Zephani Jong’s mother would play Mozart to her from the age of three, in the hope of imbuing her daughter with the genius of history’s foremost child prodigy. But it was a visit to the Apple Store, and a tutorial on GarageBand, that had the greater impact, propelling the home-schooled Zeph into the world of production, aged 10.
So, too, did the scores of the films she watched, especially Hans Zimmer and John Powell’s work in Kung Fu Panda.
“I feel like my music – especially the stuff that’s more orchestrally-based – swells and carries the lyrics, much like scores carry the dialogue and heighten the emotion in a movie,” Zeph, now 24, explains from her home in Los Angeles.
Born and raised in Maryland, Zeph’s first EP, 2021’s scared of everything, captured her struggling to understand her place in the world and her dynamic with the people in it – albeit accompanied by her confident, vibrant compositions.
“It’s about me being insecure,” she reflects. “I was very self-conscious and paranoid, unsure of myself, which is very different from now. I still have doubts, but at my core I think I’m more solid as a person. I’m more self-aware now.”
The fruits of that increased self-awareness can be found on her debut full-length album, character development, featuring the single you don’t like me like that, about gaining closure from a relationship going nowhere. Elsewhere, Zeph laments on not being the right person (sorry i’m not), grappling with tentative feelings at the dawn of a new relationship (walls), and envying the attention bestowed upon someone close (my best friend).