Spotlight on Rising Stars: Zoe Ko and Lev UFO

By: JoAnn Snavely

Week 1: Zoe Ko and Lev UFO

On Soundcloud, there are a reported 30 million artists who publish music; on Spotify, that number is more than halved at 11 million and Apple Music is even less with 5 million artists. Out of all of those artists, there’s an estimated 10% of those musicians who become successful (depending on your interpretation of becoming ‘successful’). Although those numbers seem slim and grim, there are hundreds upon thousands of musicians flying under the radar, waiting to be discovered.

In 2020, I began with the first variation of this series titled ‘The Hidden Gems of North Carolina’in this series, I recorded multiple interviews with two local musicians in North Carolina. Now, with the series being rejuvenated, I have decided to come back better than ever. I have spoken with and interviewed even more artists and am so excited to put a spotlight on the rising stars in the music industry!

This week, we’re beginning with two musicians who are relatively new to the scene: Zoe Ko and Lev UFO!

Zoe Ko

Zoe Ko (@itszoeko) is a NYC-based artist who specializes in alt-rock/alt-pop. Ko has been making music her entire life but began professionally when she was 16–she’s 22 now. Her debut single ‘Line’ came out in May of this past year. Since then, she’s released two singles titled “Til U” and most recently “Lovesick in Public”.

Her musical journey began well before the release of “Line”. In our conversation, she explained to me that “music was like my best friend growing up; so, whenever I was feeling alone–which was often as an only child with a single mom– I went to music. I really found my sound and voice as an artist over the pandemic. I released “Line” , my debut single in May because it felt like me in audio form and was the perfect song to start releasing with in my eyes.”

In releasing “Line”, she immediately harbored attention, having well over 350,000 all-time listens on Spotify. The single follows Ko and her uncertainty in relationships, most specifically her aversion towards going all in for a relationship. In addition to lyricism, the song sports an acoustic opening with her stunning vocalism. It has angsty undertones and sounds straight out of an early 2000s movie. It has pop tinges that Ko does oh so well and that sound is translated into her second single, “Til U”. This pop-ish single carries the angst that the “riot grrrl” genre illustrates. Her most recent single “Lovesick in Public” came out at the end of this September. This alt-rock single is about quite literally being lovesick in public; this song takes a 360 from the traditional pop-sound that Ko typically illustrates and shares similarities to Elle King, K.Flay, Wet Leg, and many more. 

These discrepancies between genres make sense when you look into her musical inspirations. She dubs her musical inspirations as Holly Humberstone, Wet Leg, Baby Queen, Pixies, The Talking Heads, and many more. 

Ko’s release and marketing methods are something that many small artists are doing and is helping many gain traction overnight. Ko did a series of TikToks teasing her single and making it available to pre-save for fans. Pre-saving is important, especially for smaller musicians; in a WIRED article, author Tyler Hayes explained pre-savings importance by making it clear that “Pre-saving a song before its release can give third parties access to eye-popping amounts of data about your listening habits.” This is even more important for independent artists as it can help catch the attention of labels.

As an artist with a limited discography, I was interested in knowing which song of hers was most important. In asking, she told me that “My song ‘Lovesick in Public’ means the most to me because I experimented the most with lyrics, melody, and instrumental choices in that song. It felt incredibly freeing and fun to make!”

“Lovesick in Public” is Ko’s most recent release and, in celebration of the release of that single, she has been playing local shows. As she’s been releasing music and performing, she explained how that experience  has “been so amazing finally releasing my music into the world. Performing and hanging out with friends and people who listen to my music means the world to me and is one of my favorite things to do.” As far as the future of Zoe Ko, she gave a sneak peek as to what she has coming. “I have so so much music in the works, and I can’t wait to keep releasing. I am definitely releasing a few more singles and then dropping an EP! The “Lovesick in Public” music video is also dropping soon!”

Ko is clearly a musician with a bright future ahead of her; with her future in mind, she sees herself headlining national tours with the hopes of having a crowd sing her lyrics back to her at a concert. These special moments are defining points of one’s careers, and it’s where she sees herself 5 years from now.

