Zoee photographed by Cat Scrivener
Exploring the avant pop artist's literary influences...

Zoee is a name that has lingered on the fringes of our lives for a while now.

Real name Harriet Zoe Pittard, the London musician has released singles through Ryan Hemsworh's Secret Songs imprint, as well as Vegyn's label Plz Make It Ruins.

Continually moving forwards, Zoee has worked with Hot Chip's own Joe Goddard, as well as with avant pop disciples PC Music.

Debut album 'Flaw Flower' is out now via Illegal Data, and it finds Zoee distilling a sound of her own, deviating from the norm in order to uncover fresh facets of her own life.

Sonically refreshing, Zoee also has a way with words - Clash uncovers her literary influences in Their Library.

What is your favourite book and why?

Boring answer but I am not able to give one book – that’s just too difficult.

What other authors do you like?

Ones I can think of off the top of my head - Viv Albertine, Bell Hooks, Diane Williams, Angela Carter, Joanna Walsh.

What draws you to certain books?

It really depends on my state of mind – I would say the novels I get engrossed by tend to feature a protagonist who unravels or is slightly unhinged and where bigger themes can be explored through a very personal, intimate and often passionate lens. Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, Ferrante’s The Days of Abandonment and Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair all tick those boxes for me.

I also like getting lost in mildly fantastical, sometimes dystopian fiction – I loved Zamyatin’s We – which I think had a big influence on George Orwell’s 1984, I enjoyed the Van Der Meer trilogy – particularly the first book Annihilation, Angela Carter’s The Passion of New Eve and Virginia Woolf’s Orlando.

Then sometimes I really like to connect with writing that is very relatable and unflinchingly honesty – I felt a real connection with both of musician turned writer Viv Albertine’s memoirs – particularly her latest one ‘To Throw Away Unopened’ and Tracey Thorn’s book Bedsit Disco Queen. Other times I am looking for writers who are going to inspire and galvanise me with their politics and philosophy - Simone Weil, Bell Hooks, Rebecca Solnit and Audre Lorde have all had a big impact on me.

Have you ever discovered a real lost classic? What is it and why?

My dad gave me a book which he had read and loved back in the late 70s - Dancer From the Dance by Andrew Holleran. It’s been described as the most exciting novel of the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDS era, vividly depicting the queer scene of 1970s New York. I wouldn’t say it’s a lost classic, more of a book with a cult following, but it was out of print for a long time until it’s reissue in 2019 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising.

Do your literary influences have a direct impact on your songwriting?

Yes definitely. For my debut album ‘Flaw Flower’ I found poetry particularly inspiring. I would sing along to instrumental ideas using pre-existing poems that I like – letting my voice just make up melodies as I sang the poetry – it felt like a really freeing way to experiment with writing vocals. I would then go back over the words drawn from the poem and re-write the lyrics from my own personal perspective, often using notes I’d made in my phone to replace the author’s poetry.

I also kept some pieces of literature that I particularly liked in some of the songs – in my album track ‘Bits' there is a Maggie Nelson quote from her book ‘Bluets’ and the song title ‘The Flowering Corpse’ is taken from a poem title by the writer Djuna Barnes.

What are you reading at the moment?

Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami.

What is the first book you remember reading as a child?

Walt and Pepper by Lisl Weil.

Have you ever found a book that you simply couldn't finish?

Yes way too many to be honest – I can be very impatient with books. I find I have to feel connected to it or intrigued by it quite quickly in order for me to finish it. I am trying to get better at sticking with books though. I’ve made a new rule recently that I can’t buy any more books until I finish about a dozen half read ones that I already have.

Would you ever re-read the same book? I definitely re-read poetry books. I find it a little dull re-reading fiction, as I feel I need the sense of suspense and the unknown to keep me drawn in.

Have you ever identified with a character in a book? Which one and why?

Nearly any book I have loved I feel I have identified with a character in some shape or form – I think part of the allure for me of a book is feeling like I am connecting with a character because I relate to them and feel close to them in some way.

Is there an author / poet you would like to collaborate with?

I actually have recently collaborated with Glasgow-based writer and poet Maria Sledmere. She has written a 13 page collection of short poems called ‘The Rosarium’ in response to my debut album and I am so excited by it – it feels like these small poems by Maria represent the subconscious world of the album’s song lyrics – I particularly love this line she wrote for it –

Slowly I get away from the way a song feels
without you in it

We have created a small A6 pamphlet of ‘The Rosarium’ which accompanies the ‘Flaw Flower’ album bundle on Bandcamp.

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Photo Credit: Cat Scrivener

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