47 Eyez On Me, a music collective created by NC State students to promote individuality and unfiltered creative expression, is aiming to change the way up-and-coming artists think of collaboration.
Jonny Zemola, a third-year studying marketing, Alex Tung, a third-year studying environmental science and Omid Ordoubadi, a third-year studying social work, started the group alongside two of Zemola’s cousins as a platform for artists to collaborate free from the financial restrictions of industry labels. The three are known through their music as Joey Zen, Saturnalias and O, respectively.
“We definitely come together and try to make music an activity that is separate from other aspects of life,” Tung said. “Particularly from anything that has to do with financial incentives.”
The name of the collective, according to Zemola, comes from the combination of the heart (fourth) and head (seventh) chakras. The name summarizes the collective’s primary goal of encouraging individual growth.
“47 Eyez On Me collectively means to spread love, know that you can do anything you want, have the vision to do that and do it in your own way,” Zemola said. “As soon as those four things are done, then it's a collective thing and it's a unison goal that is accomplished.”
By bringing together diverse artists and instrumentalists, 47 Eyez On Me strives to emphasize the individual’s role in collaborative creativity. They particularly focus on the process of creating and the connection it requires.
“It's way more important to find people who you connect with versus finding the best player,” Ordoubadi said. “That's something I feel like it's really good for any creative to realize there's always gonna be someone who is more technically proficient at something, but it's all about tapping into you and bringing that out in the most effective, creative way. That's what we're trying to make the platform for. It’s individuality as a part of the collective.”
Their main goal, according to Ordoubadi, is to encourage people to explore their highest potential.
“A big goal of ours is to bring out everyone's best,” Ordoubadi said. “Letting everyone be as creatively independent as possible is the key part of it.”
Despite their shared vision, the three members of 47 Eyez On Me have different musical backgrounds. Zemola, who is primarily a rapper, draws inspiration for his lyrics from conversations with those around him. He seeks to relay those conversations through his music.
“I do a lot of looking through people's perspectives,” Zemola said. “When I have conversations with people, I want to know how they're viewing something that we're talking about. If we're having a discussion on a certain subject, I look for what is driving them to think the way that they do and incorporate that into my music in a sense. I'm talking about having discussions through music that will inspire someone to do better in anything besides just music.”
Tung, who plays several instruments including guitar, bass, drums and piano, draws inspiration from a wide variety of genres and artists. His music incorporates experimental and shoegaze genres among others.
“I'm a bit of an audiophile,” Tung said. “I'm definitely interested in what truly sounds good. Like auditory aesthetics. I like a very experimental approach. I'm really inspired by putting things together and seeing what works and what doesn't.”
Ordoubadi, who was in orchestra throughout middle and high school, now plays the bass in several bands in addition to his work with 47 Eyez On Me.
“I get a lot of inspiration just from the people around me,” Ordoubadi said. “I try to be around a really diverse amount of people both culturally and musically, people who listen to all types of music and come from different backgrounds.”
The three’s diverse tastes and musical backgrounds as well as their emphasis on the individual allows them to create unique music that defies classification by any single genre.
“As we continue to grow, people will genuinely struggle to classify us,” Ordoubadi said. “They'll try to because it's easier to package us, but we will continue to break all that because when you have people who have an experimental background mixing with someone who's really good at making Afro beats and then also a jazz trumpet player, that makes really unique music. We're just 47.”
As they grow, the collective is constantly looking for more artists as well as instrumentalists from the community to bring in and expand their network.
“Unfortunately, especially in this area where we live, you really have to make your way in terms of getting out there artistically,” Tung said. “There are not a lot of institutions that actually support grassroots-level art or help you broaden, so you really do have to build it from the ground up. We're doing that.”
In the meantime, there’s plenty of new music on the horizon. In early October, Tung will release his first album. Toward the end of October, the group will have their first named release under 47 Eyez On Me: a two song EP called “Pieces.”
They are also planning to participate in several artist showcases throughout the school year.
"We're gonna let people have spaces in music to really shine,” Ordoubodi said. “It's not for one person, it’s for the art.”
Updates and news for 47 Eyez On Me can be found at joeyzen.com.