With their shared interests of music and art, University of Arizona alumni Sanaan Mohamed, Nathanie Ngu and Zach Cohan were destined to meet eventually. In 2018, they did — and now, two and a half years later, the trio has released their debut EP under the name SZN.
SZN is an accumulation of Sanaan, Nathanie and Zach’s mutual creativity, and together the group has produced several popular and globally streamed songs. The Daily Wildcat recently spoke with the three via email to better understand what drives them to create music and all about their newest EP.
Daily Wildcat: How did the three of you meet?
Nathanie Ngu: The 3 of us met at a talent show. We all met each other separately but didn’t think too much of it. We started working with each other at weekly collaboration sessions at Zach’s house and started to become closer friends.
DW: When did you become a music group and why?
NN: When the pandemic first started, we were the only ones who were extra cautious, so we trusted each other enough to meet up at Zach’s place. We ended up making Time Goes By and Can’t You See that night. I started joking that we should start a band since the acronym of our names, SZN, was catchy.
Sanaan Mohamed: Whenever there was a recording/jamming session in the Tucson music community, the three of us would often talk about starting a trio. We really liked what each person brought to the table and so, during the pandemic, we decided to move in together and lived in Palm Springs, looking for work. It was during this time when we officially began making music for our project.
DW: Was it at all challenging at first to get heard in the music industry?
Zach Cohan: We never made music with the goal of being “heard” per say, but we had built an audience of over 20k on TikTok on another group account with some other friends and figured that could help us with regards to marketing. We ultimately got around 12k [followers] on a SZN account. Personally, I don’t think about what anyone else is doing because that doesn't help me or anyone but I focus on getting better and making the best music for me. If I like it there is probably someone else out there who will like it too.
NN: We live in the attention economy, so it is definitely a challenge to grasp and keep people’s attention when there’s so much going on in the world. However, our main focus was to make good music and have fun. When we started our promotion on social media, we took a more comedic path where our satire would consist of exaggerating music industry stereotypes.
DW: What do you each individually bring to SZN?
SM: I’m originally an instrumentalist. I’ve been playing the guitar for over 10 years now. All of the string melodies and instruments you hear in the SZN discography are played by me. I also contributed my songwriting skills, vocals and bass melodies to our songs. I’m so grateful that I got to learn so much about songwriting from Zach and Nathanie during this time.
NN: I think we all bring such different sounds and talents to the table. Sanaan is like a wizard when it comes to finding catchy melodies and improvisation on his guitar, while Zach has so much experience with production and rapping that he can make beats in 15 minutes and write verse that fit different vibes.
ZC: I have experience doing everything; writing, producing, rapping, mixing, etc. Nathanie is a talented singer and songwriter and Sanaan is insane at guitar and melodies. We all do everything in the sense that we all have our hands in writing, producing and singing/recording vocals.
DW: In regard to your newest EP, what was the inspiration behind this piece?
NL: This EP is mainly inspired by all the things we were experiencing in both our personal lives and global issues that were happening. Since the conception of the album was at the beginning of the pandemic, we had fears about what the virus would entail and what we would do after graduation, we had frustration about injustice and inequality in the world. But all of this also brought about reflection, gratitude and a greater understanding of our individual responsibilities on Earth.
SM: It is a reflection to what was happening around us and how we felt at the time. It was a stressful time for all of us and it felt good to know that we had a creative outlet to express ourselves effectively. Some songs were simply us reminiscing about our childhood days, Time goes by, and some were just us freestyling to make something that sounds cool, nothing more Orange View.
ZC: We were definitely inspired by the events that transpired during the time of us making the EP. The pandemic, mental health, goals/dreams, injustices, etc. I think it’s cool how we all experienced similar things but have different experiences and perspectives associated. I think both the similarities and differences in experience and perspective played a role in the sound and content of the project.
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