A friend recently said to me that I “get so juiced up on pop music”, and it’s so true. Pop music was my first love, they were my first concerts and it was my first obsession. So when I find hints of poptimism in dance music, I’m overjoyed. From cheesy bootlegs, tasteful blends and house rhythms with catchy lyrics, I’m discovering a lot of crossover at the moment. And this is exactly what Orphan. Records co-founder Klein Zage excels at with her latest record ‘Tip Me Baby One More Time’ – one of my favourite records released this year. I think the title single is one of my most listened tracks in the last month.
Originally from Seattle, Klein Zage moved to London to Berlin and ventured back to New York where she currently resides and returned to work in the service industry. Scrolling through her Instagram you can see there’s a clear love for food and wine with one of her goals to create her own wine. For ‘Tip Me Baby One More Time’, Klein Zage draws from her experiences of working in a restaurant through her playful, tongue-in-cheek lyrics and pays homage to our queen and unexpected inspiration during the pandemic Britney Spears. The EP is also raising money for the Restaurant Worker’s Community Foundation Covid-19 Emergency Relief Fund as well as New York’s ‘Service Worker’s Coalition’ as the industry is one of the worst affected during the crisis.
For our latest Lowdown feature, we speak to Klein Zage about her early influences, finding her sound and voice, how we can help support the service industry during this time and the back story behind ‘Tip Me Baby One More Time’.
What was your first introduction to electronic music? And who were some of the people you looked up as role models?
I’ve been listening to electronic music for a long time but really started to dig into it when I moved to London in 2011. Most weekends were spent at the now-defunct Plastic People, seeing DJs like Four Tet and Floating Points during their residencies. This was really the first time I got to experience club music in the venue it was meant for – having moved from a rural high school where the club didn’t really exist. I listened to a stupid amount of Burial that year, discovered UKG, the original dubstep, old funk, soul and house at clubs in South East. I remember hearing dancehall and reggaeton at an incredible gem in Peckham called Tasty Bakery – literally a Caribbean bakery by day turned DIY dance church by night. There were endless opportunities to get stuck in and that’s exactly what happened.
Has music always been something that you were interested in?
Ever since I was 6 and started piano lessons it’s all I’ve wanted to do with my life.
Living in both London and now New York, how do you feel both cities shaped and influenced you both as an artist and person?
London will always feel like my home for so many reasons. I gained a perspective that’s hard to describe – being an outsider, from a ‘foreign land’ that has taught me a great deal. I’ve only been living in New York a little over a year so I think the jury is still out on how it will ultimately shape me. New York so far has been an incredible wake-up call. After leaving London, my husband and label-partner Joe and I moved to my hometown of Seattle. We thought we’d be there 6 months just to re-set and ended up staying two and a half years. I was working in the music industry booking for a festival and was pretty unhappy despite living a comfortable life. Moving to New York has allowed me to re-focus on the things I value and has challenged me creatively more than Seattle was able to. We live in a diverse neighbourhood in Queens that reminds me of London in a lot of ways. This is a tough question to answer. I know I’ll return to the UK eventually but for now New York is breathing life into my various pursuits and for that I am thankful.
What was your dream growing up?
To be a notable and respected performing artist. Yikes
What has your creative journey been like so far?
Bumpy! I go through periods of finding writing incredibly hard. I procrastinate. I psych myself out. Convince myself I’m not good etc. All the things really. It’s hard and rarely rewarding but c’est la vie.
Could you tell us a bit about the back story behind ‘Tip Me Baby One More Time’? What inspired the release?
When I moved to New York I decided to return to work in the service industry. I had worked in cafes and restaurants all throughout my time in London and when I first got to Seattle. Some little devil voice told me at some point I should try and get ‘a real job’ in the music industry and two years later I was unhappy and disenfranchised with music in general. I’ve always had a fascination with restaurants and am generally obsessed with food so it’s really where I needed to be. I wanted to pursue a career in wine and felt the best way to do that was to return to restaurant work so that’s what I’ve been doing for the past year and a half. With this release, I wanted to pay homage to the service industry and the home I found in returning to it. Naturally, for me that means poking fun at it a bit but the intention was to celebrate the industry as a whole in a way that could be relatable. Little did I know the service industry would be facing the greatest crisis in its history just weeks before this release was due.
