It’s been seven years since he played in AWOLNATION. Formerly the rock band’s bass player, circa 2010-13, Dave Amezcua is ready for his own voice to be heard. The singer, songwriter, and musician steps into his glistening electro-pop project ZIMINY with considerable ease. As you’ll hear with his new song “Summer Nights,” he soars across a synth-y skyline as he stages a lustful summer fantasy.
“You’re breaking my heart with all you got / Chasing the love is worth a shot / Please make it stop / And bless those summer nights,” he sings. The production is blissfully sunset kissed, and it is so evocative it all plays like a reel in your head.
Written around a year ago, the song unraveled as most songs do. The intro came first and then the verses and chorus. “I know I really wanted that Quincy Jones / ‘Off the Wall’ / Steve Lukather-type direct guitar picking and strumming in the verse and chorus, which really drives the song a lot,” he tells American Songwriter over email. “[I then laid] in some dreamy synth-scapes, in your face drums, syncopated bass and catchy vocal melodies.”
Credit, he says, also goes to former bandmate Kenny Carkeet, engineer and co-producer for the whole record. “He is a master at his craft. He really knows how to take a vision and amplify those thoughts, times ten.”
Lyrically, Amezcua plots a tightrope routine, teetering between sweetness of new romance and the bitter of heartbreak. While rooted in his own emotional experiences, “Summer Nights” is totally fiction. “I tend to compose fictional stories,” he says. “Some songs are personal. However, in terms of [this song], I wanted to write a song about a person.”
In his mind, a guy named “Billy” stumbles into “summer lust for this girl,” he describes. Her name is “Kelly,” but “Kelly is unavailable. She does flirt and cannot hide that she’s intrigued. Billy picks up on that and basically calls her on her bluff. So it’s a tragic story of being struck by the lust bolt of lightning and not being able to pursue it.”
“Summer Nights,” featuring a keyboard roll performed by Amezcua’s son Bishop, samples his debut LP, Love Language, due in August.
Upon finishing the record last month, he tweeted he was feeling much “lighter” than usual. He takes a moment to reflect on what that journey has been over five highly creative, but grueling, months. “Carrying the weight of an entire record by yourself is a lot. There’s a lot to remember. I’ll always cherish this record, because it is the first time I have written and performed every square inch of it,” he says. “There’s not a drop on this record that isn’t me playing.”
But it’s a double-edged sword. An overwhelming burden comes along with it all, too. “I’m sure every songwriter and recording artist can relate. I would hate to lose any qualities of a song that initially made it special for me,” he says. “If I found later on that I missed something… it would gut me. Carrying that for five months is taxing. So, when I finished the record, I felt twenty pounds lighter. It’s kind of like carrying around blueprints in your head for months on end.”
More importantly, he came to understand that both his personal and creative identities could thrive at the same time. “I’ve been pretty extreme in the past 一 like ‘I need to go to the mountains for 3 months to write this music.’ This time, I’m balancing family, kids, bills, and all the things an adult juggles, while writing and creating a record.”
In a non-pandemic world, “Summer Nights” would be getting a “Blade Runner”-style visual with all the color schemes, patterns, style, and vibe. For now, the music itself will do. “I wanted one song that channeled how ‘Stranger Things’ re-created the ‘80s, but you know when you’re watching it, that it is 2020. Nostalgic meets fresh was the objective for this song. There are different moods, tones and influences found all over the [album].”
Listen to “Summer Nights” below.