Los Angeles producers Dimitri Craven and Jerry Andrews form the core of Zona, a house music outfit that also includes a rotating cast of live musicians and vocalists that contribute to recordings and club performances. The sound is soulful and groovy, drawing upon the classic foundations of deep house as well as the songwriting elements of disco and R&B. Zona's latest single, the buoyant "Never Forget You", is a prime example of the group's aesthetic.
We caught up with Zona to talk about their music and the Los Angeles scene. Scroll below the interview to check out the brand new video for "Never Forget You" … it's a party starter.
What was the origin of Zona? How did you guys meet and what are your backgrounds in house music?
Jerry: I met Dimitri 20 years ago as our bands used to sometimes play together. My musical background is eclectic. I grew up on all kinds of music. I became a fan of house music when I heard Mark Farina'sMushroom Jazz. It struck a chord because it mixed R&B, hip hop, jazz, and lounge within the context of house music. This appealed to me as a fan of all kinds of music.
Dimitri: When I met Jerry I knew I had to work with him. He is one of the most talented producers around. He also plays many instruments and is good at them all. Working with him is so easy … he's like a brother to me.
Valerie Moise regularly collaborates with Zona, and she sounds fantastic. How did you guys find her? What’s it like working with her, creatively?
Dimitri: I met Valerie at church … you find the best singers there. She used to be a backup dancer for Britney Spears and Madonna, so she knows how to feel a song. We love working with her. We have five different singers on the album. I choose the singers after the music of the song is finished, so I can feel their vibe with the songs.
How did you choose the different remixers for “Never Forget You"? Is there something in particular you were looking for in remixes of this song?
Dimitri: We usually try to find remixers we know from L.A. because they're cheaper and they're my friends (LOL). But they also have to have a soulful vibe. However, now I'm finding it's great to spend the money on a big name because it can get the song more recognition.
There are a lot of cool live elements in the song – Greg Brown on vibraphone, and Greg Velasquez on percussion. How important is a live element to Zona’s music?
Jerry: We aim to mix in live instrumentation to distinguish ourselves from all of the electronic / sample-based house music out there.
Tell me about the Zona live show. Do these musicians regularly join Zona in the clubs?
Dimitri: We have a full band. Jerry is mainly a producer and works with major artists, so he can't play with us. But I go out with a full band. After years of singing in band myself, I want that live element of a band to set us apart.
What are the challenges of integrating live musicians with house music?
Jerry: It comes very natural to us because we both grew up playing in live bands. Fortunately we have been able to work with great musicians. So, its just a matter of capturing the magic they bring to the table and making sure whatever they do supports the song.
Zona is based in Los Angeles, which brings images of glitz and glamor to most people around the world. But there’s quite a vibrant house music scene there, right?
Dimitri: L.A. is on fire at the moment. You can go out any night and the clubs are playing house music. You have Marques Wyatt, Tony Powell, Doc Martin, Sid Perry, Abdul Shakir, and many others playing soulful house. There are about ten EDM clubs so, whatever your flavor, it's out there. I grew up in the Hollywood scene playing the party circuit and got tired of it. So then I found house music and my life has never been the same.
The album Peace, Love and Understanding is due out soon. What can listeners and fans expect?
The album is combination of songs we released on other labels as well as new songs. The album title comes from our first single release … the title is about what's happening in the world. Being Christians, we have to learn how to love our brothers and sisters and show that we care.