EDM star REZZ on new goth EP, DEFTONES love, POLYPHIA and SILVERSTEIN collab | Revolver

EDM star REZZ on new goth EP, DEFTONES love, POLYPHIA and SILVERSTEIN collab

Rocktronic leader proves her emo, punk and nu-metal fandom wasn't just a phase
rezz red 2023 PROMO

Pick up Rezz's new "rocktronic" EP, IT'S NOT A PHASE, on limited-edition red vinyl at Revolver's shop.

While she's already a major star in the world of EDM, Rezz isn't quite a household name yet when it comes to rock fans. Her new EP, IT'S NOT A PHASE, could just change that.

Rezz began her career at 16 by studying online tutorials to help produce original music at home in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Her precociously skillful Soundcloud presence was quickly noticed by dubstep titan Skrillex, who snatched her up for his imprint Nest and released the moody, midtempo bass EP Insurrection in the summer of 2015. 

That same summer, Rezz's star rose even higher when she had another dark, atmospheric track called "Serenity" drop on the We Are Friends, Vol. 4 compilation via Mau5trap, the namesake label of yet another EDM titan, deadmau5. The nearly six-minute song is a masterclass in merging minimal beats with sleek gloom, and since then, three EPs, three full-lengths and a long list of successful singles have racked up 10s of millions of streams and led to regularly sold-out shows and headline festival appearances.

Those successful singles include a 2019 collaboration, "Falling," with Aaron Gillespie, singer-drummer of metalcore veterans Underoath — a track that helped place Rezz at the frontlines of the rock and EDM crossover, "rocktronic" music, if you will. IT'S NOT A PHASE continues in that vein, power-welding together the guitar-heavy influences of her youth — bands like My Chemical Romance, Bring Me the Horizon and, yes, Underoath — with the computer-generated sound that has made her famous.

The EP is also packed with collabs. "Dreamstate," an angsty, lovelorn cut featuring fellow Ontarians Silverstein and Polyphia guitarist Tim Henson. "Not Enough," with singer Alice Glass, a track Rezz pared down to ensure the spotlight stayed on the former Crystal Castles singer's voice. "Blurry Eyes," on which the "unbelievably underrated" Johnny Goth guests amid a depressive, dreamlike whir of emo and melodic plinking. Hard-hitting producer and past Rezz collaborator (2020's "Someone Else") Grabbitz returns on the single "Signal."

When we sat down with Rezz via video chat to discuss IT'S NOT A PHASE, she bubbled with an infectious enthusiasm and the awe of a kid let loose in a toy store with no spending limit. We talked about everything from her love of visual branding (inspired by her mentor deadmau5), to how the EP's collaborations played out while writing this record, to some of the more metal influences she'd love to tap into in the future.

IT'S NOT A PHASE combines your earliest rock inspirations with your love and talent for creating electronic music. Tell me about those early influences. I know you've mentioned that Green Day, Bring Me the Horizon and My Chemical Romance are all on that list.
Those are definitely the three that always come to my head because those were the three that I felt really passionate about. Of course, I liked plenty of other bands growing up, like, 30 Seconds to Mars, Three Days Grace, there are just so many. 

The first festivals and events I ever attended were punk events. And it wasn't anything big. There was a local one called Scene Fest that was close by in Niagara Falls – I grew up in Niagara Falls, Canada – that I remember attending when I was like 13, 14, maybe even younger, honestly, I can't remember how old I was. But I've always liked that music. It was [what] I first connected with and resonated with, and then I later became very, very obsessed with electronic music. 

So, I would naturally make punk. I would incorporate some punk elements to some of my songs in the past. But the thing was, over the last year and a half to two years, I've been making a lot of that stuff. And I was like, "Wow, well, this is all in the same kind of vibe. I might as well just put together an EP and throw them all together in this thing, and call it IT'S NOT A PHASE, and kind of have a whole brand that reflects this era. Even having photo shoots with my natural hair as opposed to my typical straightened hair. My typical look is different than my natural look, right? So, I kind of started to embrace that over the last couple of years while coincidentally also having the music sort of match the aesthetic.

It happened by nature. It wasn't like I sat there and planned it all out thinking, "OK, now I'm going to make punk music while also looking the part." It kind of just naturally all came together at once, which is why it's pretty perfect to be encapsulated in an era as opposed to just kind of having it be like a typical Rezz project. 

I wanted to emphasize that it is kind of for a specific demographic and not necessarily the fan base I originally attracted. I won't be surprised if they feel slightly alienated because it's definitely not the weird music that they — they refer to me as "Space Mom" — this wouldn't be necessarily the most "Space Mom" aesthetic music.

