Premiere: Ben Zaidi Shares New Single “2013” | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, September 25th, 2023  

Premiere: Ben Zaidi Shares New Single “2013”

New Album Coming in 2022 via Nettwerk

Nov 19, 2021 Photography by Madeline Holland
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Over the past year, Brooklyn-based artist Ben Zaidi has proven himself as a consummate songwriter, crafting emotive, lyrically dense reflections on death and growing up in times of turmoil. Pulling from folk touchstones like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, as well as his own poetry background, he has been steadily sharing new tastes of his upcoming full-length album, coming in 2022 via Nettwerk.

The new record also sees him pairing up with Tony Berg (Phoebe Bridgers, Peter Gabriel, Beck) on production, as well as backing band members Ethan Gruska, Sebastian Steinberg (Fiona Apple) saxophonist Sam Gendel and Kane Ritchotte (Portugal. The Man). Fans last heard from him with “Going On Gone” and today he’s back with his latest single, “2013,” premiering with Under the Radar.

“2013” is a sweeping nostalgic offering from Zaidi, finding him pining for the past and its simple summer joys shared between adolescent friends. As Zaidi dreams of his youth, he wonders what was lost from those days, why the present feels so empty and the past has such a hold on him. All the while, tender acoustics add a gentle percussive beat and subtle swells of synths bolster the dreamy melodies, making for moments of wistful longing and heartwarming beauty.

Check out the song and video below. You can also read our exclusive Q&A with Zaidi, where he explores some of the inspirations behind the song, the video, and his upcoming album.

In addition to your music, you’re also a poet. How do these two pursuits work together for you?

My most resilient obsession is with the way certain combinations of words can unlock something in you––can give you goosebumps, or lead you to an insight you desperately needed, or leave you crying without knowing why. Poems do that with words alone, songs do it with words, melody, chords, rhythm. Making a song or poem is like preparing a meal, and words are like a soup. Sometimes you like a soup as one of several things in a meal, alongside some vegetables and rice and beans. But sometimes a soup is so complex, so filling and rich with flavor, that it’s an entire meal in itself. That’s a poem. When the words can sit alongside the melody and chords and rhythm… that’s a song.

What were some of the experiences and themes that inspired the album?

It’s the story of a young adult confronting mortality and apocalypse, told through a chronicle of several road trips to Florida. The first few trips are taken in late teens with a group of friends, carousing and reveling in the adventure of it all. Then, there come trips of a different nature. One to take care of a dying grandparent, whose house is being foreclosed on. Another to help a friend through chemotherapy. The landscape mirrors this fading innocence, Florida being a land of beaches and tropical beauty––but also ground zero of the coming climate catastrophe and sea-level rise. It’s a eulogy for youth, for life as you knew it, and a search for hope in the terrifying terrain of adulthood.

What do you see as the biggest artistic change you’ve made between ABANDONISM and your latest work?

Becoming more tolerant of ugliness. Tony Berg, who produced the album, really pushed me to allow uglier thoughts, emotions, and sounds into my songs. I think bringing that element out in the records made the beautiful moments more beautiful by contrast, and made the work so much richer and more complex.

What musical inspirations did you draw on when writing the new record?

The two albums that stayed on my shelf all year were Joni Mitchell’s Blue and The Freewheelin Bob Dylan. Listening to them now as a songwriter, I was so compelled by the lyrical demands of those songs––the way they assert themselves with such challenging, imagistic wordscapes. I’ve always felt that my lyrics were the core of my songs, but listening to those albums let me feel a certain license to push them even farther, to write 5 or 6 verses and earn that indulgence with the depth and power of the words.

Can you go into some of the inspiration and creative process for “2013” and the accompanying video?

I was driving down Long Island, headed back to Brooklyn from the beach when the words hit me. I pulled off the road and parked for a second to record a voice memo, which is almost identical to how the chorus sounds to this day. I became interested in playing with my own nostalgia, teasing out from it what was really there, whether it was really about the past or the present, about happiness or sadness. We shot the video in my Brooklyn apartment the day before I moved out of the city, when all the furniture and everything was already gone. This empty apartment felt like the perfect symbol of nostalgia, of a mind so obsessed with the past that the present looks empty and colorless.

What about the year 2013 inspired the song?

2013 is the perfect distance for a study of nostalgia. It’s just far enough to reminisce about, and for people of my generation, it’s the difference between adolescence and young adulthood, a seismic shift in your life. But it’s also recent enough that it suggests something of the absurdity of nostalgia. It suggests some questions, like, was it really so different then? And what do you really miss––the year, or something of yourself?


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