ZOë BOEKBINDER (USA) / Maja Olenderek Ensemble

Zoe Boekbinder was born on an early winter morning, in the upstairs bedroom of a brown wooden farmhouse on Regional Route #3, in a small township in Ontario, Canada. Zoe’s brother, Oliver, was disappointed at her arrival because he was hoping for a brother named Zanzibar.

As a young girl Zoe hated shoes. She insisted on wearing red rubber boots, rain or shine. She ate rutabagas from the garden like apples astride her pony, Suzie.

When she was three years old her father returned home one day to find she had sunk her parents’ volkswagon van in a pond. When Zoe was four years old her parents sold the family farm and took off for the USA in a big red truck towing a trailer behind it.

She and her three siblings and two parents rode all around the western half of the US for six long months. The family stayed in different buddhist communities and trailer parks along their way to California. This period in her young life marks the beginning of her career as a junk show evangelist.

After six months on the road her family settled in the Sierra foothills in Northern California. Zoe spent her summers swimming naked in the Yuba River and practicing front flips on the trampoline. For many years Zoe had a recurring dream about being Princess of the Moon.

In high school Zoe returned to Canada. Before she discovered music she did theatre. She auditioned for every play and if she didn’t get a part she would sign up for stage crew. She wrote a one woman play based on the life of Billy Holiday. Her last year of school she became friends with one of the star soloists in the school’s jazz choir, Kay Pettigrew. One afternoon after school Zoe sang Kay a song she had written in her diary. Upon hearing this song Kay urged Zoe to become a singer. She decided not to go to theater school though she did attend clown school the summer after graduation.

In the fall of 2004 she went to visit her family who had moved back to California. She became reunited with her previously elusive older sister Kim. The two spent every day of that visit together and instead of returning to Canada, Zoe stayed and had her few belongings shipped to her in two small boxes. The sisters moved into a big old red house on the top of a hill and began to write music together. They formed a band called Vermillion Lies. Over the five years that they played together they released two albums, “Separated by Birth” (2006), and “What’s In the Box?” (2008). Her sister still plays music and tours as Kim Boekbinder.

It was 2009 when Zoe decided to release an album of songs on her own. She recorded with her friend and producer, Cesar Alvarez, in Brooklyn, NY. Thus, “Artichoke Perfume”, was born. Two years later came her second born, “Darling Specimens”, produced by Shenandoah Davis in Seattle, WA. She now makes her way around the world, stopping in towns and cities, to play shows. One of her favorite places to play is New Folsom Prison partly because it makes her feel like Johnny Cash. Her next album will be a collaboration with inmates there and benefit arts in prisons.

Zoe resides in Oakland, California and dreams of one day moving to New Orleans or rural southern France. She has an affinity for mason jars, rusted metal, Dolly Parton, sea creatures, botanical drawings, dilapidated barns, chocolate, avocados, broken hearts, port wine, and the open road. She wants to own a farm someday.

Her favorite collaborators over the years have been; Kim Boekbinder, Carey Baldwin, Constance Hockaday, Myles Boisen, Shenandoah Davis, Cesar Alvarez, Amanda Palmer, Jason Webley, Carla Kihlstedt, Seth Ford Young, inmates at New Folsom Prison: Marty Williams, Alex Batriz, Greg Gatlin, and Ken Blackburn. Her dream collaborations include Andrew Bird, Jona Bechtolt, Antony, Khaela Maricich, Dolly Parton, Tom Waits, David Byrne, Merle Haggard, Rozanne Cash, Mirah, Kimya Dawson, Coco Rosie and so many more.


Maja Olenderek Ensemble is a musical kaleidoscope.

The group’s original repertoire includes compositions in the spirit of singer-songwriter ballads, girl blues, as well as that of world music and even reggae – everything presented in rich acoustic arrangements.

What cements these pieces together is the voice of the vocalist and their magically dreamlike lyrics.

The group is currently working on their first album.




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