Meet the ferocious up-and-coming rock band Soraia! “Quicksand” is the name of their breakout single. It will be on their new album “Dead Reckoning,” which will be released on October 13th via Wicked Cool Records in partnership with The Orchard.
In their raw songwriting and passionate relationships with their fans, Soraia – whose name means “bright guiding star” in Arabic – strive to set an example of how personal struggles can be overcome to inspire life-changing art. “Quicksand” channels this resonant message of empowerment and healing by way of rolling guitars and lead singer ZouZou Mansour’s captivating howl, while the lyrics address themes of overcoming obstacles from addiction and domestic violence to internal battles of narcissism and destructive self-talk. The album title itself references the nautical process of calculating one’s current position based off of previous locations and experiences, encapsulating Soraia’s desire to process pain and struggle into growth and healing.
Soraia‘s energetic, intoxicating live shows are their calling card, showcasing an infectiously defiant intensity – ZouZou Mansour has been referred to as “a true mix of Iggy Pop and Joan Jett” onstage. Over the course of relentless touring and four albums, one EP and countless singles, the Philadelphia band has honed their garage-rock songwriting and magnetic live show while building an intensely dedicated fanbase across the country.
Steven Van Zandt, host of Little Steven’s Underground Garage on SiriusXM, chose Soraia’s song “Electrocutioner” as his #1 “Coolest Song of the Year 2016,” and their attitude-laden punk cover of The Kinks’ “(I’m Not) Like Everybody Else” reached #1 on rock radio in South America in 2014. Prior to that, rock n’ roll legends and deejays Bill Kelly, Genya Ravan, Kid Leo, and Michael Des Barres chose “(I’m Not) Like Everybody Else” among their favorite “Top Ten Coolest Songs of 2014″.
Whether in a hot, sweaty rock club or huge amphitheatre, Soraia‘s charisma and spirit transcend the concert stage, channeling the legacy of iconic rock ’n’ roll rebels and epitomizing raw power, unrelenting energy, chaos, and freedom.
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Learn more about Soraia in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! Where does this interview find the band? Is there music playing in the background? If so, what is it?
Right now, we just finished our last performance before the US leg of our tour begins – which was a performance for BalconyTV on the roof of the Sony Building in New York City. It was FUN!
I can tell you the music playing in the background the last few days has been Jeff Buckley’s “Grace” album on repeat, since it was the 23rd anniversary of the release of that record a couple days ago.
I’ve been really attracted to Jeff Buckley and Leonard Cohen lately. It’s a great time to be listening to music!
What are some words you would use to describe 2017? How differently did you all approach this year? What have been some highlights of the year?
Some words for 2017 are creative, inspiring, poetic, music-filled, struggle, love, empowerment, and a little bit of sadness and heartbreak, too. I think that’s pretty much any artists’ journey, right? But this year was already filled with creating, and being inspired, and movement, and so much unrest in people and ourselves, I believe. It’s a balance. We’re all human, so, there’s no escaping that.
I think this year, all of us were more hopeful and inspired, and excited, since we knew we were starting out the year recording a new album with our new label, Wicked Cool Records. We just came off summer 2016 writing like crazy, then fall tour, then some pre-production and demos before hitting January 2017 with Steven Van Zandt in the studio. So hopeful, excited, and passionate is really how i would describe our approach to 2017. Also, after all we did last year, I believe the band as a whole felt confident.
So far, the highlights have definitely been recording “Dead Reckoning” at Renegade Nation in New York City, and definitely the part where we worked with Steven Van Zandt as producer on a few of the tracks. A big highlight was hearing how the record turned out, too; it has been, by far, our strongest work.
Playing some amazing shows is always a huge highlight, and the opportunity to do a European Tour for the first time is a HUGE highlight for us all, too. It’s been a goal of ours, and we’re happy to be going.
Looking back on how you all decided to form this band, what do you think first made you all think you could do this and make music together?
First of all, Travis and I (ZouZou) have been writing together successfully for a few years now, already. But when Brianna joined, she had already been a fan of the music for a while, and was excited to start playing with us. She brought a drive and energy to us in both her personality and her playing that we very much needed, and a desire for making the music all it could be.
When Mike joined, he immediately was the first guy we’d ever had that played with a reckless, graceful style. I don’t know, we just didn’t have to tell him what tone to use or explain what we were looking for, he just seemed to know. That’s magic. That combination is rare, at least for us, and I think we all know that and honor it and respect each others’ abilities, strengths, and talents. And I think we know how to speak to each other in a way that – even if we’re having personal differences – the music comes first, and that’s ahead of everything else.
How did you all first meet each other and come up with your band name? What other band names were you considering? How do you think your name sums up with you are and the kind of music that you make?
Well, Travis and I met back in late 2004, when he first joined. At that point, I was singing, but didn’t have an official band. His drive and personality and talent at playing – as well as with his songwriting – was apparent to me early on. We started working together since then, and have had a relentless attitude toward what we do. The band name was just my official name that I’d put on a demo tape back in the day, so it stuck. But the name means “Bright Guiding Star” in Arabic, so I wanted the band to be that kind of force and energy since day one. So it’s more fitting the band and vision of what we do, rather than a name at this point. There were no real other competitions for a band name. At all.
And that energy and drive and compassion fit us as people and in what we bring to the table today, too. We’re a pretty powerful group and the music affects people in that way. It’s inspiring to watch what happens on some people’s faces when we’re playing and really lost in it. The best music changes me, and reveals something new to me. That’s what we’re always aspiring towards in our writing and in the band, I believe.
How do you think you have all been influenced by being from Philadelphia? What is the music scene like there? Do you think that it has affected your music?
