The Zig Zags bring more than the heavy side of the L.A. sound to their songs. They bring complex characters,
strong lyrical imagery, tons of great movie references, and lots of teenage-themed
laughs. They are; Jed (Guitarist), Patrick (Bassist), Bobby (Drummer), and the
singer? Well that depends on what song you are talking about.
One of my best friends from growing up in South Florida, Jeannine, moved to
L.A. She introduced me to her nowfiancée, who just
happens to be Patrick from the Zig Zags. That was originally how I heard of the
band. I can’t remember the first time I saw the Zig Zags play but I remember my
favorite time, and it might be one of their least. The Zig Zags were playing the
with my boyfriend’s band Magic Trash. Despite the Zig Zags ruling as usual, that
night a lazy crowd mostly hung back in a side smoking area. At some point Jed
could not contain his aggravation. He literally busted out the side stage door
and proceeded to play, blasting music, waving his guitar, and antagonizing the
crowd. There was something so pure about his reaction. Despite the guys being not so thrilled, I was exuberant after their
set. It was something about their determination, that their frustrations
instead of being denied, instead of turning violent, came out loud,
confrontational, we won’t be ignored—literally “in your face” music.
I’ve gone on to see the Zig Zags numerous times, and they never disappoint. I
like a wide range of music, and appreciate many different things about
different bands. For me, initially, the attraction to Zig Zags was primal. One
of those things I couldn’t put my finger on but felt in my gut. There was
something about going to a Zig Zags show—shaking my head and having my ears
blown out, that was totally cathartic for me. Their shows have that energy that
you want to drink up like a vampire, or try and bottle for later. On one level you might dismiss it as just that: Zig Zags
strength is their youthful energy and exuberance. But it’s more than that. There
is sophistication in their songs, a conversation almost had through the lyrics
with the listener, layered with symbolism and references which takes that
energy and transforms it into something deeper.
I met up with the Zig Zags at their practice space to talk music, monkeys, and
mayhem or—ahhhh ummm—more like movies. We picked the guys’ brains on process, inspiration,
growing up, and what it was like writing a song for a gang of ape bikers.
Alxis' interview with Tom Neely and Keenan Keller about their collaboration with the Zig Zags is right here.
Alxis: Where are you from and how
has that influenced your music?
Jed: I was born in Portland, Oregon,
and grew up in Clackamas, Oregon. That’s where Dead Moon lives, and where they
have their guitar shop. It’s also where the Wipers are from and those just
coincidentally happen to be two of my favorite bands. I mean I didn’t know
about any of that stuff when I was living there but backtracking I realized—I
lived in this trailer park and I fucking hated it. It was horrible—and I hated
that town. Then later I realized that Dead Moon was from there and it
definitely gave me a different perspective of where I was from.
For me, growing up in the trailer park, I saw a lot of older hesher dudes, and
my first babysitter was this long red haired hesher. That’s kinda where the
idea for the Randy character came from (the Zig Zag’s mascott, alter-ego skull
character). He was always wearing Iron Maiden T-shirts and riding BMX, taking
me swimming and stuff in the back of his shitty 1970s Chevy Nova. I think when
we were thinking about the band, we were thinking of those kind of experiences
growing up, more than what kind of music we were going to play.
Patrick: I’m from a placed called
Fernandina Beach Florida. It’s a small beach town. Redneck Riviera—that’s what people call it. In the
summer all these rednecks would come down tailgating on the beach. Similar to
Jed, my Randy type character is my Uncle Bobby. He was in and out of jail and
prison and lived with us. I grew up in a musical family. My parents liked music
a lot and just playing in bands. My uncle Sean is a country music singer there.
Growing up in a beach town, I feel connected to the water—beach vibes and all
Bobby: I grew up in a small town in
Maine. The music I grew up listening to was Top 40 from the 1940s. My dad would
play a lot of old music. I didn’t even hear any music from the ‘60s till I left
my town. Being in a small town, you’re dealing with a lot of blue collar
workers, like every father was an alcoholic. There was always insanity around,
and my family was like that, too. So I think that made me tend to like the
crazier things in life.
