|genre benders with hope
Sam Kogon - May 16, 2014
With the release of their debut LP 'This Hopeful,' out on Inflated Records (Speedy Ortiz, Ave Luna)Zula has become a band to be reckoned with. With songs about upper west side doormen and riding the subway, Zula’s surreal lyrical imagery could only be influenced by their hometown of New York City. With fast-paced grooves paired with layered electric guitars and synths, the band's music weaves in and out of a collective consciousness held together by the vocal harmonies of cousins Nate and Henry Terrepka. The Deli caught up with the two for an exclusive interview.
N= Nate Terepka
H= Henry Terepka
Where's your favorite place to play in the city? Will you guys miss big snow?
N: Probably Shea Stadium tops our list at the moment. They consistently have great sound and vibes. It’s run by good people with strong principles. They treat musicians well. Yes we will miss Big Snow--we’ve been missing Big Snow. I personally just really miss it as a place I could go just about any night of the week to be around good friends and good music. That was a really great chapter in Brooklyn DIY, and we were lucky enough to be able to take part in that magic. But there are always new spaces coming into being and I’m excited to see what pops up next and where community continues to be cultivated.
You guys just signed with Inflated Records. How have things progressed since the record deal?
N: Inflated has been awesome to us and working with them has definitely opened up some doors. This is the first time people outside of the band are helping to think about promotion and booking, which is a very welcomed relief.
H: Thanks to Inflated records, we went out on tour with a stack of new vinyl to sell. Dan, who runs Inflated, believed in us enough to help put out our record, so it’s exciting to push our act and our sound and hopefully show him he made the right choice working with us.
Your latest LP This Hopeful seems to have some deeper motives going on, even if it's just three songs. Is there an overall theme or feeling that was put into these tracks?
H: Both the EP and the full length This Hopeful are personal lyrically - we write about our own lives and trying to make sense and meaning of what’s happening to our selves and our environment. We think a lot about being in between things... Sometimes we write about what we want or we fear but recognize that we’re apart from - but at the same time we cling to the here and now as what’s really important. We try to write about what we feel, who we love, and what it feels like to be right now. Right now we are feeling anxious and loving and excited to do our thing.
Digging a little deeper, what's "This Thick" about? Is there a reference to The Dakota, where John Lennon and Yoko Ono lived, and where Ono still resides to this day?
H: Yeah the Dakota! I grew up on the upper west side near there. The ‘you’ on the first verse of This Thick refers to the doormen of the Dakota, who serve the residents of the building and are also the de-facto caretakers (to the public) of the historical legacy of that corner where Lennon was shot. Like most service workers in NYC, they’re expected to be available to those around them (in a sometimes dehumanizing way) but they’re also people with their own desires and dreams. The case of the doorman resonates for me in this changing city as a character of both the past and future. Doormen exist in intimate modern situations where they know the private business of everyone around them but often at arms length - we can be intensely intimately alone and together in NYC, and however naively, I want to find an empathetic angle to that.
On a separate note, the Plastic Ono Band records from the early 70’s. Yoko is awesome, and it’s thrilling to hear John Ringo and Klaus Voorman kraut out in her influence on those records - pop champions embracing liberated, hypnotic, experimental forms. We want to swim in those waters.
Are you working on the next full length? If so, when can we expect that?
H: We were really excited to get in the studio with our friend Kevin Harper in Nashville. He’s a great engineer who just moved down to Nashville from NYC. He put the first ribbon mike I ever used in front of me and he showed me how awesome that last Twin Sister record sounds on studio speakers. We talked about seventies drum sound. He gets a lot of natural, flexible tones to work with particularly on drums. On our debut This Hopeful he engineered the instrumentals and “Look for Tomorrow”... he got us in at a great space in Nashville and we tracked songs we’d been playing out on the road. It was really a great few days - we improvised, recorded one-shot samples, danced around and drank too much coffee. The next record is still a ways off though.
N: We’re scheming to do more processing/mangling of our recorded tracks this time around. Sending drums out through weird broken gear, running through old tape, reamping. Real time parameter tweaking on outboard gear as a performance on top of a pre-existing performance. Really dubbing it up. It’s especially exciting since we were able to capture such good sounding source material. We hope to call on our engineer friends and bring them into this endeavor in their own home studio spaces. It should be a pretty fun process but it could be a bit of a rabbit hole. In my experience, records always take about three times longer to make than expected.
What are some other bands that you call friends? Celestial Shore seems to play a lot with you a fair amount.
N: There are a bunch of bands here that we feel a kinship with, both as musicians and humans. One of our dream bills just happened when we played the Big Snow Farewell party at Silent Barn. Celestial Shore, Ava Luna, Leapling, and Twin Sister all played. Definitely those bands. Softspot, Star Rover, Bueno, Baked, Lost Boy? Friend Roulette is rad and we’ll be touring with them to SXSW in March.