I have a lot of confident friends, but none more so than Z Berg. An LA native, she grew up in a family of creatives, honing her skills as a musician from a very early age. Z has a mesmerizing voice and a stage presence to match. Whats most incredible about Z is her stage persona really isn’t a persona at all. Its just Z being Z, remarkably witty and candid. I went over to Z’s and she showed me around her place, taking me inside her world. Heres what she had to say.
Story and Interview by Miwa Sakamoto
When did you decide you wanted to be a musician?
It wasn’t entirely my decision really. I think I was more comfortable singing than I was talking as a child. It’s possible I still am. I’ve been playing music basically my entire life, but I suppose when I started playing guitar at age thirteen and subsequently began writing songs, it just seemed the only option. Starting a band at 15 also rather helped to solidify the concept.
Did you come out of the womb a confident woman?
Oh my, am I a woman now? I always imagined I’d have to be much taller to be a woman. With way bigger boobs… I guess I kind of came out pretty crystalized. I was a 24 hour labor with no drugs. According to my father, I emerged from the womb, opened my eyes, turned my head around, and smiled at him. You know…like a demon. I think I quickly learned who I was and that there was no changing it, so I ought to get used to myself. I pretty much stopped growing at 12 years old. I’ve looked almost exactly the same since then. And even as a small child, I was very much (a slightly tinier version of) the “woman” I am now. So I guess I’ve had a lot of time to learn be friends with myself. I mean, at the end of the day, you only get one chance to be you, and you can’t pick another brain, so the sooner you realize you’re your own best friend and start talking to yourself in the mirror, the better. Or so starts the long, slow decline into madness.
How many times (if ever) have you reconsidered music as a full time gig?
Oh, many times, of course. But then I remember that I have literally no other skills, so reconsidering just isn’t an option!
If you weren’t playing music what would you be doing with yourself?
In the alternate universe where I have no musical ability? I’ve often dreamed of being a forensic pathologist.
How do you tap into creativity?
It is, for better or for worse, not really something I can control or tap into. I’m constantly writing things down, phrases I find interesting, cadences that excite me, passages from books I think I can pilfer from. And the melodies come on their own, often at the most inopportune times. You can’t even imagine how many times I’ve begrudgingly left a bandmate in bed and run out into the hotel hallway in the middle of the night to record something into my phone. The songs sort of… happen. Sometimes it starts with a lyric, or sometimes a melody, and all of the sudden I find myself in the middle of a song, sort of writing it all at once. Oftentimes I find out what I’ve been holding in or what’s been subconsciously plaguing me when it comes out in a song. That, I suppose, is the therapeutic aspect of it all, and perhaps the reason I get nutty when I haven’t written in a while.
Your outfits are alone worth the price of admission to your shows. How would you describe your on stage style?
It’s evolved over the years, and it is probably still ever-changing, but the through line I suppose is that I always have and always will dress up. I dress up to go to the drug store. I wear red lipstick to yoga. Clearly I’m nuts. But there’s this grandma part of me that feels its necessary to make an effort, to present something ladylike and put together (no matter how trollopy it may also be) at all times. And as shows are actually an appropriate event for such an effort, I do like to dress up. Hats and high heels, big eyes and knee highs, many a mini dress, hot pant, and miniskirt. Somewhere between Brigitte Bardot, Debbie Harry and a girlfriend of a Beatle.
Whats your diet?
Not an easy one. I’m almost totally vegan, and I don’t for the most part eat sugary foods or fried foods or bread or anything fun. I fear dead animals, I cured myself of chronic tonsillitis with the lack of dairy, and if I allowed myself to eat junk food I would literally only eat pizza for the rest of my life and then I would be a very ill person, so I eat like I’m trying to cure myself of a sickness I don’t have. Oh, and I love coffee more than life itself.
What 5 albums/artists are you listening to these days?
Scott 4 by Scott Walker, Francoise Hardy by Francoise Hardy, The Stiff Years vol. 1 by various artists, John, The Wolfking of LA by John Phillips, and Tender Buttons by Broadcast.
You are an LA native and a fellow vintage connoisseur, do you mind sharing with us a few places to find vintage gems in this sprawling city?
Flounce and Tavin in Echo Park, Ragg Mopp in Silverlake, Playclothes in Burbank, American Vintage in Studio CIty (for some reason it is by FAR the best American Vintage in the city, though there are a few), and Golyester in West Hollywood are my personal favorites. The Rose Bowl, the Fairfax flea market, and any goodwill can also be a goldmine if you have the energy.
You’ve been in an all ladies band and also a band where you were the only lady. What are the biggest differences between the two experiences?
As far as I can discern, girls cry and eat chocolate constantly, and boys talk about balls literally all the time. Otherwise it’s pretty similar.
How’d you learn how to do the worm? Are there any other dance moves you’re keeping from us?
All my (two) friends in elementary school were dancers, and they taught me that stunning move. I used to really turn some heads at Bar Mitzvahs, lemme tell you.