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Pittsburgh Artist of the Week: Zinnia's Garden

The folks in Zinnia’s Garden are musical chameleons, blending influences and shifting genres in a very ethereal way. They got their start in New Mexico, but returned home to Pittsburgh to get their garden rooted, so to speak and have been writing new material and playing shows around town including a spot opening for Say She She last year. Their new song “Purple Portal Dream” is personal, taking inspiration from each member of the group.

Zinnia's Garden are:
Mary Grace (vocals/drums)
Evan Smith (guitar)
Kiah Rihana (vocals/keys)
Maura Moon (vocals/bass)

What’s your musical history up to this point?

Zinnia’s Garden started off as a project between Evan Smith (guitar) and Mary Grace (drums/vocals) when they were living together in Taos, New Mexico. They released their first album, Death By Design, in 2022.

The duo moved back to their hometown roots in Pittsburgh, and wanted to bring their songs into a full-band live setting. They met up with local musicians Kiah Rihana and Maura Moon, and played their first show together in April of 2023.

Over the last year Zinnia’s Garden has played numerous gigs at local Pittsburgh venues, opened for national acts like Say She She and Y La Bamba, and are in the middle of recording their first EP as a four-piece with new songs written collectively as a group.
How do you describe your sound? 

We’ve been calling ourselves “Ethereal Alternative Rock!" We like to consider ourselves musical chameleons, as our genre can vary from song to song. We’ve played with a lot of different sounding bands and are able to tailor our sets depending on what we want to sound like for that specific show. We draw influences from a lot of different places, from bands like The Cranberries, Fleetwood Mac, All Them Witches, boygeinus…

Tell us more about the song "Purple Portal Dream." What inspired you to write it and what does it mean to you?

"Purple Portal Dream" came together over time, throughout different jam and songwriting sessions, and is a representation of our journey as a band. We’re channeling our individual experiences when we come together to write music, and this is actually a song inspired by each other. We quite literally wrote this song about going to see one of our favorite bands in DC together, and then we got to open for them in Pittsburgh a few months later.

Our songs are very special and dear to our hearts and our growth, and we’re grateful to get to share them.

The video for your new song is incredible. Tell us a bit about how it came together. 

We played a show with Ames Harding & The Mirage back in September, where we met local videographer Michael Landers (Michael Paul Media). We had a really clear vision of what we wanted the video to look like (we even mapped it out line-by-line!) and Michael did an amazing job at interpreting our creative direction.

Since this was our first official video, we wanted to share our personalities and who we are as a band, while telling a story of what we hope the band’s trajectory will be.

We filmed on a rooftop in Lawrenceville which was a direct nod to our influence in the song - The Beatles famous rooftop concert from 1969. We also shot scenes at Thunderbird Music Hall, and our actual practice space.

What was the first album that really changed your life?   

Evan - Dark Side of the Moon, I mean come on.

Mary - Corinne Bailey Rae’s self titled album in 2006. Everyone knows “Put Your Records On”, but that whole album was the first time I fully resonated with a body of music. I had the privilege of seeing her perform at the Three Rivers Arts festival this year and she was more incredible than 9 year old me could have ever imagined.

Kiah - It’s a record called On A Starry Night which is a collection of lullabies from around the world. My parents definitely set the tone for my diverse musical tastes early on.

Maura - Cat Power’s What Would The Community Think. This record was released on my birthday in 1996, I was only 5 then but discovered the album in my teenage years. The vulnerability and simplicity in her songwriting stopped me in my tracks. I think it was the first record I heard and really realized, “I could do this”.

Who are some other Pittsburgh artists you think more people should listen to?  

There are so many amazing bands in Pittsburgh right now, it’s wild. We’ve played with some incredible acts this year like Old Game, Murder For Girls, The Marigolds, Dumplings, Thousands of Beez, Taylor Stein, Bri Short, Liz Berlin, Erika June, and Conspiracy Theory. There are others we’d love to link up with like Central Flow, Sleeping Witch and Saturn, Heading North, Feral Cat & The Wild, Astrology Now…

Any other super interesting things about you we should know?   

If you like what you hear, come see a live show and get ready for more original music in 2024! This is just the beginning…

Joey Spehar is a Pittsburgh native who started as a volunteer D.J. at WYEP, fresh out of college in 2006. He took on any job they’d let him do like editing audio, engineering remote broadcasts, and shoveling snow.