But that's why, once again, I really had to capitalize on the fact of this being a very enclosed era with purely that kind of vibe. I'm not saying all the music on the EP necessarily even is punk music. Of course, there are electronic elements in all the songs. Nonetheless, it was a different direction to go as a whole. It'd be different if I sprinkle one song here and there, but this was a whole project. 

It's fun to kind of feel free to just do what I want and not feel like I am pigeonholed into only doing one thing forever. And I want to be able to make all sorts of music and do whatever I want along the way. Obviously, what's most important for me is that it stays fun. You know, I want to have fun and like what I do, and this was definitely a really fun project.

It does feel like there's kind of a cultural moment right now where people who grew up punk or emo are leading this resurgence and nostalgia for those scenes. Similarly, nu-metal is also back in a big way. You sampled Disturbed early on, didn't you?
Yeah, yeah.

In addition to emo and punk, do you have a favorite nu-metal band?
Deftones is super, super sweet. I actually found out about Deftones not a crazy long time ago. I had always heard of them, but I didn't actually go and listen to their music until not that long ago. I really, really love that band very much. I feel extremely connected to some of their songs. 

In regards to others, I actually saw Slipknot — I think it was like a year or two ago — and it was a really sick concert. The lead singer's stage presence was so powerful and monstrous in a way. I was like, "This is sick." I really liked that I've always naturally connected to sort of ominous or darker type stuff. 

It's funny. I don't feel like that to my core. I don't feel like I am a generally dark person… I'm kind of light! But it's weird. I've always had this sort of part of me that's instinctually gravitating toward ominous imagery or music.

Speaking of that, one of the collaborative songs on the EP is "Dreamstate," featuring Silverstein — who hail from Ontario like you — and Polyphia's Tim Henson. Can you tell me how you came together to create the track and talk a little about the writing process?
Basically, I started writing the instrumental and I remember, I made a tweet like, "I'm gonna write an instrumental and my goal is to have Tim Henson write guitar on it, and then I want to have Oli Sykes from Bring Me the Horizon sing on the track." That was my initial goal. And it's not that I thought it was necessarily unrealistic, but I thought there was no way it would actually happen. I ended up messaging Tim because he had already been following me.

So, I sent him this idea, and he liked it and sent me some guitars back literally a day later. Basically, I finished the instrumental, and then I sent it to Oli Sykes, and he said he liked it. He said that he was down for it, but he mentioned that it was going to take him a long time to have the time to record. I didn't know if I wanted to potentially have to wait a whole year to receive a vocal when I wanted this song to be a part of the IT'S NOT A PHASE project, right? So, I'm going to send him something else. I want to work with Oli Sykes — it's probably one of my biggest musical goals — but I gotta make something that works for us. 

In the meantime, I was trying to send the song around to a few people to see if they had any interest in it. And then Silverstein was very excited about it and had a lot of passion for the song. For me, that's really important. I want to feel like people were excited because it hypes me up and makes me feel more strongly about the song as well. Silverstein was super down, and then they recorded something.

Does it mean a lot for you to collaborate with artists that come from the same area that you're from?
Yeah, it's the craziest thing. I mean, it's not so much about them growing up in the same area that's exciting for me, but it's more so the fact that I actually do feel nostalgia toward Silverstein. Anytime any band or artist, anywhere, if I find out that they're a fan of mine, it's always exciting and crazy because it makes you realize how many people might know your art. And you're just like, "What? They know my art?!" They know what I do. They know who I am. 

You would never imagine that they would know who you are. It doesn't matter what level they're at either. It's still a fact that somehow your music or your thing, your project got to these people. It's an exciting thing to wonder who else is a fan of mine who might just never let me know. Like, I'm a huge fan of the Deftones now, but I'm not going to write them an email to let them know!

Maybe Chino will read this interview.
I'd love that! It's definitely awesome to collaborate with all sorts of people. Even talking to you about it right now, I'm like, "Wow, this was crazy." 

Working with your heroes is probably the ultimate mind-fuck. You've had a pretty quick rise to fame, so I can see why it would mess with your head.
Yeah, you don't realize it sometimes because you're going with the flow so much and just not having a moment to breathe. Now I have time off more where I'm not a touring robot where I'm constantly on the road nonstop so I actually have more time to really think about it, like, "This is like crazy."

