By: Cole Epley
Don’t panic if you have yet to hear of Zoogma. With a signature sound smooth enough to spread on toast, this is one band that will soon be making noise in a city near you. Hosting the band’s April 10th debut album-release party was Newby’s, the best-kept secret in Memphis if you’re looking for both local and national electronica acts. About 200 loyal fans came out in honor of the special occasion which was supported by Tuscaloosa’s White Noise and LA busybody Eliot Lipp. Recreational Vehicles is the first album by the five-piece band who describes their sound as an “eclectic fusion of electronica, rock, jazz, world and hip-hop.” It’s available for free consumption at www.zoogma.net.
The band, in a congenial display of true Southern hospitality, facilitated an early-morning interview after the last notes of ‘Squeeze/Release’ rang out at about 2:40 a.m. “Tonight we played the album front-to-back, something we’d never done before[in rehearsals],” said Ryan Nall, the band’s bassist. The set itself weighed in at over two hours, which included the full-length album repertoire, Zoogma staples of days passed, as well as nods to the Chemical Brothers and Ray Parker, Jr. (yes, Ray Parker Jr. of Ghostbusters stardom) Paying homage to Newby’s, the band had this to say about the support they’ve received from the venue along the way:
“We did New Year’s Eve there and several other shows throughout the year. It’s continually becoming more like an anchor both as a venue and city-wise. We can depend on the sound, we can depend on the people and we can depend on ourselves due to that comfort zone that gives us the level of confidence to perform…Tonight, everybody got behind us and although it wasn’t as big of a crowd as we had anticipated, it was still the exact crowd that we needed to throw the party that we wanted. It was everything we wanted it to be and it was perfect. When it’s a good show like that, the perceived role is reversed and it becomes us eating out of the palms of their hands—it’s such a reciprocal show and that’s what makes the best Zoogma shows, that big interchange which we see in our hometowns.”
That confidence shone brightly on Saturday night as Zoogma worked flawlessly through its debut effort, which stands on its own as a symbol of the ever-changing face of the scene. The entire Recreational Vehicles project was the culmination of six months’ worth of exhaustive touring combined with rehearsals and time spent balancing personal commitments:
“The whole album we vertically integrated into everything that we do in that we wrote all the songs, we performed all the songs, we produced all the songs along with the help of Tom Queyja. It was all basically a local project, so that’s one thing that definitely is a testament to something that independently is going on here…Each one of us has had something-school, jobs, career opportunities-[but] we saw such great potential in Zoogma that it needs to be what you want to do all the time in order for it to work. We’ve seen that in spades as far as the return; by committing ourselves wholeheartedly to it, it’s been amazing what we’ve accomplished in such a short amount of time.”
Recreational Vehicles coincides with more new territory for Zoogma, who has just signed on with the Athens, GA-based promotions outfit Nimbleslick: “They function as a way to help us continue playing in front of people-getting us gigs and stuff,” the band remarked. The new album also marked the unveiling of the newly-redesigned website at zoogma.net. Having just added another show in Little Rock for June 2nd, the band anxiously awaits the beginning of the summer and festival season to continue to evolve musically—something it perceives as critical in being successful as artists in such a wide-open scene:
“Since there’s not a lot of [electronica] coming out of the Southeast, we feel like we have a huge impact here…Since we’re doing some stuff that’s a bit more different, it’s a little more eclectic than some of the other electronica acts—that’s going to help us out with the release of the album. Good, bad or ugly, we think [the album] is definitely going to stand apart as being something singular; because of the influences that we all bring to the table and how diverse the things that we try to do actually are…[We want to] keep making records, keep touring, continue to break new ground. All of us right now have spent a lot of time on the road in the past half-year—now we’re at the point where we want to take the music further. You play around with a lot of things and see where the holes are in your playing and in the music, and all of us want to make the best music possible. So it’s something that especially with the summer festival season and the time off, we’ll be using that to take it to Zoogma 2.0…that’s a requisite in this scene, everybody’s upping the ante all the time. Now that you can produce something quickly and completely independently, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be coming out with new music for people to listen to—something that Pretty Lights in particular has established. Everybody wants it, we’ve just got to grind it out—we’re starving artists and that’s what it takes.”
Zoogma may be starving artists, but they’re certainly not starved for attention. The band found out last week that they had been chosen by fans to play a set on Friday, June 4 in the Revival Tent, a set supported by Lincoln, NE favorites Somasphere. Those more familiar with Wakarusa will recognize the Revival Tent as the main stage of the festival as well as the support appearance being the second by Somasphere. The festival will also play host to such acts as STS9, Big Gigantic, Two Fresh, EOTO, BoomBox and Bassnectar. Zoogma doesn’t appear to be intimidated; they’re more than familiar with many of the artists on the bill and share common ground with like-minded musicians in the burgeoning electronica scene. They’ve even supported Ozric Tentacles, an English band who began their long journey in the ‘80s:
“Ozric Tentacles! It’s the band from the ‘80s that started ALL this. They’re fuckin’ kings in our opinion. It was a show where all of us were able to meet the ‘grandfathers’ of the scene. The Ozrics were before STS9 and Bisco, you know? Bands like Ozric Tentacles were doing things that were pushing the boundaries between electronic and rock music. [We] had a great time at New Mastersounds-we had all listened to them a lot, so when we got to play with them it was cool…surreal in the realization that we were like, “We are actually playing with y’all!” And listening to Perpetual Groove and now we’re friends with those guys…Big Gigantic, playing with Dom, he’s coming up as a pillar in the electronic scene now. Pnuma, who we have played with several times over the years-it’s cooler and cooler to see these guys ‘along the way.’ They see you kind of ‘come up,’ you know? All of the sudden, you’re making your own stand and trying to express something that’s recognizably different. So it’s cool interacting on a level where you can experience the camaraderie. They deal with the same shit! It’s humanizing. A lot of the people that we idolize in some respects, you find out that they are really down to earth, really decent, good people. So it’s a great thing to experience.”
The scene promises to be kinder to bands like Zoogma who face the challenges of getting their music ‘out there.’ Venerating such an act as Ozric Tentacles exhibits a certain idealism that is prevalent in the always-evolving, always-exciting electronic genre. Zoogma’s efforts in completing from scratch a coherent, high-quality piece such as Recreational Vehicles is indeed a testament to the new face of music. Having such a forum as The Untz to be discovered by like-minded fans on the unlimited level that the internet provides is a welcome gesture:
“There’s little pockets of [electronica] everywhere, and it’s the right time for [The Untz]. We need to have that spearhead. With all the many different niches right now in the music scene, to have something just focused on electronic music is thoughtful, a great idea. It’s really cool to have that. With Jam Base and all that, it’s everything lumped into one and to put it all together like that, it gets kind of washed-out and the music suffers. It’s the perfect time to develop it and be the spearhead. We appreciate what you guys are doing.”
You can follow Zoogma right here on The Untz. Also be sure to check them out at their newly-revamped official homepage, www.zoogma.net and on your favorite social networking site.
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