In 2019, local musician and Cabrillo art student Zuzu West wrote a song called “You” that was so personal, she almost didn’t release it.
It was a response to her boyfriend, who was certain he was more into her than she was him. She disagreed. The lyrics speak plainly:“I want you/I want you baby.” Several friends told her it was awesome and that she should release it. One friend, Sitsa LaTour (from Sacramento band LaTour), even added a super funky bassline to it, giving the song a smooth, jazzy, infectiously-funky pop vibe. West uploaded “You” to her Soundcloud eight months ago.
“I’ve always been a little low on self-esteem when it comes to releasing anything I’ve produced,” she says. “Sitsa was so excited about the song, and it made me realize how valuable it was: That we had created something together, and it was everything we had hoped for.”
Quentin Shaeffer, a fellow Cabrillo student and local musician, met West in late 2019, and hung out with her only once before the pandemic hit and stopped in-person gatherings. When West released “You” on her Soundcloud last year, Shaeffer immediately obsessed over it and wanted to remix it. They released their collaborative version of “You” last month, billed as Quentin Shaeffer and Zuzu West.
The new version is much slicker and electronic-oriented. Shaeffer’s light, airy, electro-pop beats mix seamlessly with West’s breezy vocals and LaTour’s Bootsy Collins-level funky bass line.
Finishing the song was a long process, and the effects of the pandemic altered much of West and Shaeffer’s lives. Before the pandemic, Shaeffer was working in politics as a field strategist. He was knocking on doors, hanging out at farmers markets, and talking face to face with local voters. After the pandemic began, his job turned into managing social media accounts. By mid-August, he moved to Reno to live with his mom to save money amid all the uncertainty.
“I do not recommend staring at Facebook for a living,” Shaeffer says. “My job destroyed my mental health.”
West’s life changed as well. No longer able to take babysitting gigs to make money, she moved back to her parent’s house in Sacramento near the beginning of the pandemic and continued to attend school at Cabrillo online.
“I was going back and forth because my boyfriend’s dad lives in Santa Cruz. We were living with him for a while,” West says. “After a couple months, when school obviously wasn’t going back into session, we both were like, ‘Well, we’ve got to move back home. We’re broke.’”
During the late summer, West was excited that Shaeffer wanted to remix “You.” But the stress of isolation and social media overload made it so Shaeffer couldn’t put meaningful time into working on it. It wasn’t until his job contract ended in November and he took a trip to San Diego to unwind that he had the mental bandwidth to make progress on the song.
“Part of what helped me was letting go of that initial intention and accepting that I didn’t need to add the kitchen sink just to justify it being a full electronic remix when we could just release the track as a collaboration and let it be the pop song/party song it is.”
The two have both made music independently for roughly two years. Shaeffer typically produces instrumental electronic music, while West writes singer-songwriter pop songs with an R&B twist. “You” is a special song, one that blends both of their worlds and makes a catchy dance floor anthem at a time when dance floors are all closed.
“Quentin’s a little bit more electronic vibe, dubstep-esque, indie. And I really like to write songs on my guitar and put it all together,” West says. “We have similar vibes, but different in the best way.”
The two still live in Sacramento and Reno. West takes classes at Cabrillo; Shaeffer is taking a semester off. Before the pandemic, both planned to stay in town a while and were considering eventually transferring to UCSC. Now they feel much more uncertain about their futures. But they continue working together—hopefully one day in person.
“I would love to work with Quentin more,” West says. “I think we’re a great pair.”