Catch up with singer-songwriter Zeke Finn and watch the video for his single "Plight" ft. Matisyahu off his self-titled EP, out now.
What got you interested in music and in songwriting?
Zeke Finn: My family is pretty musical. My dad plays everything, basically - mandolin, banjo, recorder, any whistle - and my mom plays guitar, sings - and so does my sister. Folk music was a big part of my upbringing and my grandmother sang on Broadway [laughs]. There wasn't just one particular thing, my life kind of filled with music from the get-go. In terms of songwriting, I only started really writing songs - like poems and raps - when I was about 15/16.
Do you remember what the first poem or rap you wrote was about?
I used to beatbox at first and all my friends and I would beatbox style over each other's beatboxs. So at one point I wrote a rap or a rhyme or whatever it was on a little piece of paper and I brought it to class in school and my English teacher saw it and he was like, "oh, that's cool, you should come sing that with my hip hop band," and I'm like, "oh I don't perform, I just wrote this little thing," and he kind of pushed me to develop these little writings into actual songs. He'd bring me to the studio and we'd record demos, he had me open up for him a few times, so that was kind of how the real songwriting process came about.
Which musicians would you say you've been influenced by?
I feel like initially, Woody Guthrie, as a songwriter, was a big influence in the way that he just wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote so, so much all the time. In terms of hip hop, Top Quality was a big influence on me, I think he was one of the first MCs that I really started to study and listen to how he wrote and flowed. In later years I've really liked bands like Alt-j, just in their songwriting and performance and I think they're really innovative. There's so many, I don't know how to answer [laughs].
If you were to make a playlist, who are a few artists you'd have to include?
So definitely Top Quality, Alt-j, Coldplay, Eminem, Sylvan Esso, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. And Matisyahu.
How would you describe your sound to someone who hadn't heard your music?
I think it depends on the song, but I'd say alternative hip hop with a lot of electronic meanings.
Can you tell us more about your single and video for "Plight" featuring Matisyahu?
The song I wrote actually a few years ago when I was in a place called Yeshiva, which is kind of like a rabbinical college, and I was studying mystical Jewish text and I was learning about the journey of the soul as it comes from the outer spiritual realms down into a physical body and the physical world. Because that was the concept, I didn't see a regular music video to be fitting for that song and I really thought animation would be cool and I got in touch with some animators that I really liked their style and they put it together and that was it. It was cool because they use a technique called rotoscoping and basically they filmed us performing the song and doing the movements and whatnot, and then they redrew every movement frame by frame. It's almost like when you draw on a wax sheet of paper and so they basically traced our movements and re-drew everything that we did and turned us into cartoons.
What were your inspirations behind your single "Unicorn"?
There's definitely a love interest connected with that song and I kind of embellished a little part of my life into something bigger; I kind of meshed a dream and a real life happening into one and put that to the music and that created something bigger than the dream and the story itself. The music, particularly, is the most electronic sounding song on the EP and I really like that. I felt like it was a new style of music for me and it's a bit of the direction that I'm taking my music, in general. It's always my favorite track on the EP, or at least the most relevant to me.
Could you tell us more about that EP?
What I wanted to do is basically show as many different sides of my music as possible with just four songs. I tried to make them pretty different, like "City" is a little bit more harder hip hop with a little bit of a country twang to it; "Love Song" is like your feel-good, pop-y, love song; "Plight" has strong hip hop flows but then it opens up into this big, almost jam-y, outro; and I don't know how to describe "Unicorn" [laughs]. It's definitely a variety of sounds and I think different people will connect with different parts of the EP and I wanted to see which parts and which songs stuck in different ways with different people. The common denominator of all of them is that there's strong hip hop bases in all of them, but they're pretty different, all four songs.
You mentioned "Unicorn" was your favorite track off the EP, but do you have a favorite track to perform live?
I don't know if I have a favorite... I like performing "Plight" live, that's a lot of fun. When my sister can perform with me, she sings really nice harmonies on "Love Song", so when she can perform with me, I think "Love Song" is my favorite song to play live. And I think the crowd likes that song a lot because it's easy to dance to and move to.
In one sentence, how would you sum up the EP?
An introductory exploration into the music of Zeke Finn.
What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?
That's up to them [laughs]. Each person will have their own musical journey and experience when listening to any one song, so I can't tell them how to experience my music. I think that's the beauty of music, is that we each connect in our own way to it and we each need music for different reasons.
Is there anything you want to add?
I had a show at Bowery Ballroom on March 11th and a lot more music is coming after this EP, so that's something people should know. I hope they assume that already [laughs].