"I've eaten hot Cheeto puffs in the shower before. That shit was tight."
Zack Villere, a Los Angeles transplant who calls Covington, Louisiana home, is not your run of the mill 21-year-old from the state that gave us Popeyes. He is a cartoon-drawing, teddy bear-loving, music-making tour de force who is very bad at being anyone other than himself, and that is a very good thing. He eats junk food in the shower ("They got kinda wet from the steam, but it was good while it lasted") and started making pictures as a little boy, jealous of his friend's acceptance into an art class for the gifted. "I started tracing Dragon Ball Z characters on pieces of tracing papers," he tells us over text. (Yes, we conducted this interview over text, and it was a blast.)
To this day, Villere illustrates the artwork for his songs, often producing anthropomorphic caricatures that would snugly fit into a given episode of Rick and Morty. (His portraits range from robotic, rocket-powered creatures to fantastical phelgm with arms and legs.) A visual person with an ear to match, Zach later expanded his skill-set to include music.
He started producing boom bap beats with FL Studio his junior year of high school ("They were really bad") before a friend showed him the light that is otherwise known as Ableton. Something clicked after he stopped trying to create songs inspired by some of his heroes—Tyler, the Creator and Flying Lotus among them. He grew more comfortable with his new software and started exploring subtly innovative sound-scapes, build with interstellar glitches and warped horn arrangements. Froyo Ma, his psuedonym, was born, but not for long. Unsatisfied with solely existing behind his sounds, Zack started experimenting with a matter-of-fact, understated vocal delivery. Soon enough, he gradually ditched his moniker to embrace his government name.
Little World, his first project as himself, arrives next month, and will feature tunes, cartoons, and lots of personal growth. "Cool," the self-produced lead single released just yesterday alongside a brilliant DIY video, is a warm, endearing depiction of Zack being Zack. It's nearly impossible to not smile as he shimmies and shakes from tree branches or stands in a Los Angeles park with nothing on but boxer briefs. The song-video combo might feel like a troll to some, but Villere swears sincerity. "It's lighthearted but I am talking about how I really feel," he promises. "It's legit just a reflection of me as a person I think. I don't really know why I make music, I think it just makes me feel good. If people like it, that's sick. I do want to have a positive impact, though."
Goofiness aside, "Cool" has already resonated with thousands of fans, and for good reason. (The piece rapidly reached viral status on Twitter and Zack's following has multiplied.) There's a self-esteem crisis lurking behind the would-be egos plastered across social media timelines. Unconcerned with traditional means of measuring social status or popularity, Zack defines "cool" in a way that promises long-term growth without becoming preachy.
"I want to be cool to myself," he explains. "Just being a better version of myself. I don't like who I was when I was younger, and I don't like a lot about who I am now. I just want to continue to be a better me, and I know that sounds dumb and fake deep but that's what I mean by that."
The charmingly oddball video largely speaks to Zack's vision. He plotted a majority of the shots and oversaw visual creation. He additionally illustrated the titles and that lovely humanoid figurine in his likeness, which concludes the clip. He credits his creative collaborators, Ani (who filmed and edited) and J'Von (who animated Villere's drawings) for turning his ideas into something real and easing his concerns—"I thought it sucked at one point," Zack admits, still surprised about the warm reception. The small team—which also includes Rodney the teddy bear, who costars here—produced "Cool" with no budget.
Moving forward, Zack aims to bring his diverse talents to a wider audience, citing production placements, a Pixar movie, and an animated Cartoon Network series as he breezes through his bucket list. The goals are lofty, but they burn strong within him. Now more than ever he deserves our attention as we await his next step.