Patrick: It’s kinda funny how we are
all from rural small town, similar experiences and met in a big city like this.
It’s probably not uncommon, but the older you get, you gravitate towards people
who you would have been friends with growing up.
Alxis: How does living in L.A. affect
your music and influence the Zig Zags?
Jed: When we started the band, we
were definitely trying to go against what we saw was popular in L.A. at the
time: a lot of folky hippie music. Even though we have a respect for anyone
doing whatever they want to do, we were wanting to get outside our circle of
friends, as far as what was going on musically, and do something different and
that’s what evolved into the heavier sound and playing faster and louder.
Bobby: I lived in New York before
here, and it just felt like a place of survival. I was always worrying about
money and paying rent. I hardly had time to play music. Coming out here just
felt like home, also it just feels like a small town to me. You leave your
house and you go into town. You see people you know and can be supportive of
everyone’s projects. It makes it a lot easier to feel like you can create good
stuff in that zone.
Patrick: There is such a community
here. You meet someone and you have mutual friends, and the stores are really
supportive of local bands doing in-stores, carrying your records and stuff. You
have friends who are doing cool shit. They have their own little world and then
they bring you into it, and you bring them into your world. You collaborate to
Bobby: When we decided to go with In
The Red, what it came down to is, they are friends of friends and they live
right down the street. That’s definitely been our mentality. It’s very
community-based stuff, and that goes a long way when the trust is there.
Alxis: How was Randy born? How did
you decide to have this character associated with the band?
Jed: He was born like most things,
out of jokes or stories we’ve told each other about our teenage experiences. We
were thinking about how Iron Maiden has Eddie and Motörhead has that weird pig
guy with the fucking horns (Warpig), and Megadeth has Vic Rattlehead. Just the
idea of having this character, a mascot that shows up in all of your artwork,
or lyrics imagery-wise, and just continuing that theme and using it over and
over again so that you have this cohesive style.
Bobby: Randy is like your everyman.
He embodies every single character we ever discussed. He’s just the guy.
Patrick: We’ll be writing new songs,
and say, “Can this be another Randy song?” I think a lot of times when we are
writing lyrics we think about a situation Randy would be in or things that he
Bobby: On some levels Randy is an
alter ego of ours. It’s really easy to put yourself in another person’s shoes
and then write from their perspective, so it’s kind of like three Randys when
Alxis: Talk more about your visual aesthetic
and how you collaborate with the visual artists you work with.
Patrick: Jed’s girlfriend Jess
(Jessica Hundley) directs a lot of our videos. Our first video was the Scavenger video. That was just
footage that she found on YouTube—homemade video—pretty much pre-jackass
boneheads. I feel like that set the tone for the aesthetic because it’s funny,
and it’s entertaining.
Jed: Before there was YouTube, the
thing that I really loved was going to someone’s house and they would have a
mixtape VHS of all these funny clips of public access shows and all these
classic videos that are now available to everyone but at the time it was a word
of mouth thing. When you’d go on tour and you’d stay with somebody, you would
go to someone’s house and drink beer and smoke weed and sit in a room and just
watch fucked up videos of stuff. That was the idea behind the first video we
did was to replicate that whole idea.
Then we really liked it and people dug it. We kept it going as far as we did—a
few videos that were more found footage stuff—and now we’re trying to do
something else, basically. We have a video for the “Brainded Warrior” song that
we have coming out. The video is very much based on the lyrics of the song.
This RoboCop human experiment gone
wrong that creates this cyborg monster.
Alxis: Do you have a motto or
philosophy as a band?
Jed: Basically the idea was, what
would our first high school band sound like? I feel like the things that I was
into when I was thirteen are the same things I’m into now, and the idea was, “Let’s
write about what we know and what we like,” as opposed to try and do some sort
of profound statement or something like that. Let’s write about us. Some people
have these very personal lyrics about breakups and that’s just not who we are
when we talk to each other. We talk about goofy shit, or funny shit, or horror
movies, or things we are into.
