Wednesday, 18 June 2014

INTERVIEW: Zoo Zero

With a superb debut album under their belts, and an astonishing live energy to their performances, it's surprising that more people aren't aware of the London based four piece who call themselves Zoo Zero. Musically the band are sharp, and energetic while also capable of tripping into weirder, more cosmic places. Their sense of melody and how they utilise it throughout these tracks is what makes them stand out from the rest, as they prove themselves to be one of the UK's most exciting new acts. Here's an opportunity to get to know them a little better as frontman Tom  Pinnock speaks to RW/FF about their music, their influences, their debut album (one of RW/FF's top 10 albums of 2013), future plans and his obsession with Mansun...

Were any of you in other groups before Zoo Zero?
 "None that you would have heard of! I was in a band at college when I was 17/18, but none since then. Jon's previous gig before he joined ZZ was performing Aerosmith's 'Eat The Rich' in a school assembly. It was years ago, I'd like to add, I don't think he's been smuggling soft rock into schools recently."

How did the current band come together?
"Matt and I were put in touch by Jon – he was a friend of mine and a colleague of Matt's. And a while after that we asked him to join on guitar, which seemed kind of poetic. Our original bassist, Iain, left the group when he got married, so after playing with our friend JB Ganivet from Underground Railroad for a short time, we hooked up with Christian about a year and a half ago."



What would you say each member brings to the group?
"Onstage and in the rehearsal room, Matt and I bring overenthusiasm and a lot of talking, while Jon and Christian provide the calming, stoic George Harrison-esque vibes."

You seem to be inspired by quite a few different influences. How would you describe the sound of Zoo Zero?
"I'd say 'avant rock'… but really we're just too pop and structured for noise/improv audiences and too weird for the indie clientele."

You're named after a film. What non-musical things influenced the music?
"A few films, some radical protest and a lot of books. I get the impression it's now seen as pretentious to make music influenced by literature or politics – if it's ok for The Velvet Underground, Syd Barrett or Nation Of Ulysses, I think it's ok for us. Reject songs about girls and Twitter!"

You turned down offers of management and publishing deals and choose to stay strictly independent. Tell us more about why.
"I kind of wish I had never put this in our press release now. I'm always depressed by the careerist attitudes of a lot of bands over the last couple of decades, both big and unknown. Everyone seems desperate to bend over backwards for the industry, or dilute what they're about for wider acceptance, second-guessing what they think people want. We've had some interest from industry people in the past and just stopped responding to them when it's clear they don't understand what the band is about. One prospective manager hated the way our first EP sounded and suggested we remix it to make it all glossy and clean, which was of course the opposite of the way we wanted it to sound. I'm not trying to suggest we're heroes fighting against the system, but it's just sad that so many artists actively suck up to it in their sound and approach. Don't they know the man don't give a fuck?"

Is it a struggle being a relatively new and independent band in 2014?
"Yes, I guess so. Everytime we sell a record we barely break even, but that's ok. It's like Blue Monday! We're just happy to have an artefact of our music. Holding the record, and knowing that some people are hearing it. But it is difficult for bands to fund themselves now – probably why so many bands do suck up to the industry. It's like smiling at your bank manager when you're applying for a loan."

How did the self titled debut come about? Were they songs you had for a while or was it written as it was recorded? 
"We recorded the whole album in five days, as fast as we could. It was like a greatest hits of our early years, really. Some of the songs were a few years old. But thank god we didn't record it earlier, we would probably have put some rubbish songs on it! We had some new songs at the time we recorded, but we thought we'd keep them for our second album or whatever comes out next."

I see former Mansun legend Paul Draper is thanked in the credits. Tell us a bit about your association with him. Were Mansun an influence on Zoo Zero in any way?
"I was obsessed with Mansun's Six when it came out – what other band would follow up a No 1 album with a record as weird as that? I don't think we sound anything like Mansun, though. I met Paul through a friend of mine who knows him from Chester, and we got drunkenly chatting about Six. Paul put us in touch with an engineer, Scott Knapper. Scott was keen to work with new bands, and so he recorded and mixed our album. He's working on the new stuff we're recording too. I said Scott was a genius in the last interview we did, so I'd better say it again here in case he starts to doubt it! Also, the fantastic guitar sounds on the debut are all courtesy of Paul Draper's excellent vintage amps, specifically his Fender Twin, which Jon used, and his Vox AC30, which I played through. Paul's been letting us use his studio recently as well."

What are your favourite memories of the recording process?
"My favourite part of the sessions was recording the weird zombie bit in the middle of “Double Cross”. We all walked around a big room, with a mic in the centre, in our socks, moaning and screaming. We had to do quite a few takes as we were laughing so much. I think Scott thought we'd gone mad."

I hear the second album is being recorded. Anything you can reveal about that yet?
"We've finished a few tracks, and will be putting out two of them as a single later this year. Before that, we're releasing a cover – it's a radical tribute to Yo La Tengo, one of our favourite bands, who are celebrating their 30th anniversary this year. And there might be an experimental EP too. The second album will probably be out early next year, but things always seem to take twice as long as we always think they will…"

In the long term, what do you hope Zoo Zero to achieve?
"I hope we make a few more albums, pass into obscurity as mysterious cult legends, and destroy capitalism."

Choose five songs that have been important influences on the band...

Deerhoof – 'Rrrrrrright'


Julian Cope – 'Up-Wards At 45 Degrees'


Magazine – 'The Light Pours Out Of Me'


Welcome – 'All Set'


Nico – 'Evening Of Light'


Thank you ever so much to Tom for taking the time to talk. You can read a full review of Zoo Zero's excellent debut album HERE. The band have been uploading various mixtapes to Mixcloud, featuring music they dig and that has inspired them. You can listen to those HERE at their Mixcloud page. News about upcoming gigs can be found at their Facebook page HERE.



https://www.facebook.com/zoozerouk
http://zoozero.bandcamp.com/
https://twitter.com/zoozero
zoozero.tumblr.com/

3 comments:

  1. I was happy to read of their love of Mansun as they are one of my favorite bands of all time and I consider Paul Draper a bloody genius. They're criminally overlooked and underrated and I've been carrying the flame and singing their praises for damn near 15 years (since I got into them) so it's nice to see newer bands citing them as well!

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    1. I agree completely Drew, all these critics raving about all the best bands of the last 20 years or so are forgetting one of the true originals, Mansun were definitely unique and maverick, and their songs were incredible. Even their b sides put other bands in the shadow! I'll be writing an article for the programme for the upcoming Mansun fans convention in August!

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    2. Nice! I'm writing something for the programme, too! It should be a great convention, I wish I could attend but such is the fate of being a Mansun fan in America, where they are REALLY unknown apart from a handful of diehards. Draper was/is a genius, though, one of the greats from that generation and it's nice to see him and the band finally starting to get their due.

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