CUBIC ZIRCONIA: Neopolitan
Tiombe Lockhart is a seductive mistress. Daud Sturdivant is the strong silent type. Nick Hook is the life of the party. Combine them all and you have the making of a combustive, anything goes group tinged with mucho flavor, New York street smarts, heart and a wicked sense of humor to match their genre-bending audibles. They are Cubic Zirconia.
Images: Ashley Posey
So Cubic Zirconia, please tell me where you came up with your name?
Nick: I used to live in St. Louis and we only had like four television channels. One of them was the home shopping network and that’s about all they sold on there. I’ve just been infatuated with them my whole life. [Laughs]
How in the world did you get everyone else to agree?
Nick: It was kind of organic. I don’t know, it just kind of happened.
Tiombe: He was like, “I always wanted to be in a band called Cubic Zirconia,” and I was like, ‘Okay.’ [Laughs]
Nick: Then we did a whole PowerPoint presentation to see if the whole world would like it, and the marketing research came in…We got it.
Tiombe: Right… [Laughs]
So okay, how was CMJ?
Daud: It was dope.
Yeah? Where did you perform and what was the mood like?
Tiombe: We performed at the Cake Shop and that was cool. It was just a lot of indie bands and kind of intimate in the Lower East Side. And then we performed at the Fool’s Gold party and that was crazy.
Right, the anniversary party…
…which I freaking missed and am still disappointed about.
Nick: [Laughs] It was like 1994 in that place.
Are you serious?
Tiombe: Yeah. [Laughs]
Daud: And you should mention that Cake Shop was a Terrorbird’s showcase. Just want to give them a quick shout out.
So how does it feel performing with a slew of Indie bands, when—I don’t necessary consider you guys an Indie band or newjacks because you’ve been in the industry for so long. So what was that like seeing it from that perspective?
Tiombe: I think that we can kind of fit into a lot of different genres somehow. I think, you know, the Indie bands, from what I heard, were kind of like, they were a little bluesy or something. I think that we are kind of like that as well, but we just kind of fit into anything and everything. Cause we’re not anything, really.
Daud: Yeah. [Laughs]
[Laughs] Right, you’re not anything, but “You happen to be interviewing me at the moment….”
Tiombe: No….[Laughs] …hence the name Cubic Zirconia.
[Laughs] Actually I want to take a quote that you said when you affectionately referred to your sound. You called it “nerdy disco dance house fun party time music.”
Nick: [Laughs] Damn you’re going back to the vaults with that one.
[Laughs] I want to know if you think it’s fair to call that R&B, Soul, Acid House revivalist music? Or is it just exactly what it is?
Tiombe: I think that’s a fair assumption. I just think that it’s difficult to describe what our music is just like that quote says. [Laughs] But I do think that our music is like wild and free. That’s kind of how I see it. It doesn’t go too deep, it’s just kind of like, “Woooooow,” you know? [Laughs] Here we go again…[Laughs] sorry.
[Laughs] It makes me laugh that she’s so animated!
Nick: [Laughs] We condensed all of those words to Ethnic Disco.
So it’s not house music…
Nick: It’s just music. If we play it inside of our house sometimes…
Daud: [Laughs] Or if we produce it in the house….
So what is your process for creating music since it is pretty much anything and everything? How do you go about selecting sounds, what do you do?
Nick: I mean, we just sit down and make some music, really. We all like it so much–music–and I think that when we get together, again, there’s no rules, so whatever comes out is what you hear.
So who are some of the influences, let me ask that?
Nick: Corn on the cob…
Tiombe: No, like seriously, no, I think, you know, the influences are what we did last night, or what we did walking home, or walking to the subway or stuff like that. Like I think what we wanted, especially Follow Your Heart, was to really sound like a New York record and that’s the thing that I mean like wild. Like “Raaah!” You know… for instance, “Freebase You” [Laughs]…
Nick: We made that song in fucking minutes! Remember?
