A Talk with Thoom

Interview by Vera Santana
Photos by Mohamad Abdouni

After four years of transition and self-rediscovery, Thoom debuts a 9-track album released through her very own music label, Career Whore. Zeynab, also known as Thoom, is a third-cultured individual from Beirut, Chicago, and Berlin, cities of which have rendered the site of her musical awakening. Her new album, composed entirely with her friend Chuck Clateman, took a lot of emotional and musical unearthing. With a lot of vulnerability and the retirement of big and flashy sound design, Thoom presents us to the work and intentions behind Pork.

We had a conversation with Thoom about her newest album, time in quarantine, and reclaiming her music.

Describe what your listeners are like in your head. Do you feel close to them?

Thoom has been a long journey so I feel very close to the people who have been listening to me through all my transformations. In my head, they are romantics, daydreamers, people who don’t feel like they fit in, yeah!

What encouraged you to start your own record label, Career Whore? What’s in the name?

I wanted to learn about what it actually takes to release anything and since it is my first experience in doing so I wanted to do it on my own terms. Also Pork was a means of trying to find myself again and learning about myself and it was erratic in that way and doesn’t really fit a lot of other record labels. The name Career Whore, well, I look at it like I am miming the music industry. I also like a healthy dose of self-deprecation.

What was your favorite & least favorite part of making Pork?

Well, it was a painful but fulfilling project to finish because it was a lot about unearthing and going back to basics. Reminding myself what music initially meant to me and what I have always loved about music.

“In my head, they are romantics, daydreamers, people who don’t feel like they fit in.”

Can you tell us more about ‘Shaytan’, what was it like to write a song with your mother? Did you get to know her more? 

I consider Shaytan to be the first song I ever wrote. I wrote it two years ago with Chuck and when I listen back to it, I can hear how vulnerable I felt. I had to squeeze it out of me and you can hear that in the sound of my voice. My mom helped write some of the lyrics. Arabic is a very psychedelic language in that you can rhyme and change meanings of words in ways you could never do in English. My mom has always been good at that.

Can you also tell us more about the decision to use your grandfather’s house for the visuals of ‘Shaytan’?

I think me and my sister have always wanted to do something in that house for a very long time. It’s the only place that stays there after I leave it.

“While paranoia and rage are never far beneath the surface, the album is shot through with unexpected shafts of light”. Were these moments of light unexpected of yourself while writing and creating?

Yeah, I was trying to not block anything that needed to come out.

You mentioned you were aiming for a “raw and organic” sound of the record, not using too much sound design and no fluffy production. What were the motivations behind this decision?

I just realised I don’t really care about sound design all that much in my music and I wanted something more immediate. I’ve taken that a step further the past year, I’m making all of my songs on guitar before I ever record anything. I hate staring at screens more than I have to. It makes me nauseous! I think a lot of musicians are doing this too… Taking a step back from making everything on the computer. It’s a breath of fresh air.

Curse or blessing: Our new found isolation amid COVID-19. Why or why not? 

Curse. I’ve made so many songs that I love because of the isolation but not being able to play live and see my friends sucks.

Perhaps something personal for our community: The Netherlands is drifting away into another lockdown situation. Do you have anything for us to interact with while homebound?

“Taking a step back from making everything on the computer. It’s a breath of fresh air.”

Mmm.. I’ve been reading Don Delillo, White Noise is amazing, everyone should read it, I can’t believe it’s from the 80’s. I’d also recommend Julio Cortazar’s short stories. Listen to Chino Amobi’s new EP. If the lockdown still allows you to leave your house, take a walk! A very long walk. Until your legs are tired and numb. Being in a lockdown is a spiral waiting to happen and if you walk, I find you can go through your thoughts better. They’re less trapped that way. Wearing a mask while you walk in a hoodie with the hood up, earbuds in, blasting Led Zeppelin, the best thing you can do right now. I know I sound like a bro but it’s true!

Listen to Thoom’s debut album Pork, here.