Patrick: Keeping things kinda
primitive. Not making anything too complicated or overwrought. Just what feels
good your first time doing it. Not over thinking anything.
Alxis: Did you have any funny or bad
band names from your high school bands?
Bobby: I have a really bad one, The
Patrick: My first band was called
The Plastics. The next band I was in was Drastic Measures. We took ourselves
very seriously as a punk band—social commentary-type things—like when you’re thirteen
years old and you think you know what’s up with the world.
Jed:I think I’m going to win here. My first
real band was called the Ninja Boners.
Alxis: How do you write and
collaborate as a band?
Patrick: When I came in, it just
added a different element. I think that what works so well for the band—Jed
will have the bones of a riff and the structure of a song and we all get together
and just jam on it. Then I’ll add this part. Then Bobby will say, “What about
this?” And once we get to the part where the song is basically there, that’s
when we go, “Who’s going to sing it?” How we do that is Bobby will sing it, and
then Jed will sing a part, and I’ll be like, “That would actually sound better
if I sang it,” and it just comes very organically. We rarely have anyone coming
in saying, “This is the whole song and this is how it’s going to be sung.” I
just think we write better songs as a trio than if just one person is doing it.
It just sounds more like Zig Zags.
Jed: It’s really long because there
are three people writing the songs as opposed to one person.
Alxis: If you had to describe the
Zig Zags using only a movie, what would it be?
Jed:Mad Max cause it’s my favorite
movie, and I think a lot about post apocalyptic
stuff all the time: cars, living off the land, mutants, and shit like that.
Bobby: If you poured Goonies through the filter of Poltergeist, one would have to filter
through the other.
Patrick: Phantom of the Paradise. It’s got humor but it’s also dealing with
a lot of insane shit that happens in the world.
Alxis: What was it like writing a
song for a comic? Collaborating with The
HUMANS creators, what was that process like?
(listen to the song by clicking on the image or right here)
Patrick: It was fun, like getting an
assignment at school where you read a book and then they’d say, “Write an essay
like you were a character from that book.”
Jed: I wanted to do something where the
intro was very long and drawn out in this descending, dark feeling and have it
get heavy from that point on. That was all that was going through my head at
the time. In my mind, the idea of the song—the first part is telling the story
of the gang, and the second part when it speeds up, takes you on a ride with
the motorcycle gang.
Patrick: They gave us images and
told us the story. It’s probably our most theatrical song. When I was editing,
I made it sound like there was a gang cranking their motorcycles and pealing
fucking out. It was fun to do that. We wouldn’t usually do that in a Zig Zags
Bobby: A lot of the motorcycle ‘70s
stuff was a little tongue-in-cheek and really low cinema. There was certainly
that aspect of it.
Jed: I love ‘70s biker movies. It
was easy to riff off of that lyrically and take some of that lingo or slang
that they would use, like we say, “1%ers till I die,” which is a classic sort
of biker gang thing that means that they are outlaws and not part of society. That
is a very strong image to write off of.
Alxis: Finally, list these primates,
starting with the best: Bubbles (Michael Jackson’s chimp), Ham (the first chimp
in space), Clyde (the orangutan from Any
Which Way but Loose), Koko (the sign langue speaking gorilla), and Bonzo
(the chimp from the Ronald Reagan movies).
Jed and Patrick: Number one is
Jed: In general, I like orangutans
the most. They seem mellow. Every Which
Way but Loose—I loved Clint Eastwood when I was a kid and I loved that
movie. When you are a kid, the idea of having a
monkey as your best friend is such a cool thing.
Patrick: I dunno. Ham, the one that
went to space. I mean, come on, first chimp in space.
Alxis: What would Randy’s favorite
Jed: The thing about Randy is he is
a skull character and a total badass or whatever, but he is also a good entity
and he is on the side of right. He’s definitely like a defender of the less
fortunate. Something that Randy would probably do is break into the zoo where
the sign language monkey is and rescue that monkey.
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Angeles, Department of Cultural Affairs and is supported by the Los Angeles
County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles Arts