Alex Pierre Amosa isn’t afraid to reach for the stars. Performing professionally as Zanderr Pierre, the ambitious young NZ-Samoan’s latest single is You Don’t Feel, an emotive house-influenced ballad about lost love. Nur Lajunen-Tal enjoyed learning more about him for NZM. Made with support from NZ On Air Music.
Growing up in South Auckland and the Samoan church, richly-voiced Alex Amosa has been involved in music since a young age.
“Music’s been something that’s been part of my roots, I’d say. It’s been part of me growing up, with my mum being a really good singer, and my older brother above me being a really good singer and really good at instruments. The reason I got into the whole music thing was singing at church from a really young age, having to do performances whenever my mum wanted me to perform in front of the church. I’d do it almost every time she’d ask. Music’s been in my blood and my family for a really long time, but I’m the only one right now still chasing the dream of making music.”
When beginning to pursue music seriously Amosa knew he wanted an eye-catching artist name.
“Pierre is actually my middle name, and Zanderr’s from the wishes of always wanting my name to be Alexander,” he explains. “My name’s Alex, so it’s Alex Pierre, but I always wanted to be Alexander! Alex was too basic for me. I don’t want to just have ‘Alex,’ because I feel like that’s too short, it’s too plain, it’s not catchy. There’s so many Alexes out there who make music, and if you wanna stand out, if someone says, ‘Do you know who Alex is who makes music?’ Multiple names will pop up for you, but if you say, ‘Do you know Zanderr?’ No one really knows a Zanderr who makes music. I wanted to be different, and shy away from being just the basic Alex. My last name is a Samoan name, which originally I wanted, but I thought it’d kind of be hard for people to pronounce and it’d be hard for people to spell, whereas Pierre is easy to say and it’s easy to spell.”
Amosa says the lyrics of You Don’t Feel come from personal experience.
“The song is basically about me being in a fling. You’re not serious, you’re not in a relationship with this girl, but yous are talking and going on dates. But at the same time, I was still in love with my ex. I was seeing this girl just to try and get over the fact that I was still missing my ex, and it didn’t help that she’d lead me on, and make empty promises and stuff.”
Listening to Amosa’s emotive delivery, it’s evident his song comes from experience. “Cos I don’t feel the same,” he sings. “I’ve been holding back my feelings while you stay the same.”
“It’s like you going all out for someone, and you want the same energy reciprocated,” Amosa explains the lyric. “You’re going all out for someone just for that someone to treat you like you’re no one to them. It has a really bad effect on someone.”
The genesis of You Don’t Feel came in a writing session.
“I was with my producer at the time, and he wasn’t really into making house music beats. He was hard into trap and stuff. We were flicking through samples and I was like, ‘Yo, that one’s really nice!’ And he was like, ‘Really? You like this?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah.’ And he was like, ‘That’s whack. That’s not even good!’ And I was like, ‘You don’t see the potential in that!’
“That’s why I wrote it so quick, because I wanted to show these guys what we could do! I told them to put a basic as 808 drum kit at the back, just to make it like a house, drum and bass track. And then we had that and right from there, I just kept on playing it, and I was just writing, and I got it done in less than half an hour. When I started singing it to them with the beat, everyone noticed. They realised how much potential the beat had, and from then on, they were like, ‘Yo, we need to get this song recorded! We need to do this, we need to get this done!’”
For Amosa this anecdote illustrates the importance of standing out in the world of music.
“I feel like too many people from this era are too scared to be different. With this whole generation it’s like you either ride the train, or the trend, or you ride the wave, and no one’s original. Someone else comes up with a song, someone samples it or remixes it, or someone tries to do something exactly like it. What I actually pictured with the song was something sort of like Avicii and DJ Snake. You know how they do those big as raves where the DJs are just at the top and they’re just like doing these solid as beat drops to EDM and drum’n’bass? That’s what I was thinking about with this song. I don’t really hear other Polynesian kids making this type of house music.”
When it came to developing a release-ready version Amosa enlisted the help of Australian producer Dimes (Paul Dimer), who he just happens to have a personal connection with.
“My manager, her fiancée is Dimes. He’s one of the best producers from Australia at the moment. I was like: ‘Could we give it to Dimes to try and do something with it?’ The first mix that they gave me, the first draft, I was like, ‘This is exactly what I want! This is how I pictured it!’ And it was because I gave them a really good idea of what I wanted it to sound like. It just kept getting better and better from there, his mixing, after the first draft, and then we got the music video done and I was getting ready for the final version. When the final draft came through and I listened to it, I was like, ‘This is exactly what I pictured the song to be like.’”
The slickly produced music video for You Don’t Feel was filmed in Waiuku and features Amosa pursuing Tia Anderson, playing the role of his ex, through the woods and onto the beach. The song ends with him following her through a door in the ocean and being transported to a parked car in Auckland CBD with a different girl, portrayed by Drish Tee.
“The whole music video is about me chasing her and being led on, and when I walk through that door I wake up to the reality of being in the car with the girl I’m still seeing. So it’s kind of like being led on by this girl. I wanted it to be raw and actually show what it looked like in my mind to be led on, and never amount to anything with her.”
The video was storyboarded by Amosa with help from his manager, Australian DJ Neitjah.
“My manager came over and we stayed up in the lounge til like 3 or 4 in the morning just listening to the song, and picturing a music video, and trying to get a treatment down. By then, the song had been lying around for so long, I’d already pictured a whole treatment. I just kept telling her and she was writing it down and putting pictures next to it, and I was just talking the whole time and reading it back to her, until there was a time when we were done.”
He describes shooting the video as a tiring but satisfying experience.
“It was a two-day shoot. First day we tried to get the hard scenes out of the way, because it was a good day. So we weren’t too much trying to rely on the first day trying to do the basic shots. We could always do that the next day, but we wanted to focus mainly on the really intense scenes of the music video. It was really draining because I had to run a lot. I had to do a lot of running scenes, which is really complicated because you eventually get tired! Especially when you’re walking on the beach at the end of the day, barefooted and it’s really really muddy, just to walk through a door and then just to walk all the way back. Everything was just so draining, but I was so proud that we had got it done that day!”