Let's talk about some of those other collaborations. Probably the most aggressive track on the EP is "Blue in the Face" with Syd and Shadient. Can you talk about why you chose both of them for a song with this type of harder sound?
Well, first of all, Syd, is my girlfriend! And she and I actually made quite a few songs together. We've made probably three different songs together, and we've worked on stuff that we have to revisit, some other unfinished songs. I've been a fan of Syd's voice since I was around 20, so I've known her for a long time. 

On the other side of it, though, is Shadient. He and I have known each other since I was 20 and been fans of each other's music. He always makes this super aggressive stuff, and he actually sent a short clip of "Blue in the Face" as a demo to my label probably a year ago. I thought it was super sick, but to me, it sounded unfinished. Then as I listened to it more, I was like, "I want to just finish this off, let's roll with it. Let me just finish it off!" And Shadient it was super down. I wanted to make sure there was gonna be a very heavy, nasty song on the EP, and that was it.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, your collabs with Raven Gray and MKLA veer much more toward pop. Was it important for you to find a balance between the dark and light on this EP?
It definitely all kind of fell organically for me. Like the Raven song, for example, she sent me a vocal a couple of years ago. At the time, there was this very rough, kind of skeleton instrumental on it. Then I kind of was like, "Can you actually just send me the vocal and I'm just gonna rewrite it entirely?" It ended up, to me, sounding a little bit like an Evanescence vibe in the vocal.

I felt inspired by this kind of lighter, prettier melody that still has an emo-ish vibe to it. Then with the MKLA one, once again, that's another one that just came together very organically and quickly. I just kind of, like, roll with it, you know?

Keeping in the vein of collabs, some of your most popular work is with producer Grabbitz. "Someone Else" has some 5-and-a-half million plays on YouTube alone, so clearly whatever magic you guys have together is real. Your new single together, "Signal," is also racking up views and streams, so what do you think is the secret of your combined success?
He and I honestly have such similar tastes in music. I think he's literally – for sure – one of the most talented people I've ever met in my life. He can write songs, record himself, produce, play every instrument, record any instrument, mix and master. I mean, he is literally such a genius.

Basically, the songs came together the same way where I have this skeleton idea where I sent it to him and I was like, "Can you see yourself on this?" Then he just absolutely nailed writing some lyrics to "Signal"... I love that song so much. I just feel like we just really understand each other and have such similar tastes. I feel like I would love to make more music with him for other people. I want to produce for other singers with Grabbitz.

His ideas and my ideas bounce off each other, and it turns into this awesome song. It's happened two times now, and both songs are so different from each other. They have a different vibe.  It's rare to work with someone who really understands what you like, what each other likes with melodies and vocals… We just really understand each other at the end of the day.

Do you think you both maybe had the same introduction to electronic music, or do you have specific genres in common?
I wouldn't necessarily say genre, but we definitely both like punk-rock type stuff. Him and I have in common that we both love deadmau5, and we both love Trent Reznor. That's probably our common theme. We fan over Nine Inch Nails and their productions, their taste, and their expertise.

I was certainly more influenced by deadmau5 than I was by Nine Inch Nails, but now as I've gotten older, I'm finding more inspo in their music. But I don't know if I would be in this situation if it weren't for deadmau5. The way his music inspired me, like, it wasn't just the music. It inspired me to create my brand. It inspired me to create this whole hypnosis branding, the hypnotic glasses. Everything was inspired by him, and I probably wouldn't have been thinking to have something be a part of my aesthetic if it weren't for deadmau5. 

I remember being at his show, and it was such a powerful thing to see not just the music, but to also see [gestures broadly]… It's kind of like the Slipknot thing. When I saw a Slipknot and the guys wearing these crazy masks… It makes you feel otherworldly almost! 

I think when I started making music, I wasn't aware of everything I had been influenced by, either consciously or subconsciously. Now, as I get older, I realize I either was influenced by it the whole time or now I'm inspired by it. And once again with deadmau5 and Trent Reznor, like, they've both scored movies… It's stuff like that that really inspires me. 

You're coming up on the first anniversary of your label HypnoVizion. What have been some of the biggest challenges and triumphs you've experienced?
Having a label, for me, has been a pretty smooth, chill process. I'm very fortunate to have my team. I'm the person at the end of the day who says yes or no to the songs, but I'm not doing all the back-end work. It's not like I'm creating the artwork, so having a label, for me, reminds me sort of having a merch site where I'm not the creator, but I have a really amazing experience with my merch because I have an amazing team creates the merch and distributes it very nicely while I can be the person who says yes or no to the designs.

