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PHOTO BY Lily Zager

Meet the UCLA Based Band Inspiring Hundreds of Teenagers: Lily Zager and The Zager Band

Music & Podcasts

December 04, 2023

In the heart of Los Angeles, a vibrant and talented group of musicians is making waves, not just in the local music scene but across the hearts of teenagers navigating the turbulent waters of heartbreak and transition. Lily Zager and The Zager Band, a group of fully UCLA music industry majors, has emerged as a beacon of soft alt-pop, offering a brother-sister collaboration that dives deep into the themes of growth, love, and self-discovery.

In this exclusive interview, the band shares insights into their journey, inspirations, and the magic that happens when creativity and collaboration collide.

UCLA's Lily Zager and The Zager Band : Performing at The Whisky a Go Go  November 2, 2023 Promoting New Single "Blackout"

Image Courtesy of Lily Zager

The Origin Story

The band's formation and creative journey can be traced back to the unexpected circumstances of the pandemic. During a time of forced isolation, Lily, a passionate songwriter since the age of six, found herself rediscovering her musical passion. Her brother, Jack, a student at UCLA, also found himself home from school, seeking ways to connect and make the most of the challenging situation.

Amidst the uncertainty of the pandemic, songwriting became their shared outlet for expression and bonding. They began collaborating on songs, starting with 'I've Fallen Deep', and soon found themselves developing a repertoire of their own compositions. Their creative pursuits led them to the UCLA recording studio, where they embarked on the exciting project of recording their album. Throughout several sessions, both in Lily's junior year of high school and Jack's time at UCLA, they meticulously crafted their music, capturing their unique blend of artistry and emotional depth.

“Our album showcases the talents of real musicians from UCLA and my high school, LACHSA. Every note you hear is produced by live instruments without any reliance on computer-generated sounds. We believe in the authenticity and expressiveness of live music, and our album reflects this commitment.”

The band's name pays tribute to their grandfather, Michael Zager, a renowned musician and songwriter who achieved stardom as part of The Michael Zager Band. Their iconic disco hit, 'Let's All Chant', along with his songwriting contributions to The Spinners' ‘Working My Way Back to You/Forgive Me Girl’ and 'Cupid/I've Loved You For A Long Time', solidified his legacy in the music industry.

The band's name serves as a constant reminder of their grandfather's musical achievements and serves as a source of inspiration for their own creative endeavors.

Media — Lily Zager

Image Courtesy of Lily Zager

Lily Zager and The Zager's Band's initial challenges stemmed from the sibling dynamic, which, while fostering honesty, also led to frequent disagreements. However, these disagreements proved beneficial rather than detrimental, as they encouraged open and honest communication, enabling them to express their genuine thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment. This level of honesty created a more productive and meaningful work environment, allowing them to refine their ideas and create music that resonated with their emotions.


The Zager Band album features three singles: ‘Keep Driving’, ‘Blackout’, and 'If I Can't Love You'. The song ‘Keep Driving’ became popular on TikTok but carries a deeper meaning than many listeners might anticipate. Contrary to popular belief, it's not about a romantic interest or a reckless escapade; it's a heartfelt tribute to family and the yearning for independence. Lily's first encounter with driving inspires the song's narrative.

It captures the struggle of a young woman seeking the freedom to explore the world while maintaining an unbreakable bond with her family. Despite her desire for personal growth and self-discovery, she recognizes the enduring connection she shares with her roots. The song's conclusion reaffirms her commitment to staying grounded and returning home, signifying the unwavering love and support she derives from her family. The song's origins trace back to a songwriting camp at UCLA. Lily and two fellow songwriters poured their emotions into the piece just a day after taking a personal adventure that ignited the song's theme. The song's powerful message and relatable narrative have struck a chord with listeners, making it a standout track on the forthcoming album 'Blackout'.

It's sort of, I would describe it as like a soft pop, soft alt pop, and a Taylor Swift inspired band

Lily Zager and The Zager Band Keep Driving Lyrics | Boomplay

Image Courtesy of Lily Zager


The band's aspirations extend beyond their current performances; they dream of continuing to perform, expanding their reach, and connecting with more people through their music. The opportunity to share their songs with a growing audience and evoke emotions in their loved ones fuels their passion. They are thrilled to witness their music's impact on others and eagerly anticipate the experiences that lie ahead.

Beyond their personal goals, they cherish the deep bond they share with their bandmates. Their connection has strengthened over time, and they are grateful for their unwavering support and camaraderie.

