Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Part 7: Hell Comes to the Suburbs

Yeah it’s been a while.  But I’m fairly certain no one really reads this blog too much anyway so I’m gonna call it “good.”  It ain’t like I got a bunch of e-mails asking for more.

Let’s talk a bit more about Darin Bluhm.

Darin Bluhm
I feel I might have skimmed a bit over the importance of Darin to Zombie Apoclaypse NOW! last time so I’ll try to fix that today.  Basically if Darin hadn’t joined the band the band wouldn’t have made the jump from barely-playing-basements-amateurs to venue-playing-professionals (Or “Talented Amateur”, if you prefer).  The reason was, in my opinion, two-fold:

1) Darin had a lot of connections and a lot friends in town so while I was being a big dopey nerd with no real idea where to start with things like booking shows Darin would just call up a buddy or a co-worker and say “Hey, do you think we can place this show on this date?  Nice.”   This is how we played at the Strutt and at Papa Pete’s as much as we did, at least in the beginning.  I don’t know if the Strutt would have ever let us play if I or super polite Travis had checked in with them.   Darin’s outgoing nature is what taught me how to book shows and any success we had in 2009 came because of that.

2) Darin was ambitious, more so than me or Travis.  While I was, am still am, a very long term goal oriented sort of person who likes to take it slow and steady and Travis is more “Go with theFlow” Darin was a “Right Here, Right Now” type of guy when it came to making music.  Now this obviously had some good points to it and some not so good points to it.  On the one hand he had far grater expectations from us than we could sometimes give, which could result in some in-band issues from time to time but on the other hand he tended to force our hands into doing something we weren’t planning on doing at the time but seriously needed to be done.  And when they worked out they tended to work out big time.   Case in point the release of our second demo “The Sellout Demo” which we would have never done in the Winter of 2009 if Darin hadn’t insisted on it.

First band photo of the new version of ZAN

More after the jump.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Part 6: In Which ZAN Begins in Earnest

Before I get into anything with the band proper I’d like to take this time to acknowledge an important part of the Zombie Apocalypse NOW! team: Stephanie Friedersdorff.  She’s not a member of the band officially but we usually think of her as the fourth/fifth (Depending on how many people are in ZAN at the time) member of the group.   I hesitate to call her our #1 fan, not because she isn’t probably our biggest fan on Earth because she is (Though I suppose technically when you have three fans it isn’t that hard to be number one) but because she does so much for us that goes far and beyond her duties as a fan.  She is the main force behind the production of our t-shirts as well as other merchandise and the last few years she’s been basically our personal photographer.  If you’ve seen a girl hanging with us at a show it’s probably her. Steph is pretty much the fan that all bands wish they had; she comes to damn near every show (Sometimes bringing other people), helps promote the band, and makes merchandise without complaint.

Drawn by Stephine Friedersdorff and not in fact a 3-year old
I don’t really remember exactly when she started coming to our shows on her own but Travis and I did know her beforehand as she was dating our roommate back in the day.  So she often heard us practicing in our basement and likely caught some of our early basement shows so she’s been a fan for years.  I often wish we had more folks who seemed to dig us half as much as she seems to. Then we’d maybe play in front of more than ten people a bit more often.

The return of Zombie Apocalypse NOW! after the jump.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Part 5: Countdown to Corner Bar

The logo of Zombie Apocalypse NOW!, the Transformers-like jack-o'-lantern, was not chosen at random.  While I guess you’d assume our logo would be something zombie-themed I actually wanted to avoid that. I really wanted an image that was unique and be something that would eventually be synonymous with the band but without being completely obvious.  That said I still would like to have a “Z-Buster” image as a secondary logo but that day hasn’t happened yet.

Anyway the seeds were originally planted while I was on the Saturday Morning Cartoon Show and we happened to be playing It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  I joked with my co-host DJ Muppet that it’d be funny if the Great Pumpkin was real and went on a violent rampage across the world (This was prior to Robot Chicken doing that very skit, I should mention).  I ended naming it the “Doomsday Pumpkin” as a combination of “Doomsday Clock” and “Smashing Pumpkins” (The album Zeitgeist had recently come out and I kept hearing about the song everywhere).   It wasn’t until later that I even thought about using it as a band logo. That we can thank the Moped Army for.  Kind of.

