By Kevin Zimmerman
Tiombe Lockhart | of Cubic Zirconia Tme To Shine
“Ethnic disco” is how the members of New York City-based group Cubic Zirconia describe its music, but the term isn’t really inclusive enough. As vocalist and co-songwriter Tiombe Lockhart puts it, “We’re neo-soul, post-punk, nerd rock, funk, and dance.”
Such a potentially chaotic mixture actually works a treat, however. Driving beats, organic instruments, and impassioned vocals combine for a final product that’s not a million miles away from Lady Gaga, while lyrics drawn from the members’ lives give it that extra pinch of relevance that has mostly eluded Madame Poker Face. Lockhart fell into a career in music more or less by accident. Born in Atlanta, her family eventually relocated to Los Angeles where unspecified “trouble” led to her mother’s enrolling her in an arts high school “to get me to focus on something.” A burgeoning love for hip-hop and jazz took her to New York’s New School University, and a connection with underground r&b act Platinum Pied Pipers (her three songs on their 2005 album Triple P netting some rave reviews) before she hooked up with deejay/vocalist Nick Hook and guitarist Todd Weinstock, late of post-punk/funk outfit Men, Women & Children, who were looking to launch a new project.
“I agreed pretty quickly,” she says. “I’d matured a lot, and come to realize that working with others can help expand yourself as an artist. You just grow.”
Weinstock has since exited amicably, while Cubic Zirconia’s lineup has solidified around Lockhart, Hook, instrumentalist Daud Sturdivant, and drummer Justin Tyson. A string of singles, including the current bouncy diatribe “Black & Blue,” are helping CZ build momentum towards the October release of debut long-player Follow Your Heart on Scottish indie label LuckyMe.
“I’m always writing things down,” Lockhart says of her composing process. “I have a nice treasure chest full of ideas.” CZ songs are often built upon a beat and rhythm that Hook establishes; Lockhart adds melodies and lyrics, with Sturdivant helping refine the tune into its final shape.
On the cusp of breaking through at last, Lockhart says that being a part of SESAC is part of the entire CZ philosophy. “We live in a pretty tight-knit community, and SESAC reflects that,” she says. “It’s nice to know that not only will they come to shows, but they’ll bring their friends and have a good time. It really is personal with them, which is something that’s important to us.”