Upcoming performances include Beta's Beta Bash on the 30th, a repeat appearance at the Min, and a second time gracing the stage at the Whiskey on January 13th. These opportunities to showcase their music and interact with their audience are highly anticipated.

They are excited to embark on this musical journey and share their passion with the world. The prospect of connecting with others through their songs is genuinely fulfilling.

Quickfire Questions

Who is your favorite artist/musical influence?

Other than Taylor Swift, Lizzie McAlpine is my biggest musical inspiration. I admire her exceptional songwriting abilities and the way she crafts songs that deeply resonate with personal experiences, whether in relationships, with family, or within herself. She's an artist who genuinely inspires me.

I'm also drawn to Frank Ocean's production style. His ability to convey powerful emotions without being overly explicit in his storytelling is truly remarkable. It's an approach I strive to incorporate into my own music, finding that delicate balance between directness and ambiguity to allow listeners to connect with my lyrics personally and apply them to their own experiences.

Describe your band in three phrases.

1: Exceptional musicians but also genuinely kind people.

2: Safe and encouraging space where we can freely share ideas and incorporate our unique talents into our music.

3: Honest and raw quality music.

Which of your songs is your favorite?

One of my favorites has yet to be released, called Flower. But if I had to choose a song already released, it would be If I Can't Love You, because that's one of the most honest songs I've written. After all, it's a big heartbreak song about a situation that was going on for a while where I liked somebody, but the love wasn't reciprocated.

So unrequited love. I was sitting at my piano and pouring my heart out the day after I ended things with this person. And it was the first song I've ever written about him. So, all my emotions were on the piano.

What is it like performing for your fans?

Performing my music live is an incredible experience as I connect with new people and share my songs with those I love. Witnessing their reactions and realizing that my lyrics resonate with their experiences is incredibly fulfilling.

I distinctly remember performing the song "If I Can't Love You" and having a friend approach me afterward. She shared that the song had inspired her to end a complicated relationship, and her emotional connection to my music brought me to tears.

The ability to connect with people through my songs makes performing so meaningful. It's truly a privilege to express my heart and soul through music and have others relate to my emotions. This shared experience is undoubtedly one of the most significant aspects of being a musician.

If I Can't Love You - Single - Album by Lily Zager and The Zager Band -  Apple Music

Image Courtesy of Lily Zager

What has been your favorite performance so far?

One of my most memorable performances involved showcasing a song I had written about a specific person. It was during a music tech event, and as I prepared to take the stage, I couldn't shake the feeling that the song's subject wouldn't be in attendance. They rarely attended school events, especially those held outside their department.

Just as I was about to perform, five minutes before my scheduled time, the person walked in. My heart skipped a beat as nervousness washed over me. Despite the butterflies, I poured my heart and soul into the performance, unaware that the song's inspiration was behind me in the audience.

Afterward, I learned that the song deeply affected the person. They recognized themselves in the lyrics and appreciated the raw emotions I had conveyed. It was a powerful moment of connection through music that I'll never forget.

What is the most important thing that's shaped your career?

Growing up in Los Angeles has significantly impacted our music, shaping the Zager band and influencing our songwriting themes. The experiences and encounters we have had in the city are deeply embedded in our music, evidenced by the references to LA boys, LA places, and LA friends in our lyrics. Los Angeles has been a constant source of inspiration, providing a rich tapestry of experiences that fuel her creative expression.

Collaboration has also played a pivotal role in the band's success, serving as the cornerstone of their creative process and overall development. The ability to work seamlessly with others, including fellow musicians, studio personnel, and their entire band, has been instrumental in our growth and has contributed to the unique sound we have crafted. Collaborating with talented individuals has enriched our music and fostered a positive, cohesive group dynamic.

Lily Zager and The Zager Band at Whisky A Go Go Tickets, Sat, Jan 13, 2024  at 7:00 PM | Eventbrite

Image Courtesy of Lily Zager

Advice for Upcoming Musicians

Keep writing and collaborating: Continuous writing and collaboration are essential for growth and development as a musician. Working with others and forming a band provides opportunities to learn from different perspectives and expand one's creative horizons.

Embrace learning from others: There's always something new to learn from others, even from bandmates. Be open to incorporating new ideas and techniques into your work.

Actively promote your music: Don't hesitate to reach out to venues and performance opportunities. Take the initiative to showcase your music and connect with potential fans.

Connect with Lily Zager and The Zager Band

Follow on Instagram @lilyzager and @thezagerband

Angelina Manoj
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