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Exclusive Interview: Toronto-based Pop project of Rachael Cardiello, ZINNIA

ZINNIA is the Toronto-based art pop project of Rachael Cardiello. ZINNIA brings an explosive range to Cardiello’s writing, equal parts intimate and fierce. ZINNIA’s debut album “Sensations in Two Dot” is due out in 2019. Recently described as “Kate Bush meets Meatloaf” and first to proclaim a deep love for Bruce Springsteen, Shostakovich and Big Thief, this is ZINNIA.

The captivating second single from ZINNIA is “Bullet”, which immediately caught my attention. I had to find out more from these aspiring muscians. I recently got the chance to speak to singer songwriter Rachael Cardiello from ZINNIA, and this was the result;

Hi Rachael and welcome to OLC! So tell me when and where did you first discover your passion for music?
I had art and music coming at me from many directions as a kid. Most importantly, my family had instruments and art supplies everywhere. I was often starting bands with my brothers, rifling through my dad’s many books of songs (Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Carole King, Billy Joel, and Joni Mitchell), and singing duets (mostly Les Miserables and West Side Story) with my mom. We lived out in the mountains without TV so time seemed to stretch out in these long lazy hours which were wonderful to fill.
My hometown is small but it has a surprisingly vibrant arts culture. For a town of 31,000 it boasts a world renowned ceramic studio, three ballet companies, a semi-professional symphony, plus countless art galleries. Immersing myself in this environment was the second part of discovering my passion for music. By the end of 8th grade I was playing viola in our town’s symphony, dancing 4 times a week with a dance company and starting coffee shop bands. 
Who was your inspiration growing up that gave you this drive to be an artist?
Artists like Wilco, Sigur Ros, Modest Mouse, Kate Bush and Cat Powers made big impressions on me as a songwriter, though it took me many years to think I could bring my songs to the world in a professional setting. I’d say Arcade Fire actually laid out more of a concrete path into the arts. Seeing Sarah Neufeld weave violin into their set at Sasquatch sparked the idea that I could use my classical training on viola as a route into the world of indie rock. 
I have to ask where did the name ZINNIA come from and what’s the meaning behind it?
When I was five I planted a garden of zinnias with my dad. From then on he’d always refer to them as my favourite flower. Though my favourite flowers are actually wild lupins, I admire zinnias for their vibrancy and perseverance. They are a symbol of endurance and often used to indicate the absence of a loved one.
How were you discovered, and how did the band come together?
I expect to be discovered at any moment. I put together this band after releasing my album Warm Electric Winter as Rachael Cardiello. For a while we played as a 9 piece band – complete with a horn section and backup singers. In the making of ZINNIA we simplified the pallet to its core essence: my husband James Burrows on guitar, Chris Pruden on synth, Connor Walsh on bass, Ian Morris on drums, and myself on vox, synth and some viola. 
Let’s talk about the new single “Bullets”. Talk me through what inspired this song and the creative process behind it?
Bullets is a collection of experiences I’ve watched women in my life go through. There are statistics that seemed exaggerated when I first heard them but through the years I’ve seen those statistics become a reality. 
You wrote this song four years ago and carried it with you for all this time, so it must be very personal to you. Is writing songs on personal experiences something that is important to you as a writer?  
Yes, writing has always been a therapeutic process for me. It has been the way I’ve coped with mental illness and loss – the way I make sense of the world. My earlier recordings (all released as Rachael Cardiello) dealt with these experiences more directly and I’ve loved stepping a bit outside of my own story with ZINNIA and widening the perspective. 
“Sensations In Two Dot” is the name of the debut album, what can you tell me about it?
Sensations in Two Dot focuses on moments of doubt – creative, societal, and personal – exploring what it means to hold compassion through the multifaceted grey areas of life. Whether in the isolated town of Two Dot, Montana (population 143) or the buzzing streets of Toronto (population 2.6 million), these nine songs probe the complex, unsettling similarities found in the human experience: the haunting’s of unrelenting dreams, tensions and tender triumphs in relationships, systems of abuse threaded through communities, and the search for compassion and visibility in everyday interactions. The title pokes fun at the myth of the artistic “sensation” and the popular thirst for sensationalism in news and art. In recording Sensations in Two Dot, ZINNIA aimed to capture the kinetic energy and dynamic range of our live shows developed over four years of touring.
Being a Toronto based artist, how much do you think your city has influenced your sound?
I love Toronto. There is a support here for experimentation and curiosity which has allowed me to move freely between its many music and art scenes. 
Outside of music what else do you enjoy doing?
I’m a big fan of biking down Bloor street heading East just as the sun starts to set when all the glass towers become bejeweled. I am an equal fan of the College Street YMCA sauna, reading, dancing and making homemade pasta. 
Are there any tours planned for ZINNIA to promote the new album?
Yes! In a few weeks we’ll be announcing a massive Northwest and Canadian tour and in the fall we’ll be touring through Europe and the Northeast of the States + Canada! If you’re in Toronto, we’re playing at the Burdock April 10th and at the Cameron House April 17th. 
What’s next for you?
We’re doing a lot of underground work building a root system before the album comes out in the Fall. You’ll be seeing more singles roll out before our summer tours and we do hope you’ll be there, dancing.





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