I think Philadelphia is a very indie town. People work their asses off here. To get into a venue you want to play is difficult. So you have to have fire and a thick skin. That’s what Philadelphia gave us – that toughness and relentless attitude.
There’s an ever-changing and evolving scene, here. The radio stations really support us all, too, which makes Philly pretty special, I think. We know all the deejays from the local commercial stations. They’ve come to shows, hosted shows, and just been involved heavily in our scene.
Let’s talk about your forthcoming album called “Dead Reckoning” that you will be releasing on October 13th via Wicked Cool Records. What was it like putting this collection together? Did anything surprise you about the process?
It was an amazing experience the whole way through, from the ideas and breakthroughs we had while writing this record, to working with the band and developing the songs further, to playing them live on the road for 4 months, to getting into the studio to record them. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it any other way. Honestly, our label pushed us to do it that way, and I’m so grateful we listened. We had plenty of roadwear on these songs long before we hit the studio, and that made a big difference: we made them our own. They kept growing.
The only surprise was how well we worked together in the studio. I mean, there was some tension before hitting the studio, but once we got in there, something else took over and there was almost no issues on much. We really collaborated, which was a great surprise, and a really good one.
What was the inspiration for this record? How did your already released single “Quicksand” first come together?
The inspiration for this record really came when we sat down last summer and just decided to see how many songs we could write instead of just writing here and there. We had always played a ton, but never took serious time to sit and write a whole record. So we just started writing. It was the best thing we ever could have done for ourselves.
Quicksand started after Travis sent me a cool riff idea with a rough arrangement for the song, and I had just heard Rival Sons’ version of “Black Coffee”. I decided I wanted to write a lyric and melody where the background vocals were super soulful, and also, the main vocal riff of the song. So “Quicksand” just came to me and I knew it was right. The harmonies came first, then I wrote around that title line. It was just after David Bowie’s passing, and I knew I wanted to sing something with “All the young dudes” in it. That line always hit me hard. Anyway, the song developed line by line, and the arrangement changed a bunch of times before the final one. The groove changed once we went into the studio: Geoff Sanoff, our engineer and the main guy who helped us produce that track, made us try a bunch of different tempos. It worked out!
You have a very packed fall tour scheduled so how do you keep up the energy night after night out on the road? Where are a few places that you excited to play at? Have you performed at some of these venues before?
We love what we do, and it’s all about what we do when we’re on the road. We’re engaged in it. Committed to it. We love it and that comes through in the shows. It’s easy when you’re in a groove to do night after night. You miss it when you get home.
We’re excited to go to Spain and Germany for sure! Playing in Europe is extremely exciting to us since we’ve never played in front of a European audience.
Also, we love playing New York City and Philly. We love everywhere, but those are our faves.
A lot of our US Tour Schedule are shows and areas and venues we’ve played a few times. It’s always exciting because we love hearing how people see us with some space between our last show there and our new one. It’s exciting to experience their reaction, and sometimes surprise, at new material!
What can fans expect from one of your live shows?
Raw, intense, genuine feeling. Whether we’re on or off that night, you’ll get all of it.
Where do you think you are all happiest- in the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere?
I think it’s a mixture of both, We were just in the studio the other day picking up equipment, and I missed it so badly. I crave it. We are writing now, so I know studio’s not far off from that.
But being onstage is such a visceral, raw, real, engaging experience. It’s easy to lose yourself in a performance. So–overall, it’s a bit of both.
How do you think being a musician gives you all the most joy in life today? How has it saved you over the years?
I wouldn’t trade what we do for anything. Anything. Honestly. It gives us such happiness and a sense of purpose. It’s a calling, and a seeking. It’s an undeniable urge.
It’s saved me through breakups, family problems, selfishness. I try to always put that energy into creating, instead of self-absorption. It’s easy to get lost in despair if you’re not creating, or you think you’re meaningless or pointless. Music gave me everything – it gave me life. In all honesty, I owe it immensely, and am honored to be able to do it.
Who are you all listening to these days? What artists have continued to inspire you and your music?
We’re listening to all our heroes: The Pixies, Queen, Iggy and The Stooges, Queens of the Stone Age, Jeff Buckley, Blondie, A Giant Dog, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Otis Redding, Charles Bradley. There’s just so many. I can’t even keep it straight.
I’m always listening to The Clash and Jeff Buckley and Leonard Cohen and reading poetry before I write. I find some artists I’m only attracted to when I’m writing, like Rival Sons’ version of “Black Coffee” affected me a lot when I started writing this last record. But our influences are all over. Sometime we can listen to Alabama Shakes or Amy Winehouse and Nina Simone, then abandon them for a while. It’s just what mood strikes us, and when we share our influences that the greatest songs happen.
Who would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
I’d love to work with Steven Van Zandt again–it’s such a joy to do that and I learn so much: my mind opens to a ton of ideas, and I become like a sponge when he’s produced me and the band.
I’d also love the experience of working with Jack White at some point. I love all the music he’s made.
I’d love to do a session with Karen O, too. She’s one of my influences that I think has such a unique voice, and she can be both sexy and innocent. I would love to sing with her.
At the end of the day, what do you hope your fans take away from your music? What do you hope is the message of your songs?
I hope they feel hopeful and excited and inspired by our music. In whatever way. I hope it makes them want more for themselves, to want to be more, see more, and want to try. That’s the whole thing really. And especially, I just really hope they enjoy it and it frees them.
What advice would you give to a young band just getting started today?
Stick to it. Work on your craft. Write with as many people as you’re drawn to, and never quit. Especially when it gets tough–that’s usually before a great breakthrough. If it’s in your blood, don’t let anything or anyone stop you: including yourself. And you know if it is.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourselves or your music?
Just that we’re really proud of this release, and that we’re already writing the next one, and excited to be playing live this fall. We’re looking forward to meeting you all!