Friday, September 26, 2008

Band of the Week

Zoos of Berlin

What is the most important part of starting a band? Is it finding the right band members or finding the right sound or the right look? No, the most important part of forming a band is picking a name. It has to be catchy and cleaver, but it can't seem like you tried to hard. Lately, it seems like it should include some sort of an animal, preferably a wolf or a bear, something fierce. After you have picked the animal then you need to match it with something wild and unknown. Many people have chosen to match it with the Sea (i.e. Sea Wolf or Seabear), others have chosen other animals (i.e. Panda Bear), and then you have events or places (i.e. Wolf Parade). You can also add body parts (i.e. Frog Eyes, Wolf Eyes, etc), it is really pretty simple.

When a new band formed in Detroit, Daniel Clark and Trevor Naud (of Pas/Cal) had to settle on a band name. They threw out animal names, "Sea Dog", "Snake Ear", "Rabbit Creek", and so on. Since they couldn't settle on any one animal they picked Zoo. They couldn't simply be called Zoo, so they needed an event or body part or place. They were almost called Zoo Eyes, until they saw a poster for the Berlin Circus and Zoos of Berlin were born. Ok, maybe it didn't happen that way, but regardless ZOB has released an a three song EP that shows a great deal of promise and style.

Recently Will, Trevor, and Daniel were kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): First of all, the name. Most names don't have too big of a story behind them, but where did Zoos of Berlin come from?
Trevor Naud (TN): Daniel and I sat down at Cafe du Monde in Royal Oak, MI for coffee and cigarettes. With a list of over 100 band names, we shaved it down to "Taxis" and "Zoos of Berlin." The latter was picked. No real meaning...
Daniel Clark (DC): The first word in our name may have been inspired by the Peter Greenaway film A Zed and Two Noughts.

OA: Your debut ep was self-released, but still you have managed to create a decent amount of buzz. Do you feel it necessary for a band to be on a label? What might a label offer that you can't do on your own?
Will Yates (WY): I don't think it's necessary for a band to be on a label, but I do think in general it's helpful. It's one of those things: there are a few bands who will find great success on their own, but most bands would ultimately be helped by having a label. For me, the most important things that a label could offer are the intangibles: recognition and connections. If you're a relatively unknown band that gets picked up by a label with name recognition, you go from being one of the thousands of unheard-of bands that are out there to the new band on Label X. And then (hopefully) Label X will work the connections it has with various players in the music business (press, licensing, booking, etc.) to benefit your band. You may never have gotten the ear of those players without being signed by Label X.

OA: Speaking of buzz, do you value the support of on-line media? Do you feel blogs translate to fans, concert attendance, and sales?
WY: I do value the support of online media: I've spent many, many hours emailing blogs about our EP, for example. It's not always the case that these blogs have a lot of readers, but I think enough of the right people are reading, and those people can help a band get to the next level. For instance, my guess is that most of the people that have bought the Black Kids album never read or were even aware of the early blog buzz they got, but as an indirect result of that blog buzz, Black Kids now enjoys greatly increased numbers of fans, concert attendance and sales.

OA: I really enjoy the artistic direction the band seems to be taking with the cover design of the ep and press release. How important to the band is the overall artistic appearance?
WY: Very important. We're lucky enough to have a talented visual artist (Trevor) in our band to work on these things; it allows us to have that consistency. The art Trevor does helps to give us an air of mystery, which is nice.

OA: What is the music scene like in Detroit? What is your connection to Carl Craig?
WY: I'm proud of the abundance of talent we have in the Michigan music scene, and I'm glad that the musicians are such nice people to boot. Our drummer Collin works full-time as Carl Craig's recording engineer. Carl has been very kind to us, letting us do some recording in his studio and asking us to collaborate with him on a song for the tribute album Life Beyond Mars: Bowie Covered.

OA: What's next for Zoos of Berlin?
WY: We're hard at work on our debut full-length. For six weeks we rented out a 5,000 square foot room in a gigantic former factory in Detroit called the Russell Industrial Center, and we recorded the bulk of the album there. Now we're finishing up the last loose ends of recording and beginning the mixing stage. As with our resident visual artist Trevor, we're lucky enough to have a talented and accomplished recording engineer (Collin) in our band, which allows us the luxury of recording and mixing an album by ourselves, in our own time frame, exactly as we want it. We're very excited about how the end result will sound.

Bonus Questions:
OA: What was the last great book that you have read?
WY: I'm afraid that I've been so wrapped up in music and the other goings-on of my life that I'm only on my second book of 2008. The last book I finished was Arc of Justice by Kevin Boyle; I would say it's pretty great. It's a history of the life and murder trial of Ossian Sweet, a black doctor who moved into an all-white neighborhood in Detroit in the 1920s. (His house was 10 blocks from the house I grew up in.) Upon moving in, he quickly attracted a violent mob; shots were fired from inside his house and a white man was killed on the street. Ossian and several others who were in the house with him were tried for murder. It was a big case at the time; Clarence Darrow was on the defense team.

OA: Coffee? If yes, where can you find the best cup in Detroit?
WY: I can't speak to the question of where to find the best cup of coffee in Detroit, but our bassist/vocalist Daniel is a passionate devotee of Starbucks.

For more information on Zoos of Berlin please visit their website.

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