With over a billion worldwide streams and counting, A R I Z O N A has proven a true planetary phenomenon, creating worldwide waves with their ingenious brand of contemporary indie dance-pop. The trio first came together in college in 2015 and shared interests in production and songwriting uniting them as much as their mutual New Jersey heritage. Their debut album “GALLERY“ proved among 2017’s biggest global releases, now boasting over 750 million worldwide streams and counting. A R I Z O N A has spent much of the past few years on the road on a sold-out series of increasingly larger headline tours, a North American arena tour supporting Panic! At The Disco, which will continue in Europe this spring, and a multitude of insanely massive 2019 festival sets at Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo and Life Is Beautiful. A R I Z O N A just released their brand new album “Asylum,” which looks to impact alternative radio stations nationwide.
DOPE Magazine: Where do you all originally hail from?
David LaBurgen: From Jersey.
Is that where you guys are all coming from too? I heard you were just getting in.
Zack Hannah: Well, I have been out in L.A. the last couple of weeks. Just kind of regrouping. So, we finished up the second album that we have been working on for quite a while, and it was kind of a big long thing. Then we finally just took one week and completely finished it, so it’s done. It’s getting released in mid-October or something like that … and so, I was in L.A. just sort of regrouping. Nate moved to L.A. last year.
How do you like it?
Nate Esquite: I love it. We are on the Westside like two miles away from Venice Beach.
ZH: I would be coming with Dave from Jersey, but we were already out here. So we drove this morning at 6:00 AM and got in at 10:00. Just been getting ready to play Life is Beautiful for the first time here ever.
How do you guys like it out west? What’s the difference between where you guys grew up in Jersey?
ZH: There is a change that happens. You have to either keep up or if you don’t you’re gonna have a bad time, you know? It’s like coming from the east coast, the west coast is its own thing I guess, but it’s just like you have to understand that like life moves at different paces. There’s different situations, different priorities, and people are not the same way all the time. It’s not a bad thing if you don’t let it be, but it is definitely interesting. You have to remember that you are not like in New York, or in New Jersey a lot when you’re out here that’s for sure.
So you guys are from Jersey, but I read you met in Massachusetts at college?
ZH: Kind of … we kind of got together in Boston.
DL: Well, Zack and I grew up together in Jersey, and we met …
ZH: In middle school?
DL: Yea, yea, yea …
And Nate got brought in when?
DL: I was going to school in Boston. That’s where I met Nate. Nate was going to Berkeley. I was going to Emerson College and we just ended up being roommates.
ZH: But like, I would crash at their spot all the time. I would just come up and see Dave, and of course, Nate would be there. We were always doing music, then just started doing it together, but just as producers and shit. We figured if we were ever gonna make some ground doing it, we would probably be like behind the scenes stuff, like writing and producing. Whatever. And so we did! The three of us kind of got into that, and so we had a little group of homies where we had this little collective as we would say.
How long have you guys played for, roughly?
NE: I started playing music when I was around seven, so I’ve been playing for a long time.
The same with you Dave?
DL: Yeah, I’m classically trained.
ZH: We always had a background in [music], but we never imagined that it could be what it became. A lot of us had different ideas of what regular life would be like not playing music. We tried anyway. We were producing and we were writing and tried to make a day-to-day out of it sometimes. After so many years of doing it as a side thing we didn’t see music as anything major, but we stuck with it for as long as we could. We would always be home doing music, and then like we were like “Yo listen, maybe it would be cool if we stayed in late one night doing a record.” After a terrible session, we stayed late, made a record (kind of by accident) for fun and that inspired the conversation of really doing it. That led to a summer of putting in some work and playing around with a bunch of names that became A R I Z O N A, basically.
DL: Make sure to put the spaces in between every letter. It makes it memorable. I’m the brainchild behind that.
ZH: It’s not a joke! All of the design stuff, a lot of what we do, our visual stuff … Dave does all that.
Album art, you do all of that too?
DL: Yeah, all that stuff.
ZH: I mean we all have our own section in this. Either it’s a music idea or a show idea. We crowd surfed a huge unicorn at a show … it’s always some kind of joke or something fun. Even when Dave is joking about naming [the band] A R I Z O N A and styling it this way there’s a reason behind that too. It started as a joke because it was like this hipster way of writing it and we said ‘well let’s give it a shot,’ and it fucking worked and it’s dope! So we laugh at how ironic that is. You can literally throw something at the wall and it can end up working out.
So how did it come about that you guys were discovered? Through rankings, your manager, digital platforms like Spotify or Soundcloud?
ZH: Early on it started with streaming. We were featured on a YouTube page called Mr.SuicideSheep, which is like a curated [channel] with playlists.
DL: It was kind of like Spotify before Spotify back when you followed YouTube pages.
ZH: Kind of like how Majestic used to be … Majestic Casual used to be this curated thing on YouTube. So we were on one of those, and that led to blogs and started to kind of to pick it up once those blogs pointed to Spotify.
DL: Spotify was having their [time in the sun] that summer. In the summer of 2015, we definitely saw a spike.