Koe has a new single, “GET OUT”, coming soon!

Zoe Ko is perfect for fans of Melanie Martinez, Avril Lavigne, Lana Del Ray, and Wet Leg.

Lev UFO

Lev UFO (@levufo) is an LA-based artist on a mission: to make music that moves people. He feels “whether physical or emotional, I want people to move, especially at my shows.I don’t like there being seating; I want everyone experiencing the music actively with me. Obviously with the exception of people who can’t stand for a while(love to everyone)…but I think of my music as ACTIVE music. I want everyone to feel my feelings of energy when I perform.” 

The indie/pop musician does more creatively than just creating music, he also directs and shoots all of his album covers/music videos himself (He really is the entire creative package!) His journey began really early on, but from the start, he knew he loved creating. In our conversation, he explained his DIY beginnings by telling me,“As a kid I was super into drawing and my babysitter would teach me how to use GarageBand and we’d make songs in it. Around 8th grade, I started taking guitar lessons and using GarageBand more and more, just making songs by myself in my parent’s basement with a $60 microphone that was a gift from my neighbors.”

Once he decided to create music, his stage name was the next hurdle. He chose the name, Lev UFObecause of theHebrew name his parents gave him. 

His music has an electric sound to it that is amplified by his lyrics that can’t be classified as anything other than fun. We can spot his sound by looking into his influences who range from Paul McCartney to Piero Piccioni to The Gorillaz! Lev has 5 songs representing his musical talent. Given this, I asked which song of his meant the most to him:  “In terms of a song that’s currently out and ‘means the most’, I’d probably have to say my song ‘AGAIN!’. It’s a love song that’s kinda emotional. Most of my songs that are out right now are much more fun!” Lev wasn’t exaggerating when he said his music is fun. The subtle hyper-pop undercurrents reflect really well into his vocalism and help create a really enjoyable listening experience.

Lev just released his debut EP LevUFOrever, the limited release includes hits like “Hate Today!” and “Again”. Lev described his experience, “It’s been awesome! I’ve been working on some of the songs on the EP since 2020!!! So it feels really good to have them out and to begin my journey! We’re gonna do an EP release party/show with all my friends and I’m super excited for that. Next up is my second EP, which I now have to get to WORK on finishing! I wanna play more shows and open for some bigger artists very soon!”

Similarly to Zoe Ko, Lev UFO has a bright future ahead of him as he is beginning his musical career, he sees himself touring the world playing sold out shows. Aside from making people move, he wants his music to reach millions of people,looking forward to living the life he wants and to being supported by his art. Don’t get his character wrong, Lev UFO is an unbelievably humble musician who is manifesting the extremely bright future ahead of him, one EP, one music video, and one single artwork at a time!

Lev UFO is perfect for fans of PHONY, Ray Laurél, Remi Wolf, Gorillaz,  and 100 Gecs.

Spotlight on Rising Stars Series: an Author’s Note

This is the first edition in my new series titled “Spotlight on Rising Stars.” In this series, I will be putting a spotlight on rising stars. Over the next few weeks, I will be introducing the Herald readers to some brand new names–and even some you’ve seen before. Get excited because in the next article in this series, I will be shining a spotlight on Frat Mouse and ForeignHomes.  There is SO much more to come that I cannot wait to share with the Herald’s readers! Until the next release in the series, check out Zoe Ko and Lev UFO’s websites and the link to my ‘Spotlight on Rising Stars’ playlist available on Apple Music and Spotify that is updated with each article release! You can also read the full interview below!

Zoe Ko:

Website

Instagram
Twitter

TikTok

Spotify

Lev UFO:

Instagram

Youtube

Spotify

Spotlight on Rising Stars Playlist:

Spotify

Apple Music

Week 1 Interviews:

Zoe Ko:

Who is Zoe Ko? for example; if you were talking to someone who had absolutely no idea who Zoe Ko was— what would you tell them?

