Upon the first minute of hearing it, the energetic but strangely epic and serious style of Crossover Thrash the Zebras perform made a very strong impression on me, with its high quality but organic and Punky atmosphere. As there has been a revival of all kinds of styles of the eighties and nineties among the kids of today, there is something more artistic and mature (than just going retro for the sake of it) in the attitude of this band. I wanted to ask a few questions from the guitarist and vocalist of the band, Vincent.
Hello Wisconsin! How has your week fared so far? Busy working, busy with musical projects, or both?
Yeah, busy plugging the new album and booking shows through the end of the year.
How is the Milwaukee music scene in general? Are the bands and artists generally helping each other out, or is the area divided into smaller scenes depending on musical styles?
There are some great Milwaukee bands but I can’t figure out the scene. All I know is people seem to only go to shows in their own neighborhood. It’s some kind of neighborhood coolness war that I don’t get. I moved to Madison in the early 2000’s and it seems to have gotten better than Milwaukee. More people at shows and more different kinds of people seeing different kinds of bands. Both cities have some great venues that have been really good to us.
The members of Zebras have been / are active in bands such as Those Poor Bastards (playing Gothic Doomy Country Music) and Call Me Lightning (playing energetic Indie Rock) among many others, which makes me guess you all have a wide musical spectrum and many projects all the time? Am I right?
Yeah, Shane and I have been in a lot of different bands over the past 20 years and Lacey has been in a few over the last 10 years. Lots of different stuff including industrial, punk, noisy experimental, etc.
The style of Crossover Thrash (with influences from Hardcore Punk and Sludge) you play gives an impression this band has a certain element of nostalgia in it? Were you Thrash / Hardcore kids growing up? How about other more extreme styles, is there for example Death Metal in your past?
I’ve always listened to all kinds of music and have always been more into specific groups than specific genres. My dad had the early Sabbath and Priest albums I would sit and play when I was really little. A little later I would tape Slayer and Suicidal Tendencies off of the TV with a boombox. I think DRI: 4 Of A Kind was my first cassette purchase. And is still one of my all time favorite albums. In middle school it was Deicide. During high school I moved to a new town and met people that introduced me to Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, Bad Brains, etc and we started our first punk band together and had a 7” out when we were still in school. I don’t think I’m nostalgic but I have thousands of LPs and not a whole lot of them are new bands. I’m just playing what I know.
Crossover Thrash of the eighties had a very humorous and playful feeling to it. Is this what appeals to you particularly in this style, or does it have more to do with purely musical aspects, such as the merging of styles?
Yeah, a lot of bands definitely take themselves too seriously but I’m also not a fan of really whacky stuff. It’s a fine line for sure. I do love how dorky D.R.I., Exodus, and Anthrax could be while making some of the best and most intense music. These days a lot of people think being metal or punk means you have to be a meathead that never smiles. You need some balance. As for the merging of styles, all of my bands have always been described as a mix of different genres. I just play what I like without thinking about what it is.
Despite the energy in your music, there is often quite an artistic and severe atmosphere to it. Is this intentional? Do you see the Zebras as a more tongue-in-cheek kind of band, or as a more serious artistic channel?
I’m very serious.
You have played with many notable but stylishly different acts such as Black Flag and High On Fire. How did this all happen, and how has the audience reacted to your stuff, which works most likely amazingly well live?
Yeah, it’s been great playing with some of our favorite bands. So far we’ve been getting a pretty solid response from the audience at every show and a lot of respect from the other bands. Shane and I have been around long enough so there’s a good amount of venues and promoters that know us. Now we’re getting more known bands asking us directly so that’s cool and very encouraging.
Now that your second album is about to hit the streets, has there been much interest in this release in advance? How about the first album, how well was it received in general, and did this give any pressure when creating the second album?
Yeah, we sent out tons of demos of these songs last year and it seems to be slowly spreading. The response has been great so far. The last album had a lot of really good reviews but was a lot weirder and each side was recorded two years apart with different band members. We’ll only play one or two songs off of that album now. The rest has all been shelved. This album is way more solid and focused.
It reads on your Bandcamp-page you are going to have a release show with none other than D.R.I. Is this fucking awesome or what? How did this come to be?
Yeah, personally it’s the show I’m most excited about since the Jello Biafra show last year. D.R.I. is one of my all time favorite bands. Having venues and promoters that know you and like your band is really helpful. I think the D.R.I. tour dates were posted and I just said something like “one of my favorite bands” and the promoter said “call me”. If only everything was that easy. “I want to tour with D.R.I.”… I was hoping something was going to happen if I said that.
Thanks for the interview! What does the rest of the year 2015 hold for the Zebras?
Shows shows shows. We have some really cool stuff booked in the mid west. Now we got to get some killer stuff going on everywhere else. People keep asking us to play shows. Now we need them to start asking us on tours.