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Does Zretro have Superpowers ?

todayMay 20, 2022


Amidst much anticipation, Hopestreet Recordings is about to release Zretro’s self-titled debut album.  Zretro vocalist Zima had a chat with DJ Osric from LiQUORiCE FM about how they got here.

Zretro are a Naarm based duo made up of vocalist Zima and producer 2nd Thought. They are one of Australia’s hottest R&B talents and are about to release their first ever LP.

The self-titled LP blends 90s R&B vocals with golden era HipHop production and elements of Kwaito and Afrobeats. Zima’s voice is honey sweet, 2nd Thought beats sound fresh out of an MPC and their album is tied together by the elastic bass guitar contributions of jazzy house don Horatio Luna.

Whenever I come across neo soul/r&b production values like this from Australian based artists I have to sit up and take notice, such is my enthusiasm. The album is exploding with high quality creativity and expression. Its polished presentation, relatable lyrics, effortlessly smooth vocals, and club fused groove belies the fact that this is a debut LP.

Suitably intrigued and impressed, I caught up with vocalist Zima for a chat about the experience so far.

DJ Osric: Hi Zima, how are you ?

Zima: I’m good, thanks so much for having me.

DJ Osric:  Is it “Zedretro” or “ZeeRetro” ?

Zima: It’s ZeeRetro

DJ Osric: Cool. Glad I asked because I didn’t want to get that wrong! By way of intro, can you break ZRetro down for us?

Zima: Sure. ZRetro is a band, it’s an album, it’s a way of life. It’s a mantra. It’s compromised of myself, I’m the lead singer, my producer and beatmaker2nd Thought and we have some complimentary bass playing from Horatio Luna my good friend and mentor.

That’s the main core of the band – we started off as a trio and we kind of move through different forms due to the format of our shows. Sometimes I’ll come with a band, sometimes it’s a duo but the main package is the ZRetro trio.

DJ Osric: So ZRetro has come about through evolution not so much by design?

Zima: Absolutely. You know sometimes artists are working regular jobs when we don’t have shows, just like everybody else. When we don’t have the chance to bless a stage, we’re doing things like labouring, we’re accountants, we’re in banks, we’re at the café, we’re in construction. 2nd Thought and I were working with another musical friend of ours, shout out to my big bro Meehigh, he’s also released a project recently with Eveready and we did a track with them.

2nd thought and I met threw my cousin. It’s quite a funny story because my cousin tricked me into driving to 2ND Thoughts house and I wasn’t having it. We were recording together and my cousin suggested I go to 2nd Thoughts house because his studio wasn’t up to the task of managing what we were trying to record.

I said no, let’s just finish recording the demo and put it up on Soundcloud but he insisted we go and see his friend 2nd Thought. We get to his house and there was something of a cypher going on with some MC’s who I didn’t know at the time from the Melbourne scene, I was a young gun. I was presented as the R&B singer type of guy but I do rap as well as you’ll hear on the album. So we get to spitting bars for the cypher but one of my cousins friends tried to play me out and said  “Zima doesn’t rap, he’s the R&B guy, everyone else can write a verse.”

2nd Thought was adamant that he didn’t care who could do what – everyone had to write a verse.

I wrote a verse in 6 minutes flat and sucked the air out of the room!! We worked on a song but things stewed for about 6 months after that but everyone knew what was going to happen

DJ Osric: Damn! How was that for you? Was that a moment like, “I told you so” or “Damn, I’ve got this” or something different?

Zima: It was very humbling. Up to that point I had been practicing, I had been singing in church, singing at university and every other kind of context to what I am doing right now. I was like “wow, I actually belong here”

2nd Thought called me and said “what do you actually want to do”? I didn’t have a plan so I told him I just want to release music and that I see myself touring in 5 years. He said “ok, I’m going to produce your album. Of course it has to be reciprocal, you have to like what I do.”

I said, yeah I do like your work, look at the reaction to the track we was working on. What his instrumental meant to me what I translated that through the words had such a good reaction. We had 6 months to think about what the next step was going to be, it was beautiful.

6 months later we get in the studio, I told him I wanted to make a rap album. As a young Australian black man, I didn’t see a place where I could fit vocally otherwise. I didn’t think it was possible or that there was a market for being a soul singer.

DJ Osric: That’s a very interesting perspective. There is clearly some HipHop references on the album. Was your sense that you wanted to do a rap album something that was from within you or was it a reflection of the environment you were in and trying to fit within that environment?

Zima: You know what, it was very much in tandem. There’s a lot I want to say and a lot I can express through that art form.

DJ Osric: We might come back to that because I’m always fascinated how artists of colour, particularly around the soul genres –  calibrate a sense of what’s what based on where they are coming from and the fact that they are in Australia which has a different vibe and where the overlap between those and many other things work. For example, I’m from London so my sense of soul music and how it is consumed is heavily influenced by a nightclub dynamic. That is not true of my experience here in Australia, so a recalibration is required on my part, arguably. I often wonder how artists can stay true to what they are trying to do whilst gaining momentum in the environment within which they are operating. But I don’t want to digress from your story so we may come back to that.

Zima: That’s no digression, it’s part of the story. The diaspora, specifically people in my demographic in Australia and how we struggle with identity is relevant. It’s very hard because we have shades of home, shades of expectations and shades of things we want to live up to ourselves. I explore those issues a little bit deeper through my music.

DJ Osric: Fascinating and definitely something to explore in relation to the Australian soul scene but let’s kick on. So, did you manage to hold on to elements of the rap album?

Picture of Zretro with link to their debut album
Zretro, the album.

Zima: Yes I did. The first song I did with 2nd Thought made sense at the time, everything else that I was trying to do thereon was me ‘trying’. Whereas with the singing, it’s effortless, the songs write themselves and I can get work done that I’m happy with.

For example, Auntie Deloris is a bit of a soliloquy.  A reflection of family time. The intention was to make it feel nostalgic and the song grew into a moment and something that I longed for, especially during the pandemic. Everyone has an Aunty Deloris.

DJ Osric: I totally agree, it’s a quality track. I have to say, having listened to a fair amount of soul music in Australia, your album feels like a bit of an outlier. The production values, the packaging, the aesthetic is quite something. With that in mind, let’s talk about Hope Street Recordings, the label behind this release of your first album.

Zima: They have helped us greatly. They are helping with what we are developing into and it is so exciting.

DJ Osric: I am so excited for you and everyone at Hope Street because this is such a wonderful project and the Zretro sound is so good and marketable.

Zima: Yes,, we are really enjoying the experience with the label. The reception has been great, they are so supportive, and we have the limited-edition vinyl release to look forward to. This is a big moment for us.

DJ Osric: Cool! Tell us about that.

Zima: Well the album release is 20th May. We’ve just released Superpower which is the 2nd single from the album after ‘Silly Games’ and we’ve just completed the filming for the Superpower video release which was so much fun.

DJ Osric: Well that’s quite enough to be getting on with so I’ll end this chat by wishing you the very best with Superpower and the forthcoming album. I look forward to seeing you blow up here and abroad. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me.

Zima: thank you DJ Osric, this has been a fun interview and we appreciate the support.

Zretro’s self titled album is out on Hope Street Recordings on 20th May 2020.

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Words: DJ Osric from

Image: Raphael Recht via Hope Street Recordings

Written by: DJ Osric