Tiombe: No, but like “Freebase You”, Nick was like “I think we should write a song ‘I Want to Freebase You.’ And I was like, “Okay” and I started thinking about this concept of just kind of going deeper and wanting more, and more and more from somebody. Just a fucked up ass relationship. Just like, a New York relationship, you know.
Yeah. [Sigh] Tell me about it. [Laughs]
Tiombe: So that’s what I think our influences are. Of course we listen to all styles of music, but I think with Follow Your Heart, what we definitely wanted to be or what it wound up being was a New York record of just our experiences.
Nick: Yeah, kind of like a photograph of where we were for a year together, hanging out, having fun.
And Daud, you seem to be the quiet one.
Daud: Yeah, I always am. [Laughs] But I concur…
You can’t be shy…
Daud: In group settings I am, but one-on-one, it’s different.
But you’re the one who makes sex faces on stage! You can’t be the quiet type…[Laughs] I’m just saying, how is that possible?
Daud: [Laughs] Yeah, I don’t know.
Daud: I think I’m not shy when it comes to music. It’s kind of why I became a musician and an artist because I can express myself so much better in that way; visually, audibly, verbally. It depends, you know.
Tiombe: Never trust a man who talks too much.
Very good point! …So let’s go back to the year 1994, since you brought it up. What were you probably doing on this day in 1994?
Nick: I was listening to The Chronic as much as I possibly could.
Nick: With a Compton hat on… I’m glad we didn’t have cameras or Facebook back then, respect.
Nick: I wouldn’t be in the band anymore. [Laughs] I was riding my bike and we were fighting and doing shit that my parents should never know about, but my mom worked at my school, so she’d find out about it.
That’s a horrible way to go through high school. [Laughs]
Nick: Shit. But I love my mom. [Laughs]
Daud: [I was] Far, far right from that. Aw man.
Daud: I was actually just finishing up boot camp in the Marines. I was in South Carolina, climbing trees and rappelling down walls and shooting all types of weapons I never thought I would ever shoot. Yeah, that was a crazy, crazy time. I went into the Marines in 1994.
Tiombe: Uhmm 1994….I think I was obsessed with Jackie Collins around then [Laughs] and I was dating this dude from Watts [California]. It was really, really weird.
Tiombe: No, like I used to be really obsessed with Jackie Collins! I used to love reading all of her books. I still do! It’s just trashy and I was just doing things in Watts that I had no business doing.
How much about what you’re doing on stage or what you put into your music is about pushing the envelope and taking music to another plane? Do you even think about it that way?
Tiombe: I think of it as I’m lucky enough that my art and my life can correspond to one another because they’re parallel. So I know that what I’ve been personally trying to do is to open up and be a lot more freer as a person. And I think that just comes out in the music. When you are at that place, when you’re kind of letting the flow happen in your life, it comes out creatively. It just all comes out that way, rather than trying to stop it. “Oh, I’m on stage!” No, just kind of letting it all go in flow.
Nick: I think our music is us and we can’t change who we are. So when we come together, and I listen to a record, it’s us coming through the speaker. I guess the premise is to just do whatever we want. If us pushing the envelope is not conforming, then yeah. We just do what we do and that’s for the listener to judge. We just love what we do and that’s why it’s so this way, that way and every way, because it’s just us. His quietness, my whatever, her whatever, you know, it has all of those elements.
The three of you are so different though, yet you found a way to make the dynamic work. Is there ever a moment when you’re like, “I really don’t like that shit. That’s not going on that record…”
Tiombe: I think it’s like what Nick said, it’s a snapshot of this moment. And sometimes we may be like, “Oh, I don’t know if I like this…” today or whenever, but it is what it is and I think that sometimes people try to make things so right and so perfect, that they just sit on things and then it’s not really a representation of what it was when it was supposed to happen.