ZH: Right. That was like when everyone started to realize that Spotify was a thing. This was like before playlisting was a thing, before people understood the power of playlisting. It was one of those things. What happened was we released music that resonated with a couple people, that resonated with some more people, and it just so happened to be at the same time that people started realizing that they could save our music to their Spotify playlist. We didn’t expect it.
And DJs mix up your music too. How has that impacted everything?
ZH: They have fun with it, you know? I think that is the cool part about it. We started by just having fun with our tracks, but now we’re really doing A R I Z O N A as a way to write and help us become better homies. We have like therapy sessions and so we write these songs. At the end of the day, we learn a super valuable lesson too. It led to DJ remixes and producers always have fun with it regardless. It’s a crazy track thing, I don’t know. It’s funny because we try to write songs that are like “track centric.” So when people have fun with it, it is easier to reach them.
Do you guys write lyrics collectively?
ZH: We go back and forth a lot. We have like clones of all our music. This is all tech shit that Dave does.
DL: Basically the computers that we produce on, we all have duplicates and they all sync. So, ZacK closes a session and I can open it and keep working.
NE: It is like the cloud, the drive, or whatever … it’s a clone.
ZH: So it is easy to work together. He can start an idea, I start an idea, and then he can call me back that night, and I will be in LA, he will be in Jersey, whatever. We tag team that a lot, and obviously being homies, we started this because it was fun. We also value the time that we can hang and get it in together so we try to work all the time when we’re actually with each other.
Do you guys have families yet, any kids?
Group: No, no, no.
ZH: Well, we have been lucky. We have all been seeing girls for quite a while, and it has been cool because I think what makes us different amongst our peer groups, which can be difficult sometimes, is that we have a mindset of really enjoying running the band like a business. On the other side, they gave us this life, that we didn’t expect. We have been cool enough I think, the past year or two, that we’ve sustained our relationships because we are inclusive with them. They go on tour with us sometimes. The idea is to have fun with each other while it is time to have fun, and then go work on building a family later on.
Let’s switch gears a little bit. Let’s talk about the new album.
DL: It’s going to be out in October. It’s called “Asylum.”
Are you planning a tour behind it?
ZH: Low key, the plan is to get a jumpstart on the next album. Being on a tour bus in the winter is kind of torturous. So we might as well take the cold months, and you’ll get this because you are from the East Coast, but when you are from a place that has all four seasons, you feel differently, you know? So it’s a good season to get in the studio. We are hoping to stay in the studio until we start touring later on in 2020, which should be like in the spring. Then tour the record throughout the summer, spring, fall, and see what happens.
Touring domestically and internationally?
NE: We are doing something in Mexico soon. We’re excited for that.
ZH: We opened for Panic in North America and we also joined them on their European leg, so that was like our international tour. We have been dipping more into Canada and Mexico. It’s like we are now playing with the idea in 2020, hitting North America will always be a thing, but exploring internationally is exciting. We look forward to doing that, but it always comes down to this unfortunate question of, when would it be? Does it make sense logistically during that time period, or if not when? How expensive will it be? So it is something that you don’t want to do half-assed. You wanna give people anywhere in the world the same show you are able to give them here.
DL: We are learning that at this level whenever you enter a new market, it is like brand new. You have to break out. That is the real tough thing about going international because for the price of going out there, you have to start at the bottom of the totem pole. And then it is just a matter of timing, really. It’s not like we won’t, or that we don’t want to. It is a matter of when.
Do you guys have a big international fanbase? Have you guys been looking at analytics and that type of stuff?
DL: So, our analytics are always pretty heavy overseas. I think our top countries are outside of the states.
ZH: We have a lot of international followers.
DL: I will just pull it up (pulls out phone). There is a small sector here and there in Asia that has a pretty big spike. We can pull it apart and maybe figure out this particularly, and maybe it is the amount of remixes, and where these DJs are from, maybe it’s a thing. Honestly though, it is the streaming, dude. It is the streaming.
NE: Everybody gets it, and word of mouth is the biggest thing. You know one big group of people in the Philippines, and it starts spreading like anywhere else in the world.
DL: I am really waiting for the Philippines to figure out that I am Filipino.
That’s your background, Dave?
DL: Yeah, I am Filipino. I feel like Filipinos rally around artists they know, not even if they like their music, but simply because they are Filipino. And I am like “Yo! I am Filipino, I am out here! The only Filipino dude on Atlantic Records like, come on guys!”
What about you, Nate?
NE: I’m Mexican and Guatemalan.
Right on. And you are definitely the Jersey guy, Zack.
ZH: Yeah, my family is Scottish. South America, Europe … they are loyal markets. They consume live music differently, more passionately. These conversations are the type of things we have meetings over, and they are fun!
How do you plan to finish out the year?
DL: Just one-offs between now and the holiday season. Cali, Mexico City, Arizona Dusk Festival –that shit is going to be cool. Dope opportunities, cool weekend trips … it will be a fun finish to the year. The next big thing for us is our album, “Asylum.” That is the biggest thing we’re looking forward to right now.
Check out A R I Z O N A on YouTube