The label has been super chill, though. I basically get sent and get to listen to music to say yes or no. We've chosen the approach of less is more, so we're not trying to oversaturate or release too much music. Instead, we choose stuff we really like and stand by it. I want to support the artists and bring them on my shows, have them involved a lot in whatever I'm doing to get people's names out there. 

It was only stressful maybe in the first couple weeks because we received thousands of demos, and we weren't sure how to approach it, so I was listening to all of the demos. I had to be like, "Guys, this is too much." It was too time-consuming. Also, when you're listening to thousands of demos, the reality is you're not going to like all of them. You're going to like a few of them, and the majority is a bit eh — you don't really need to hear more of it. We ended up getting a different approach where I trust my team. The girl who runs my label condenses it and sends me the condensed version. 

Also, I've found my own artists a couple of times. For example — this I'm really excited about — there's this guy I'm collaborating with on the EP named Johnny Goth, and I'm a huge fan of this guy. He is so unbelievably underrated. I'm really happy to be releasing this song with him because I hope that he starts to get some more attention. His music is so unbelievably amazing.

He's got a great name, too.
Yeah, I know! And my point in mentioning him was also that we're going to release him on HypnoVizion in the future. I'm so excited about that, and I feel so strongly about his music and his branding, oh my god. For me, I love branding. It's something I'm passionate about: well-put-together projects that are aesthetically and musically cohesive, and Johnny Goth is a perfect example of that. I'm really excited to release him on the label and feel passionate about expanding it in that direction to have people I really want to get behind. It's original stuff, not just doing things to match current trends. It's so important to do what you want to do. You can feel when people are doing and making really what they want to make. 

The rest of this summer is set up to be a blockbuster one for you, especially with the Rezz Rocks shows coming up in August. What are you most looking forward to with those shows, and do you have any surprises in store that you can cue us in on? 

I'm just now in the process now, in between interviews, that I'm working on the Rezz Rocks shows. I'm making them both unique, which is really hard. I feel like there's an approach here that I'm missing. There needs to be some app that randomizes your songs so you can place half here and half there! I swear whatever way I'm doing it is not the most efficient. It's taking me so long, kind of like mathematics. 

But basically, what I've come to the conclusion with is I'm going to keep it very much my own music. I realize when I want to go see my favorite artist, I wanna hear their music. I want to hear the songs that I was drawn to, so I'm trying really hard not to miss any songs. There are going to be things I miss, but I'm trying to include as many new and throwback songs as possible while still playing a handful of songs from other artists that fit the vibe. 

Then in September, you've got the first-ever FrostVizion event, at Frost Amphitheater in Stanford, California. It's acts that are curated by you and your label, so what's the most exciting part of this lineup and show for you?
That show is such a massive one. 

Quick backstory: In 2022, I played [Frost Amphitheater] as part of my Spiral tour. I had the most debilitating insomnia of my life in 2022. I literally wanted to perish. That day was actually the turning point where it started to get better after that show for some reason. I still don't know how it happened, but my guess is that stress manifested in this long-lasting insomnia. It wasn't a couple of weeks, either, it was months. 

And that show was one of those moments where I was so down and in a bad headspace, but being onstage was one of those moments like, "Wow, I am so lucky… This is crazy!" It was a gigantic sea of people. It's one of my favorite shows I've ever done, and I'm so excited to do it again this year. 

What else are you looking forward to for the rest of this year and beyond? Anything we should keep our eyes peeled for?
Quite a lot! This is sort of the busiest I've ever been in my life with the preparation that goes into the shows, but I'm happy to be doing it. The deadmau5 back-to-back — I'm extremely excited about that. Sometimes I've found that nerves and anxiety sometimes overshadow my excitement because I put so much pressure on myself, whether it be consciously or subconsciously. For this B2B, I'm really just feeling excited. I'm gonna be screaming the whole time onstage.

I'm excited for time off, as well, so I can work on new music. I'm too occupied with other stuff I need to be doing, so I can't have the space to create music from scratch. I'm excited to sit down at my computer, wake up, smoke a joint, drink a coffee and just work on music for 12 hours straight and have no direction or intention of any kind. 

In 2024, I'm really excited that me and this artist Svdden Death — his side project's name is VOYD — it's like borderline dubstep and metal, literally so nasty, so heavy… We haven't started planning it yet, but we have had some conversations about having a back-to-back show together at some point in 2024, not sure yet. I think that's gonna be some of the craziest shit I've ever done just in terms of our visual stuff collaborating and our music. I think it will be a crazy experience.