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🍸 Channeling Ina every day but especially today because 𝚃𝚒𝚙 𝙼𝚎 𝙱𝚊𝚋𝚢 𝙾𝚗𝚎 𝙼𝚘𝚛𝚎 𝚃𝚒𝚖𝚎 is officially out in the world! As I’ve said, this record is an ode to my beloved service industry – currently in the midst of a crisis. Me, joe and billy (aka @orphan_records) decided all profits from this release (digi & physi) will benefit @serviceworkerscoalition and @rwcfusa for all the incredible work they are doing to aid out of work hospitality workers across the country. Not so coincidentally, today is International Worker’s Day and @bandcamp is once again waiving their revenue share. Every purchase over the next 24 hours will mean we can put even more money into the hands of those who need it. I wished by this time things might be back to normal in our industry and we could raise a glass to having made it through, but we are still very much in the midst of this thing. Please support your local neighborhood spots however you can. Please listen and support this release if you can, and know it was written as a celebration of everything and everyone that makes this industry magical. Raising a glass to you all either way xx Zage 🍸*link in bio* p.s. thank u to Joey G ii for featuring, to @factamusic for the killer remix, to Billy for the constant big ups when I wasn’t sure if this would fly and to OG @daniel.bara_ for the stunnah artwork, who I first met as he stirred me a Negroni at the Camberwell Arms 💔
Having previously worked in the service industry yourself, what are some of the most useful ways people can support right now?
A lot of restaurants are turning themselves into storefronts, selling prepared food or pantry items, liquor and wine in order to stay afloat. Everyone that can should support their local spots any way possible – whether that’s buying a jar of olives or a whole rotisserie chicken. There are also a lot of relief funds for restaurant workers around the world. All the profits from this EP are going to benefit the Restaurant Worker’s Community Foundation and the Service Workers Coalition.
How do you approach your productions? Are you going into the studio with a fully-formed idea or improvising?
It’s a little of both. I usually have a jumping off point or at least the type of song I want to make in my head then it’s just experimentation, trial and error.
The title being an obvious nod to Britney Spears, what’s your favourite Britney track?
Oof tough one. Lucky was certainly up there when I was 7.
Were there any specific artists that influenced this release?
No one in particular. I’m always listening to a lot of Original Pirate Material, groovechronicles, Oneohtrix Point Never, Reckonwrong etc. I loved the Logic1000 release. Strangely in the last year I’ve listened to less club music – lots of Nick Cave, Nina Simone, Built to Spill, Grouper. Inspiration really comes from all over. Also Joe’s full length has really inspired me and I can’t wait for people to hear it.
How did the remix come about with Facta?
Always been a fan of his stuff so I reached out to share the release and ask if he’d like to be involved. Chuffed he said yes!
What wine would you pair with this release?
A zinger. My wine of the year was probably Jerome Saurigny’s Salamandre (2017) from the Loire. It’s white a red grapes – Gamay, Cab Franc, Grolleau, Cab Sauv & Sauv Blanc I think. It’s somehow fuzzy and warm, bright and punchy at the same time. Could be equally enjoyed on the floor and off.
How would you describe Orphan. Records and are there any future plans in store for the label?
The label came about from a club night series me, Joe and Billy ran in London from 2015. It gave us an outlet to start DJing and book artists we really admired but didn’t get a lot of love in the crowded London club circuit – people like Tim Goldsworthy, Micachu, Dave Okumu, The Golden Filter etc. When we moved to the states and billy to Berlin we decided to launch the label. Originally it was just an outlet for us to release our own music – we had long been fed up with playing the dating game with other labels and wanted to maintain control and creativity. We wanted to be a label for the “orphan artists” – ones that couldn’t find a home anywhere else, either because they didn’t fit into a perfect mold or hadn’t felt heard elsewhere – artists that straddles genres and scenes. We’ve now started to work with other artists and expand the portfolio. Last year we released our first compilation on World Mental Health Day to benefit a charity in New York called Child Mind Institute. We’ll release another VA this fall and are also working with an artist called Gloved Hands out of Sacramento on an EP. This summer will be our first LP release – Joe’s full length Pub Talk as Joey G ii is out in July. It’s killer.
You’re both a singer and producer, do you think you’ve found your voice and sound?
I think I’m still getting there. I want to release an album in the next year or two that really marries my two loves of club music and more melody driven, trip hop, ballad vibes. I think right now I have two hats – one as a singer/songwriter and one as a producer and I’m trying to patch them into one hat. I also want to create more of an outlet to sing on the next release – I’ve done it a little bit on Tip Me Baby but I want to push it much further going forward.
What is your go-to comfort meal at the moment?
Like everyone else in the world right now, I’m feeding a sourdough starter and baking a lot of bread.
What are you most grateful for right now?
Given the state of things, I’m most grateful for my health and my family. I’ve been quarantined with my sister and my husband and our little wiener dog, Steves. I’m scared for the future but I’m incredibly lucky to have people close to me that I love and trust in times of crisis. Also wine.
‘Tip Me Baby One More Time’ by Klein Zage is out now on Orphan. Records – buy here.