Nick: I also think that some of those things that you don’t like become our favorite songs. Like this one song that we did; we had to do it and we put it out, and it came on. Cause like, I don’t really listen to music that we make that often. We make it and we push it away. You’ll forget about it and then it will come up on the iTunes and shit, and I’m like, “Oh my God, that’s my favorite song! I forgot. I thought I hated it.” If you don’t over think things, it’s a blessing. Sometimes you feel like shit when you finish it, but the song is dope. And that’s why I think really finishing music and letting it go is so important because painters don’t put their own paintings all over their house. They trade with other painters. That’s when you reverse influence with each other and you feel it, you know. And when you hold it in your hand, that’s when you feel really proud of yourself.
How is the audience then influencing what you guys do because right now, music is fickle as hell and the audience is even more fickle. So how are they contributing to your snapshot of what’s happening right now?
Tiombe: I don’t pay attention to them. I mean, like, if we’re on stage then definitely everyone is feeding off of everybody, but I don’t pay attention to anybody because it’s too judgmental. It’s too negative. Then you just wind up second guessing yourself when it’s time to write a song. You’re just like, “Uh,” you know?
Daud: We know we like doing stuff that we enjoy, so that’s always going to kind of radiate out. As long as that’s strong, you know what I mean?
Nick: I feel blessed that we have a really diverse audience. I think like there’s some sort of element of danger in our crowd, like you might fuck someone that you’d never fuck. Because when you go to a rock show, it’s all White people. Like we have this ecosystem where like it’s dangerous and exciting. By nature, you hang out with the same people just because that’s what we do. We’ve been fortunate enough to have amassed this little crew of crazy fucks that are dope, pretty, ugly…it’s really amazing. Cause I’ve been in bands who have been on tour for months and it’s just Warp tour kids. It’s like, I’ve got respect for you coming to the show, but like, I’m so inspired by just looking out there and seeing people smiling that I never thought would come to my show. And that’s because all three of us bring this little ball of neapolitan ice cream. It’s beautiful; it’s so dope, man.
That might be the title of the story. Neopolitan ice cream. I love it.
Nick: I mean it’s like, it’s the stuff that I’ve always dreamed of in music, because I was always the White dude hanging with all kinds of people, because we love each other so much shit. And I feel that that’s what this band brings that not many bands bring, you know.
So how did you guys meet?
Nick: Me and Daud met at a bar that we both worked at. One of our good friends Joey invited me out to see Tiombe play and she like really blew me away.
Tiombe: Yeah I was playing with Jamire Williams, he’s like a great drummer. He’s played on Follow Your Heart and he’s played for like Dr. Lonnie Smith—I’m just giving him a shout out because I love him. Yeah, he’s amazing.
Nick came to the show and really, really liked it. He wrote me a long email that I did not read, just cause I’m in my zone or something, I don’t know. Then I finally just went to the Sake bar where he worked and we just started talking. He was like, “I’m working on this project.” And I’m like, “Sure.” I was looking to do something that was different and so was he, and then Daud later came on.
So there are three of you not four of you?
There’s three of us, but when we play live we play with Justin Tyson [Drums].
You just signed to Fool’s Gold Records not too long ago, a label that is known for it’s eclectic mix on their roster. You never know what to expect with FG. Do you feel at home there?
Tiombe: You know we’ve been friends with them for a while now, and it felt good to just put a record out with people we know and love. They’re down the street from me, you know what I mean? It just felt like a community and I think that’s been happening a lot in New York. There’s more of a community, it’s not so much rivalry. People inspire each other. But yeah, it just felt like it was a good thing, like a good fit.
Daud: And there is really no other band on their roster like us so that felt good too. We were going into this like they’ve got clout, they got steam, as we were building ourselves too. But there’s nobody like us so there’s no competitiveness in there. And that’s what we feel like too, we’re king of like a big fish in a smaller pond kind of vibe with them.
But there’s really no band like you period. How is it a blessing and a curse?
