture in front of a literal rock crusher – metaphors involving a complex and deliberate mechanism to systematically crush the literal ‘unbreakable’ ensue… It felt quite appropriate,” says Zucker. “It felt right to be front and center visually to support the music, instead of putting the music in front of me like I feel I’ve done in the past.”
With a moody, cinematic album trailer unveiled in the leadup to the release, Zucker’s new aesthetic only comes through even more clearly. “It’s really about stripping it all away, and you can see how there’s a lot of visuals that represent what the album’s going to be like, like the massive speakers. There’s a lot to interpret ad think about, but more will be revealed with the album’s release.”
Releasing the album tracklist, the titles seem to suggest more angst than ever before seems to come to the fore. Where love is not dying seemed more resigned and nihilistic, thanks to the lowercase lettering and tracks like ‘we’re fucked, it’s fine’, in CRUSHER, Zucker seems to embrace his emotions in full, with titles such as ‘No One Hates You (Like I Do)’ and his personal favourite from the album – ‘Don’t Come Over, I’m An Asshole’.
“The songs on CRUSHER are written with words that I felt hit me the most, and if it feels that way to me, it’ll probably feel the same way to my listeners,” says Zucker. “It’s a perfect mix of the old me from love is not dying, and the new me – a little bit of melancholy but a lot of energy and introspection and a lot more uplifting feelings and confidence from me as a vocalist and lyricist.”
While Zucker has been working hard over the pandemic, that hasn’t always been an easy process for him, not because of the lockdown, but because of how much self-reflection he was doing over the last year, going through both ups and downs. “Life isn’t a straight shot towards becoming a better person, and yeah, I realise I wouldn’t be where I am right now without the low moments,” he says. “Before making this album, and even now, I’m learning to embrace all the things that came before, the things I used to feel afraid or ashamed of, and finding a lot of sympathy and empathy and a lot of ‘where do I fit in’.”
I’m still writing about the same things, but now with more time to digest it all. I wanted to take a step forward and not make the same album again. And I think so much of CRUSHER came from having had the space to be introspective, learning from myself, and learning to prioritise connections, where I could spend time just processing my thoughts instead of writing immediately when the feelings were raw.
On the influences he had for CRUSHER, Zucker ponders over his recent Spotify playlist, and answers: “I’ve been listening to more electronic, house and world music, along with a lot of post punk and early 2000s alt rock. I want to absorb everything I hear and love in the weirdest possible way, digest it then spit it out in my own music.”
“love is not dying was an album to be listened to from start to end, but CRUSHER was more purposely jumbled about, an eclectic mix of sounds and emotions, with a lot of different energies on a single project, but all me.”
On that note, Zucker emphasises how CRUSHER is more of himself than ever, pouring his all into the album. “I always write music for myself, songs that are specific to me, and sometimes I get surprised when people tell me they feel comforted by what I’m producing,” he says. “It feels good to know that my listeners like what I make, and I guess I write for myself, but release it for them.”
“I really like the idea of introducing people to genres and sounds that they wouldn’t have been interested in if they didn’t like our earlier stuff,” he adds. “I know it would turn some people away, but I like doing things differently, because it makes it more fun and exciting, and to keep diversifying.”
Even then, despite recognising that he’s becoming louder (even naming his upcoming North American tour More Noise !!!), he feels that his brand isn’t about shouting and being heard above everyone else. “I don’t like the idea of competing for noise or attention,” he says. “The industry is becoming very saturated, and it feels like everyone needs to make a lot more noise to get noticed. That’s not my thing – it’s not about more energy and noise, but about self-expression, and just get loud, as opposed to this rat race mentality of trying to make everyone listen to you.”
“I think I’m leaning more into the fact that I am an artist, and I really wanna get good at it. I’m not a natural born performer or singer onstage, and that’s something I’ve been working on, to be able to put on a show. That’s also why I keep talking about being front and centre as the artist, instead of being behind my music, and it’s the first time I’m consciously trying to do that.”