Hi I’m Zoe Ko! I’m a young NYC based independent alt pop / pop rock artist. I journal about life through my songs. I’ve been making music since forever but professionally since I was 16. I’m 22 now.

How did you start making music (what was that journey like)/ who were the influences that made you start making music?

Music was like my best friend growing up. So whenever I was feeling alone (which was often as an only child with a single mom) I went to music. I really found my sound and voice as an artist over the pandemic. I released “Line” , my debut single in May because it felt like me in audio form. And was the perfect song to start releasing with in my eyes. My biggest inspirations are Holly Humberstone, Wet Leg, Baby Queen, Pixies, The Talking Heads, and more.

What song of yours means the most to you/ why?

My song “Lovesick in Public” means the most to me because I experimented the most with lyrics, melody and instrumental choices in that song. It felt incredibly freeing and fun to make!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years (what is the future of Zoe Ko/what do you want to be in the future)?

I see myself having been on a headlong national tour! I see having min 2 albums out ! And my personal goal is to have a crowd sing my lyrics back to / with me at a concert :). That would be so special.

You just released your single ‘Lovesick in Public’ and have released two singles prior to that, you’ve also been doing live shows and whatnot– how has that been, what’s to come?

It’s been so amazing finally releasing my music into the world. Performing and hanging out with friends and ppl who listen to my music means the world to me and is one of my favorite things to do. I have so so much music in the works and I can’t wait to keep releasing. I am def releasing a few more singles and then dropping an EP! The “Lovesick in Public” music video is also dropping soon !

Lev UFO:

Who is  Lev UFO? for example; if you were talking to someone who had absolutely no idea who Lev UFO was— what would you tell them?

Lev UFO is me! I’m an artist/musician that makes music to move people. Whether physical or emotional, I want people to move. Especially at my shows,(if in my control) I don’t like there being seating, I want everyone experiencing the music actively with me. Obviously with the exception of people who can’t stand for a while hahaha, love to everyone. But yea I think of my music as ACTIVE music. I want everyone to feel my feelings of energy when I perform. I also direct all my own music videos and single/EP covers.

How did you start making music (what was that journey like)/ who were the influences that made you all start making music?

I always loved creating. As a kid I was super into drawing and my babysitter would teach me how to use GarageBand and we’d make songs in it. Around 8th grade I started taking guitar lessons and using GarageBand more and more, just making songs by myself in my parent’s basement with a 60 dollar microphone that was a gift from my neighbors. I’m not totally sure if anyone in particular influenced me to start MAKING music but I have tons of influences, ranging from Paul McCartney to Piero Piccioni to The Gorillaz!

What song of yours means the most to you/ why?

Hmm that’s a great question. In terms of a song that’s currently out and “means the most” I’d probably have to say my song ‘AGAIN!’ It’s a love song that’s kinda emotional. Most of my songs that are out right now are much more fun!

Where do you hope to see yourself in 5 years (what is the future of Lev UFO/where do you want to be (musically) in the future)?

I see myself touring the world playing sold out shows! I really want my music to reach millions of people, I think that’d be really cool. I’m going to be living the life I want and be supported by my art.(I don’t want to sound too egotistical but manifesting is IMPORTANT!)

You just released your debut EP, how has that been, is there anything else exciting following the EP’s release?

It’s been awesome! I’ve been working on some of the songs on the EP since 2020!!! So it feels really good to have them out and to begin my journey! We’re gonna do an EP release party/show with all my friends and I’m super excited for that. Next up is my second EP, which I now have to get to WORK on finishing! I wanna play more shows and open for some bigger artists very soon!

I don’t mean to add anymore to the list but what are the origins of the name Lev UFO? Like what is the story behind it?

My Hebrew name my parents gave me is Lev, and then I feel like my music and art is a lil weird “outer worldly, hence the bridge in Hate Today ‘I’m an Alien from Outer Space’!

If you have any additional notes or comments to include as well!

I just put out my debut EP! It’s 5 songs and 15 minutes and just came out! Give it a listen!

  • Lev 🛸

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s