Nick: When there’s no one like you, there’s no blueprint for people to understand it. So we’ve had to kick and fight, and scratch—I mean we had to start our own label to release our own music because no one else could process it—and it’s not like we’re changing music of the world. It was just a little difficult for people to be like this is what this is. You know, people like gaps that they can plug things into and [because of it] it’s been hard for us to grow. Not grow, but like, you see other bands rise a lot faster. We just like to walk slow and keep doing our thing. And it’s been cool to see people like, “Oh, I see what they’re doing…” Tiombe’s been doing the videos.
[Laughs] Oh we’re going to go there soon…
Nick: But that’s been so important to what we do. We’re in an official band. You look at us and you want to open the door and come into our house. Then you come see us and we let you in. We got you.
Okay since you mentioned the videos and it was one of my questions, can we go there now? Can we please talk about “Black and Blue” and what is going on in that video?
Tiombe: [Laughs] Yes. My friend Kahlil Joseph, you know, I love him so much. He basically went to our show and brought this cinematographer, while we were out in LA recording a record. He went to our show, then he called me in the morning like, “I’ve gotta do the video, today!” And I’m like, ‘But…?’
Daud: He only gave us like 24 hours… [Laughs]
Tiombe: [Laughs] Like setting up equipment and drums and everything, you know. So I was like, “Fuck it” because I love Kahlil. Yeah, he just kind of came over and said that I just had to make them some food. So I made like macaroni and cheese and beans.
Macaroni and cheese and beans….that’s it? [Laughs]
Tiombe: Yeah, I know. [Laughs] It was really weird. I don’t know…[Laughs]
Daud: It was some good ass mac and cheese, let me tell you…
Tiombe: It was just really, like the whole day was just like, “Is this real?” Because we were trying to set up, we just got to LA, we’re trying to do it. Everybody was just so crazy and I didn’t even know what I was supposed to do.
[Laughs] Yes you did…I saw the video.
Tiombe: Well, I kind of just, we kind of like talked. We kind of figured out what we were doing but not really. We never really figured out what we were doing.
Nick: It just happened.
Tiombe: It just happened and he was like, “Come over here” and then…”Stand there”, you know? Like we ran through it, but it was one take.
That was one take?
Daud: Yeah, that was one long shot.
So watching her in performance mode, do you ever feel the need to be big brother? Are you super protective of her?
Daud: Eh, not really. There’s never really been like— if there was like shows where fools would just wild out trying to get on stage… [Laughs]
Daud: It’s like, oh man, I don’t know. You’re asking for it. [ Laughs] I feel protective [of her] in other ways, but on stage it kind of feels like, this is what we’re doing. We’re all professionals.
Tiombe: Kind of professionals…
Tiombe: Yeah I think everybody just does their thing to the max.
So what’s next? At least from this conversation I gather that you guys work organically. But do you plan anything? Are you planning the next steps at all, or are you kind of allowing it all to unfold?
Nick: We were just lecturing ourselves about how we’re not that good at planning ahead. So we’re actually going to have a meeting with Fool’s Gold to try and plan ahead, and hopefully, do a better job.
Tiombe: Yeah, I think probably the next step is to do a video. We really want to show people, who can’t come to the show, what our show is. So we plan to do some kind of recording live kind of session, like intimate, that’s what we’re planning. I feel like our strongest points are to do the videos and to perform, and that’s where we show our true colors. So that’s what we’re planning.
Daud: Building on that, we’re getting ready to come into the winter months, so it would be great for us to have footage that can kind of like carry people through these cold nights that we’re about to have. You know, some nice live footage to keep people warm and excited.
Nick: Can I give Noreaga a shout out for bringing Lumidee on stage [at the Fool's Gold Anniversary party]?
Really? Where has she been?
Nick: I don’t know. Maybe she started an organic farm some where. But she looked tight though.
[Laughs] Last question, if you really were your own Neapolitan ice cream, and it doesn’t have to be the traditional kind, what three flavors would you be?
Tiombe: Black Cherry.
Daud: Butter Pecan. You gotta go with the staple.
Cubic Zirconia’s Follow Your Heart is now availble on iTunes, here.
Follow them on Twitter: @CubicZirconia
Images by Ashley Posey exclusively for STARK.