So for those of you who don’t know the Moped Army are basically a nationwide group of moped enthusiasts which started out in Kalamazoo years ago but now has chapters all over the US.  The Kalamazoo chapter call themselves “the Decepticons”.  Now I’m the kind of guy that gets pretty frustrated when I get caught behind mopeds while driving and I was always pretty disappointed when (As a big time Transformers fan) I saw stickers all over town of the Decepticon logo and got really excited until someone told me that was actually for the Moped Army and not the toyline.  A buddy once joked that we should become “Autobots”, put the appropriate logo on our cars, and become a rival gang.  That kind of stuck in my head; not the part about being a rival gang but about having a Transformers logo.    I soon got the idea that Zombie Apocalypse NOW! could have such a image to promote ourselves and that whenever I saw a Decepticon sticker somewhere in Kalamazoo I would put my own sticker right next to it as a counterpoint. I’m not sure why I eventually decided to use the Doomsday Pumpkin character to do this but I do know is that I really, really wanted a Transformers grinning pumpkin to represent the band.  Probably because I’m a nerd.

My buddy Mr. Kaze, who also made a lot of out T-shirts, offered to design the logo based on my specifications.  Here’s the original proof of concept.

Th earliest Doomsday Pumpkin logo
I thought it was pretty good, but Travis didn’t really like it and suggested the image needed to be wider to invoke a scarier picture. Mr. Kaze went back to the drawing board and came up with what we decided would be the final product.

Pumpkins in Disguise!
We loved it and almost immediately began making shirts of it.   These days most of our fans know that logo pretty well. Per Mr. Kaze’s suggestion I (Eventually) wrote an accompanying song to make a stronger link between that picture and the band, appropriately titled “Doomsday Pumpkin”; a story of the Great Pumpkin declaring humanity to be too corrupt and thus bringing about the end of the world as punishment.

The disaster at the Corner Bar after the jump.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Part 4: "Somethng, Something" in French

Hello again fellow survivors. It’s been a long while. Sorry. It’s partly because of me being a busy with my current life situation and partly because I had been working on my other blog. I’ll try to resume regular work here.

2008 was yet another non-starter year for Zombie Apocalypse NOW! though compared to the last two years it was the height of success. In a lot of ways it was an extremely frustrating time (As we’ll soon get into) but the silver lining is that I wrote a ton of new songs. Let’s talk a bit about a few of them.

ZAN,  ill-equipped as always.  Possibly playing "Sellout" for the first time
Sellout: Easily one of our most popular and well liked song. It’s the one that people come up to me after shows and compliment me on the most. Toman from our good friends The Common Good loves the song so much that he always tries to get us to let him sing on stage with us whenever our two bands play together. The content of the song is a bit of a mystery due to the no-so-clear lyrics but a lot of people have assumed that it’s a commentary about the state of music these days and bands that have “sold out.” In reality I actually wrote the song about…a girl (WHAAAT?!). And a real girl too, not like Justice Girl where the whole story is obviously fictional. Long story short in early 2008 I met a beautiful girl who I almost immediately fell for but I could never actually pursue her due to many, many hurdles that popped up over the next year not the least of which being that TWO of my best friends “saw her first”. I wrote this song as a way of getting over her, which by the way hasn’t really worked yet. But writing about my “feelings” was lame so as a joke I purposely wrote a bass line that was extremely simple, a repetitive verse and a chorus intentionally poppy and imitable and meant to garner a specific reaction: a catchy tune that is hard to get out of your head, like something you might hear on the radio, that forces you to happily sing along to. Upon hearing the joke Mike Zupke suggested we call it “Sellout” due to its poppy nature. So yeah, no commentary there. Incidentally I laugh every time someone tells me they love the song as it means they fell into my trap (Mwahahaha) but even so it’s one of my favorite songs to play.

