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AroMa x Zoombug
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AroMa x Zoombug

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We sat down with AroMa, the Black queer non-binary artist and director behind Zoombug, the musical short film that’s currently making waves in the music and film scene to talk to about their experiences as an artists creating work in multiple disciplines, intentionality in storytelling, and their process conceptualizing the film:

Can you talk about your experiences as a multidisciplinary artist?

I feel like artists are pressured into having one central art because people want to know how to commodify it. It’s like, when you say you’re an artist, people either wanna know how to take from that or give to that and they want it to be very specific. So it’s like, I’m an artist. ‘But are you a music artist so I promote you as this?’ And it’s kinda through the guise of...objectively: ‘what is the outcome of your title?’ When I think about doing one thing solely, my heart breaks for all the other things. I don’t necessarily prioritize any art over any art...maybe in the moment, maybe with the intention of the story I’m trying to build at the time. But the idea of giving something up entirely for the sake of success...I don’t really like that, because for now, I’m doing this. For now, I’m running after this thing.

How do you feel like your varied experiences in the arts have informed the creation of Zoombug?

The creation of art for me is the process of dissecting an issue, not necessarily to deliver a message. All of my work used to be very representational. Everything meant something, everything was a metaphor for something, as opposed to it being an exploration of my own reality. So for this project, I wanted to give us a space where we could explore the topics of time and development and what it means to be present to our day-to-day lives. That’s what the vibe of it is.

Where does the name Zoombug come from?

The name Zoombug came before everything. I was like, “it would be so fun to be an 80s popstar, to make an 80s mixtape,” and I was mentioning that to my coworkers, who I think were tired of me talking about it. I was thinking, “it would have to be about going fast, zoomin’...zoom...Zoombug!” And as soon as I said the word “zoombug,” I saw everything. I saw the characters, I saw the colors, I knew what I wanted. Everything just kinda came together.

zoombugImage by Ana Maria Hernandez

Was there a moment during production that was challenging for you or the creative team?

Production week was wild. We recorded the thing in two days, and filming started the very next day. It was five days of filming and two days of recording. It was hard. Some days were great, and then some days, like Fast Food day, that was rough. We were starting a little bit late and I ended up breaking one of the lights. I tripped on a cord and it smashed. That was also the day after the Nia Wilson murder, and so everyone was in this very somber, very grim space thinking about what had just happened. And that’s the most peppy song on the album, and so we were all like, “we gotta pull this shit off. Somehow, we gotta pull this shit off.”

Where did you draw inspiration from while imagining this project?

To prepare for this project, I knew I wanted it to be 80s, I knew I wanted it to be bright, colorful, bold. So I listened to a lot of Grace Jones, and I listened to a lot of the Talking Heads. I was in my room for days, you can ask my Uncle. I’d wake up and blast the Talking Heads, and I’d be jumping around...I wanted to write with that style like: Is that a harmony or are they just shouting at you? And so a lot of the music was inspired by both of the Talking Heads albums. And always Noname. The flip of the tongue...the words are just dancing. So a lot of Noname, a lot of the Talking Heads. And Gus Gaverton. He really inspired Plum Wine.

Zoombug is positioned at the forefront of representation for queer people, and also queer people of color. Was this part of your original intention for the film?

Everything I do is an act of reclaiming space for myself or people who are like me, and in that sense, it was intentional because all of my art is a reflection of myself and that reflection is meant to validate me and people who align with or empathize with my experience or identity. So, in that sense, yeah, it is always intentional as far as creating stories that matter to the people I care about. I don’t know if I wrote it to be this iconic queer thing, I just am really queer and it just kinda became that. I wasn’t necessarily trying to assemble this queer super-power-ranger squad, it just happened that everybody that I did hit up was queer as fuck. And I feel like it’s also a reflection of my environment. The Bay area is really diverse, so it wasn’t like I had to cast the Black girl or cast the Chinese femme who dances well. These were just people in my life and in my community and I was just getting them involved in this project.

Do you have plans to revisit Zoombug in the future in any way?

Zoombug 2. Next Summer. Gonna be out in a year. We’re thinking about shooting it in New York! Oh, and we’re about to have a Zoombug screening in New York–a party screening, so I want there to be multiple acts. We’re going to do a live performance of the Zoombug songs. And we also want it to be an art gallery/showing, so we’re trying to find artists, anyone who wants to set up a gallery space.

What’s next for you, AroMa?

In the meantime, there’s a project that’s much bigger. It’s called Moonbaby. It’s a much more serious film, it deals with coping with childhood sexual traumas as the premise of the film–watching a character’s journey through understanding that and healing and whatnot. That one shoots mid-January. The sound of this one is much different than Zoombug. Zoombug was synthy, poppy. This one’s more orchestral–think church organs. It’s completely different. That’s why when people ask me if I’m going to release more music, I feel a little pressure, because they expect it to be like Zoombug. It’s a part of my musical creation at this point, but the music was written specifically for Zoombug. It’s a whole subset of sounds–a soundtrack to a world that I envisioned. Moonbaby is a little bit more personal, more me.

Part of MANDO’s function as a multicultural lifestyle brand is to put our audiences onto content they may not have readily available to them for any reason–is there anything in your life right now that you think people should know about?

I feel like all of my friends are my favorite artists. Stari, the producer of Zoombug, is about to release a project and it’s fucking great–keep an eye out for him. Stari is crazy. I just have so many friends who are incredible artists, and I want to be in the front row. I want to make t-shirts that have their faces really big, way too big. Like on the shoulders. And I’ll just be in the front row just screaming my head off!

Zoombug is out now: