Interview by Annar Veröld.
New Zealand native and pop artist Zowie is going to take the world by storm with her fresh style of music. The perfect concoction of Ziggy Stardust, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, and a Bionic Pixie, Zowie’s image and music is an undeniably alluring manifestation to carefully watch and listen to. Red River Noise had the opportunity to sit down with Zowie, formerly known as Bionic Pixie, before her performances at Nylon’s South by Southwest (SXSW) party, and her showcase at Perez Hilton’s bash. Below, Zowie shares her inspirations– ranging from songwriting and music, to fashion and where the concept of a Bionic Pixie came from.
How do you perform now in comparison to Bionic Pixie?
Zowie: Character-wise, the performance is more aggressive and manic, and she’s not as laid-back or contained. Zowie has got a bit more of the “grrr” factor.
Was there a specific moment in time, or were you slowly transitioning into the artist you are now over the past few years?
Zowie: When I started the Bionic Pixie character, and started performing as her, I had been looking at artists like Michael Jackson and Grace Jones and other artists that were constantly reinventing themselves all the time. When I started Bionic Pixie, which was sort of an accident, I realized I didn’t want it to just be that, I wanted it to get bigger and bigger. I wanted the outfits to keep changing and everything. The songs started to get better and I started to write with new, fresh people. It just felt right, and I thought “Now is the time!” and I was so, so excited about it.
How does one become a Bionic Pixie?
Zowie: Well, ‘cause Zowie is still a Bionic Pixie. The story goes is, is that a Bionic Pixie is from the year 3000, and she is back from the future, and she is here to modify the beat of the modern world, and just kick out people’s speakers and stuff like that. I don’t think Zowie knows exactly how she is a Bionic Pixie, but she just ended up in this time period, and she had a little note that told her what she was and what she is here to do.
Who or what inspires you as an artist?
Zowie: Lots of designers really inspire me as I’m writing. Generally, I think about the whole thing—I think about the video and what outfits would suit that song. Designers like Gareth Pugh inspire me. And I work pretty closely with one of my close friends back in New Zealand. She is who I do most of my stage outfits with. Her name is Serena, and we work really well together, because I’m kind of a night-owl, and she’ll get up really early in the morning and do little bits; we come together really nicely. Musician-wise, tons of artist: Nine Inch Nails is a band that I’ve always grew up listening to. My dad and my mum have incredible musical taste, so I grew up really lucky. Grace Jones and The Knux—so many artists. Also, the Japanese culture has inspired me, as well– you know, the sort of harajuku girl thing.
I know you are looking forward to the release of your debut album this year, did you receive any help compiling your album and style? If so, by who?
Zowie: I co-wrote most of the record, sort of mid-last year, and I’m still finishing it off—over the Internet, really. I’ve worked with people that are into more pop kind of stuff, and some people that are more into a punk sort of style. It’s really cool, because we have all come together with this one consistent sort of sound, but you can hear all of the influences as well. But, overall, I have really done what I really want to do, so it all works out.
You will potentially become a fashion icon, do you have any fashion tips for your audience—something to get us all a little ahead of the game?
Zowie: Generally, when I like to wear stuff, sometimes, I look at something and I ask myself “Is this so wrong, that it’s right?” Like, when I look at something—for example, what I’m wearing, this is so kind of weird, because it somewhat looks like a fluffy dog, but it has a military mesh thing going on—it’s really weird, but kind of right. I also look for things that are very futuristic, I quite like that look. So, look for metallics and stuff. I like oversized stuff on little people, on smaller people. Really, I always shop in the small japanese arcades that are everywhere, or in the Chinatowns, those are some of my favorite places to shop. One of my favorite stores is in L.A. called Pop Killer, I got this amazing kind of suede, Ziggy-Stardust kind of jacket from there—it is so cool!
Can you tell me about yourself before identifying yourself as Bionic Pixie? You know– tell me about the young Zoe Fleury with a passion for percussion!
Zowie: I got really into music pretty early on, because of my parents. Drumming was always one of my main loves. I officially started drumming when I was 11 and I went on through high school; I was in jazz band and was a big-band kind of drummer. I went on to music school and was majoring in drums. I joined punk bands and pop bands and jazz bands and stuff. That is sort of how I really started to get into what I do now—this sort of love of music, and my parents were like “try the guitar, or this” and I was like “No! Drums, Drums!”. That is every parent’s worst nightmare, but I kept with it. Bionic Pixie sort of evolved because of my love of drums, and then I started to screech in these punk bands, and I started to use my vocals more.
Every artist has a certain way of creating, where do you ideas stem from, and how do they turn into a full-blown song or album?
Zowie: Generally when I’m writing a track, it sort of comes from something personal or real that impacted me, some sort of situation, and then I generally do something where it somehow ends up having double meanings, most of the words make you wonder if I’m being dirty or nasty, or nice or what. I always make sure people can relate to it, as well. It always starts from something real.
What were you hoping to really accomplish during SXSW?
Zowie: Just hoping to get our stuff more noticed. We had a New Zealand showcase and there were a ton of people from Texas, and L.A. and stuff, and it was amazing. I just want people to like it, that’s all I really want. I mean, performing at Perez Hilton’s and Nylon was an incredible opportunity as well.
How does it feel going from New Zealand to touring all over the world? Do you have any favorite places that you have performed, or are you looking forward to any specific places in the future?
Zowie: I just played New Zealand and Australia, and then New York, L.A., Texas. I definitely fell in love with New York straight away, but I haven’t had a favorite spot yet. I really want to play in Japan, especially in Tokyo—everywhere. I hope they love me! Japan definitely helped inspire the Bionic Pixie thing, so, I’m excited to go there. I would love to play in Sweden and Copenhagen—I would love to do some shows there too.
What was the concept behind your music video, “Bite Back”? What was your vision?
Zowie: That was kind of a concept that I came up with on a random morning. I had been watching a lot of Michael Jackson music videos and was feeling a certain way and a certain mood. The track for the video was putting me in somewhat of a dark mood with that pop flares. So, I wanted it to be really moody, but I wanted to have all of those cheeky boys walking in the background. I just sort of drew down this concept, and then it kind of worked, and then I met up with the director, and we both had the same vision—that was kind of weird. I don’t know what it was, but sometimes I dream up certain ideas, and then I wake up, and I ask myself. “What the hell was that?”.
What are your plans for 2011? Where are you headed?
Zowie: I will be finishing up the record once I get back to New Zealand. I think we might do another Australian tour, but I think we are going to try to get back here in the U.S. The focus for the next few weeks, next few months is finishing up the record and getting ready to release. It feels unreal.
Watch Zowie’s music video for “Bite Back” below: