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AZITA on false starts, starting over and a 35-year Fred-ship

Katy Batdorff

When I had the chance to interview AZITA ahead of her show April 23 at Turner Hall Ballroom, I jumped at the chance. Not because I know every album and lyric, but exactly the opposite. New-music discovery comes from fun places and at unexpected times. You just have to pay attention.

This particular chance to chat came about because of AZITA’s own incredible opportunity: She’s opening for Fred Armisen on his current tour, “Comedy For Musicians But Everyone Is Welcome.” Now calling Chicago home, we talked about her beginnings in Iran, moving to the States when she was only 8 years old and the band she started during her college years, The Scissor Girls.

Check out the interview to hear AZITA share her origin story with Armisen (friends since 1989-ish) as they both worked in coffee shops, what inspires her now and what we can expect at the show this week. Did I ask what her childhood smelled like? Gotta listen to find out.

On her global travels and musical beginnings:

My parents were not really listening to much music. I grew up in Iran until I was about 8, and then I moved to the States. My parents are doctors, so I spent a lot of time with whoever was charged with taking care of us, whatever nanny we had.

We had a Polish nanny named Anika … she was like a huge Beatles fan, and that was my first real music that I super got into. She gave us those two Beatles tapes that are compilations — the red balcony and the blue balcony — and that just became my life for a minute there.

On her non-digital music discovery phase:

Pre-internet, you had to go out and look for it. There was no, “Here’s your Spotify playlist of things you might like.” The scene in D.C. was more like you’re just a teenager and want to go hang out, and this is what the environment is. Those things couldn’t be separated. I can’t even take it and cast it into what that would be now — like finding stuff via Instagram or whatever. To me, that wouldn’t have done what [the actual experience] did.

On her longtime friendship with Fred Armisen:

I’ve known Fred since probably 1989, 1990, something like that. He was in a band, Trenchmouth, and they were all friends and also related to our band because our guitar player Sue Anne [Zollinger] and Damon [Locks] went out. I used to drive their gear sometimes because I had a car. So I was around them a lot, but then we also worked at this coffee shop together.

I do have lots of stories. The only one I can think of is that he always liked testing jokes on customers who walked in the door of the coffee shop. … When he first started on Saturday Night Live, I felt like I heard some of those things that I heard in the coffee shop before. … I would’ve thought that it was music first for him, actually. I wouldn’t have seen all this coming.

On what does (and doesn’t) inspire her:

Life inspires me. [Laughs] … I’m not a Jim Morrison fan at all or The Doors, but he’s got a quote — I think it’s him — that stuck with me. … He said something about how your religion or whatever is just what you think about the most. So what I think about the most: interactions with people, goings-on, politics maybe is a facet of that.

In politics especially, you’re always encounterings things that are really, absurdly stupid. The way people say things and you’re like, “Who is the audience that believes the thing that is being said? Who is this for?” People don’t talk in a normal way. They say stuff that’s in code, and it’s as though the listener is really an idiot. You have to be to believe what the person is saying.

That’s a rich vein to contemplate: “What is the thinking that goes behind this?” I don’t like to use the word “inspire” exactly, but that’s what gives me some kind of material.

88Nine Promotions Manager / On-Air Talent | Radio Milwaukee