“I realized my whole life I’ve been very dark, very witchy, and in the past six months to a year I’ve embraced it a lot more,” says ZouZou Mansour of her sartorial swagger as frontwoman of Philly-based retro hard rockers Soraia. You’ve likely seen Mansour clad in combinations of leather, denim, studs, and glitter as the singer of her band, who imbue their arena-ready rock with garage riffs and a blues soul. The band have become regulars at MilkBoy and Ardmore Music Hall over the past decade, where they’ve regularly brought together fans of classic Rock N’ Roll, and not only solidified a fanbase, but become ambassadors for that sound. “It’s always growing. No one’s really giving up on it and it builds a community, and it builds a scene. I can’t even imagine coming from elsewhere,” Mansour tells me during a recent phone chat, before going on to say, “Philly rock fans are really open to hearing new bands. Our people bring people out and then those people will come back and bring more people out… Whenever we did MilkBoy it seemed like everyone we ever met came out.”
Since lockdown ended Soraia have been expanding their reach, making two trips to Sweden (in October and June) and also playing opening slots for bigger artists, which Mansour tells me she is loving: “A lot of bigger shows are happening for us now, which is a highlight, especially bigger bills that really fit us, where you can see your music reaches beyond what it does in a club setting. It’s a big deal.” These acts include Queen tribute act Killer Queen (which they will be doing again on November 26th at the Colonial Theater in Phoenixville) and possibly ZouZou’s very biggest influence.
“I love when Soraia gets to play with Joan Jett. She’s been my hero my entire life and her audience is always really receptive to us. And I love playing theatres. I feel like that’s the right size for us, and what I always imagined playing when I was younger.”
Soraia’s latest LP, Dig Your Roots, was released in March of 2020 on Steven Van Zandt’s Wicked Cool Records. And, although the pandemic provided a significant bump in the road of promoting the record, Mansour tells me that she actually got to see the band grow a lot while they were stuck at home, seeing their songs make it onto a plethora of playlists and new fans discovering them every day: “It ended up doing really well during lockdown.” The band has also released a handful of singles since the LP dropped: “Tight-Lipped,” a cover of “My Sharona,” “Firebrand,” and, most recently, “Hammer and the Anvil.”
There is, however, an upcoming full-length in Soraia’s near future. The album is called Bloom and it was recorded last year and is set to drop this October, with an album release show on November 5th at MilkBoy. And while Mansour tells me that the sound of the album should be largely familiar to Soraia fans, she admits that the band has certainly evolved in terms of the writing and recording process over the years: “I think definitely we’ve matured in both our writing and in the studio. If I disagree, but I’m not married to it, I’m gonna try it. We used to be not completely close-minded, but a little more close-minded than now.” She also tells me that she’s excited to continue making music with this mindset: “We’re gonna allow more collaborative efforts to go on, whereas we used to be more worried someone would change our sound.”
This fall Soraia will be playing up and down the East and West Coast (both headlining and opening a handful of dates for Joan Jett), but next Wednesday, July 20th, the band will be playing their first-ever show at Silk City, where they’ll be double headlining with Wicked Cool Records labelmates The Dollyrots. Although the two acts have never played together before, they are fans of each other, with Dollyrots vocalist Kelly Ogden regularly spinning Soraia on her SiriusXM radio show and Mansour telling me about a particularly memorable Dollyrots show she saw at The Record Collector in Bordentown, New Jersey. And when I ask ZouZou what can be expected of the show, she tells me to expect a lot of songs from the upcoming album, in addition to a lot from 2017’s Dead Reckoning, but she tells me that she’s mostly just thrilled to get to play in a new setting: “I’m excited because I’ve never played Silk City before, so it’s kind of like a new venue!”
*Get your tickets here.