More after the jump.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Part 3: The Eternal Damnation Cocktail

Sorry that I haven’t updated recently.  I’ve had some personal hiccups on the road called life lately.  If I can I’ll try to post two uploads this week to somewhat make-up for it.
Let’s talk about “genre” for a bit.  I was chatting with my buddy DJ Muppet not too long ago and when I posed a question about the genre of a certain band (I think it was Asobi Seksu) and she just shrugged and said “There really isn’t such a things as genre these days” or something like that.  I agree with that to a point as even Zombie Apocalypse NOW! doesn’t fall neatly into a category.   Now if you ask the average guy hanging out in the Kalamazoo music scene what type of music ZAN plays they will likely respond “Punk Rock”.   This includes various members of the press and venue bookers who we’ve dealt with before.  This is fair; after all ever since I was seventeen I’ve been all about punk in as much as a kid from Detroit can be.  So it’s not hard to see that, I have a lot of that influencing me when I write music.  Add to the fact that Dave Andrews was actually punk so when he was in the band during our high point he brought us even closer towards that.  But then again Travis is a metal guy and always has been and he writes his guitar parts.  Plus there are a lot of songs we play that don’t fit into Punk Rock.  Bottom line I feel like calling us “punk” isn’t really appropriate; it’s just the closet thing most people can think of.
Originally when people asked me what type of music my band played I would say “Punk Influenced Hard Rock” as that was the best way I could put it without having to answer a lot of offensive follow-up questions (“But what bands do you sound like?”).  Eventually I started thinking that if we were supposed to be a band that opposed zombies then we would n fact be Anti-Zombie Rock.  I liked the sound of it and started using that.  Eventually I started using it was a catch-all term for songwriting outside of the box; song that don’t necessarily fall under typical song tropes.  Theoretically I can write a song about comic book characters, horror films monsters, or how awesome Shingo from King of Fighters is and it could just as valid as any other band writing about their feelings or whatever.  That’s what Anti-Zombie Rock is to me.
Fuck yes, Shingo!
So yeah my point is that if you were to classify us in a genre it must be Anti-Zombie Rock.  Well, I guess Max Brooks-Core works too; that one I’m going to claim as our own (Feel free to become an Anti-Zombie Rock band, though).
Zombie Apocalypse NOW! starts their second year after the jump.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Part 2: ZAN is Born (Kalamazoo Doesn’t Notice)

Hello again, fellow survivors.  Let’s get back to it, shall we?
It’s mid-August in 2006 and Travis Stickel and I have just moved into together along with a few of my other friends.  After several years in self imposed exile Travis was now back in Kalamazoo to study Criminal Justice at Western Michigan University with a semi-long term plan to apply to the police academy (We’ll get into that situation soon enough).   I had just had my Rock & Roll dreams crushed when my band The Janissaries faded away (But didn’t technically break up, as I mentioned last time) but I decided to give it one last shot.  I would form a new band and if that one failed I’d quit music.  Now nothing against Travis, of course; he’s one of my dearest friends and easily one of the major reasons Zombie Apocalypse NOW! had any sort of local success, but at that point I was just desperate.  Don’t forget that I had never heard Travis play guitar before so I had no idea how good he would eventually turn out to be.  He was a convenient guitar player so I asked him to join up.  Had anyone else been living with me at the time who could play guitar I would have asked them as well as I didn’t have to look very far.  Now I know that sounds kind of bad but it all worked out for the best and he was happy to be asked.  It went something like this:
Jay Stuart: Hey Travis, wanna join my band that I just made up?
Travis: Fuck yes I do!
And that was the formation of ZAN.  Not the grandest of stories, I know.
Click below for more.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Part 1: The Before Time

Hello again, fellow survivors.  Logically the place to start this blog is when Zombie Apocalypse NOW! was first formed but really I think we need to go back a bit farther.  While ZAN officially began in the fall of 2006 the seeds were originally planted in the fall of 2002 and the groundwork for the original sound was laid out in 2005.

Pictured: Travis and Jay @ Toga Party
Not Pictured: Sobriety
Travis Stickel and I met fairly early into my first year at Western Michigan University at the local anime club’s weekly viewings.  As I recall he and I both were usually the first two people there, due to the fact that we were both the type of people who consider “on time” to mean “early”, and from there we struck a friendship.   With that said I think two things are apparent: #1) Travis and I to this day tend to be the first to arrive to shows and often far too early and #2) That we met at an anime club makes it clear that we were huge dorks even before we started a band.
Click below for more.