Based out of Eugene, Oregon, The Sizzos is a collaborative musical project led by singer-songwriter George Zaninovitch. They’ve just released a brand new album, Glitter In Gravel, as well as a new single, “Back to Cold”. We caught up with George to chat about the new music, how The Sizzos got started, and his deserted island album picks.
From The Strait: Tell us about the new single, “Back to Cold”.
George Zaninovich: This was the first song written after the first album was released. While the first album was nostalgic lyrically, I wanted to create something nostalgic sonically.That led me to more of a shimmering guitar sound and prominent synth that I associate with the ‘80s.
This song was written in about an hour during a horrible bout of wildfires in the Pacific Northwest. I was homebound with my family feeling cooped up, frustrated about the toll we take on the planet, and real real hot! So, while I was wishing for fall to arrive and put out the fires and turn everything green again, I decided to mesh my need for cool air and clear skies with the perspective of the environment around me. So, in this song, it is really the planet speaking to me/us.
Usually, I either write on my acoustic guitar or at my studio setup. For this one, I was sitting on my couch in a very hot living room with smoke in the skies outside,
pulled out my acoustic guitar and did a little rage strumming. Instead of making a voice memo, I pulled out an old laptop and loaded up garage band. I put the acoustic guitar parts in as rhythm and lead just through the computer mic. I tweaked the sounds and all of a sudden it didn’t sound lo-fi but the guitars shimmered and sustained. I decided to build around that sound adding synth parts next. I let it sit for a year, came back to it, and it was the sonic north star of the new album Glitter in Gravel. Kabir Green added backing vocals, harmonies,and steady bass to it i n my home studio. Then Alex Chapman and PNW Mastering made it sound just as it should…bright guitars, fun synth sounds, and a bit of ominousness in the vocals and track with reverb and echo.
From The Strait: What can you tell us about the making of the new album, Glitter In Gravel?
George Zaninovich: There are incredible collaborators on this album. Kabir Green helped with production, bass, and backing vocals while Joe Dagostino played some guitar, banjo, slide, ebow, and co-wrote a few of the tunes. The local Portland legend Hannah Glavor sings on two of the songs and Alex Chapman, bassist for Jeffery Silverstein, plays acoustic guitar on three songs. Emily Beebe, who sang on the first album, also lends backing vocals. Finally, Erik Ian Walker who has recorded albums for
decades on Bottom Feeder Records played piano on one tune.
Overall, I focus on using different instruments and sounds to create a mood that supports the lyrics. I’m very much a feelings person and try to create a feeling with this music that, while it might not be your cup of team is recognizable and relatable
From The Strait: What first made you want to become a musician, and how did The Sizzos get started?
George Zaninovich: I was attracted to music at an early age, took some drum lessons, sang in a horrible high school band and never thought I could really do anything with it. In my 20’s I co-formed a groove-based jam band in the San Francisco bay area where I co-wrote songs, played guitar and sang. I wrote those songs more for dancing. But, I always wanted to try taking myself seriously as a songwriter complete with the trials, tribulations, and vulnerability that comes with it. After the pandemic started, I sifted through old lyrics and decided to try and turn them into something. As soon as that process started, I figured I had nothing to lose and started writing songs that were deeply meaningful and personal. I invited some friends to join me and all of a sudden a long-term dream of putting a record out on vinyl came true. Now, all I want to do is write and record songs with people I love.
From The Strait: Who were your biggest musical influences growing up, and how do they differ from your current ones?
George Zaninovich: I grew up in Eugene, Or with older brothers. My favorite bands middle-school through high school were the Cars, Guns N Roses, Duran Duran and the Grateful Dead. With all of those bands, I was more attracted to the minor-key songs. That has stuck with me as I tend to lean into more melancholy songwriting as a form of
catharsis and connection.
As I grew older and started focusing more on songwriting and guitar playing, I fell in love with Ernest Ranglin, JJ Cale, Mark Knopfler, John Coltrane, Tom Petty, Prince, and anything Sault puts out. I’ve done deep dives with Ali Farka Toure and Malian blues in general. The feel of that music resonates deeply with me.
From The Strait: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what 4 albums would you want with you?
● John Coltrane Africa Brass Sessions
● Tom Petty Wildflowers
● Guns N Roses Appetite For Destruction
● Bill Withers Live at Carnegie Hall