[Interview] Zoogma Shares Their Spirit with ATL

[Interview] Zoogma Shares Their Spirit with ATL

By Clara GracePhotos by Kathryn Lasso

As I walk into the venue, Turbo Suit has already begun their show. To say the house was rocking out would be an understatement. With totally danceable beats and funky sax sounds, the trio creates a diverse and eclectic combination of electronic effects mixed with jam band energy and passion. Dark alien sound effects underlie beautiful minor sax melody that move seamlessly into a hip hop break, layered with a female rap vocals. Throughout their set, Turbo Suit sampled “What I Got” by Sublime as well as rap singles and EDM hits.

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An older man walks up to me all smiles and high fives me, nodding toward the stage. Laughing and bouncing on his toes to the music, “How awesome is this?” he says enthusiastically gesturing at the band. I grin in return. This enthusiasm is the vibe of the evening and is shared by everyone in the audience. There are all types here - hippy punk chicks, guys in button downs and slacks. Two women in Rasta colors receive a shout out by the band for their dance moves. Turbo Suit’s set draws to a close, among cheers from the crowd and as they walk off the set one of the band members upends the bottle he’s been drinking from all night inducing laughter. As I walk between the two rooms, I am struck again by how incredibly happy this crowd is. I don’t think there was a point during the whole evening where people weren’t smiling.

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Zoogma takes the stage and the crowd immediately fills the room again, restless with excitement. They are not disappointed. Zoogma’s performance is flawless from their zydeco influenced opening piece to their soulful blues finale. In the interview before the show, the band members spoke about their musical diversity as a group.

You just released a brand new EP. Tell me about the work that went into it.

Matt: We started work on it probably like a year ago and condensed it all over the fall of 2015. That’s when we spent the most time recording it and writing it.

Brock: {We} took a lot of the stuff that was going on and compiled it down. There’s four songs out of like a couple tracks we had. They all fit together conceptually.

Justin: It was a long process. We have a studio effort since our last record which is called “Anthems for Androids” which was {released} in August of 2013. What we do is a lot of live electronic stuff. So we do a lot of stuff remixed which we did over the last couple of years. Like he said, we started on it about a year or two ago. We had a couple of songs that we liked and we started building on that. It was a lot of work, just being like as an underground sort of artist and trying to make original music. That’s different and also appealing. It’s a lot of work, obviously.

Matt: This is the first record we did that was 100% independent without any outside source. We recorded, engineered and produced all of it on our own.

https://soundcloud.com/zoogma/sets/new-era-ep

Your album art is absolutely stunning, in a digital age this is becoming rare. What was the inspiration behind the art?

Brock: I actually found that guy, he’s a French graphic designer. I liked his stuff on DeviantArt for a long time. I reached out to him and asked if he would be interested in doing something. So that was cool - collaborating with someone halfway across the world to do album art for us.

Talk to me about your origins. How did the four of you come together to form Zoogma? What is the meaning behind the name?

Matt: We formed in college. Justin and I played in another band together and then we split off from that and formed Zoogma. We had two to three other members that were part of the original lineup. The first year it was a fun thing in college to do. Then Brock and Ryan came along and that’s been the lineup ever since.

Justin: The phone just keeps ringing, so I guess we just take this more seriously. The name actually was - I had this English teacher that I couldn’t stand in college but there was this one day where I remember going to class and he handed out a worksheet and it had the word Zoogma at the top. But it was in Greek. It was an old English literature class. We had just started playing and we’re trying to figured out band names and I saw that. We just took out the E U because it was spelled like “ZEUGMA”. Instead of the Greek spelling, we added O’s instead and went with that. Basically it means “to join.”

Your music has been called “refreshingly original.” Tell me what makes your sound so unique.

Justin: I think the biggest thing, honestly, is that we all come from very different backgrounds musically. A lot of times that can be a really good thing or a really bad thing. And obviously a lot of people, bands, probably break up a lot. Different creative inputs, you know, everybody’s kind of pulling different ways. It works with us for whatever reason.

Brock: {We} find stuff we like, and just try to make music that we like.

Matt: We’re taking old genres of music and mixing it with something new and then creating something new altogether.

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Tell me about your musical progression across the years. Did you always know the sound you were trying to create?

Brock: I think we knew how we wanted it to sound, but we didn’t know how to get there.

Justin: It took a long time. There’s not a destination.

Matt: There wasn’t anything we were taking super seriously. We knew we wanted to do an experimental electronic project but we didn’t know exactly where that would take us, or how to do it. Figured a lot of it out as we went. We’re still learning a lot. Our music is always evolving because it’s four people and we’re all always pulling in influences from what we listen to or are listening to. Trying to keep it within the relevance of our sound. It’s always evolving. Always has. It will continue to.

“Anthems 4 Androids” seemed to have some political tones with titles like “War and Other Natural Disasters” and “Classified." Are there specific ideas you are trying to get across with you music?

Matt: Like for “War and Other Natural Disasters” that one was kind of like we were writing it like it was a very kind of epic sounding song. It had these different vibes to it that just seemed fitting for it. It seemed like a battle song. Like someone picking themselves up by the bootstraps and going into battle. Like it’s kind of dark, then has like a happy epic ending. But yeah, I felt like a lot of the songs were kind of that way. In a lot of instrumentals the title kind of caters to the vibe of the song.

https://soundcloud.com/zoogma/sets/zoogma-anthems-4-androids

What do you think the future holds for you as a band?

Matt: With the industry changing so much, just how people are really seeing music and stuff. Now it’s to the point where you need to be doing more than one full length album in a year. I think what people can expect from us is, this was our second EP that we’ve done, and I think that just in the immediacy that people want new music now. We’re going to stick with the EP things and remixes and singles a lot more, and then do big albums once a year or maybe once every two years. It’s just much easier to get music out and have it sound cohesive when there’s only four or five songs. We just released “New Era” and we’re going to release a new EP some time over the summer. We’ll probably do a couple of remixes and then another EP in the fall and a full length album in 2017.

Justin: You can expect too, that a lot of the stuff that you heard on the “New Era” EP, a lot of that vibe continuing. Plus, we’ve also been working with some guest vocalists experimenting with lyrical content, original lyrical content. As well as another thing we’ve been experimenting with lately, being from the south, the Mississippi and Memphis area, experimenting with the blues influence. Taking that and incorporating it into our sound. You can expect to hear some of that coming soon.

Matt: I would also just say never expect to hear the same thing twice.

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The band uses experimental electronic with heavy rock and blues influences to create an energy that is full of passion and guitar riffs that have the crowd screaming for more. There is plenty of old school funky sound, but with a new interpretation. At one point, they sampled Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” playing their own sound over the classic hit.

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They play “Molasses” off of their new EP “New Era,” and the crowd loves it. It is heavier and has a more traditionally electronic sound while still maintaining a full bodied melody. Their sound reminds you of the infinite power of good music. My heart swells as I realize the musical revolution that is happening around us. Collaboration and creativity to an extent which was impossible before. They demonstrate the ability to reach across the globe in a millisecond and draw influence from every culture and generation that has come before us. Their energy makes your belly tickle and your heart laugh. You can’t help but feel the outpouring of passion not only for music, but for life.

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Zoogma’s closing piece (before the encore) is a culmination of the incredible energy that has been rising throughout the evening. A shout out to Mississippi, which is where the band originated, and is full of dirty delta blues riffs that drive the tiredness from your feet and the demons from your soul. Zoogma, and their opening act Turbo Suit, left me with such a profound feeling that I am certain it will have a lasting impact on how I listen to music. Thank you Zoogma for sharing your spirit with us. You are always welcome here.

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