Zoo Trippin’ is the genre bending, Columbus band you’ve been looking for. After a few small releases, these guys are ready for the big time, with a full length entitled Purple on the horizon.
Don’t expect a record full of escapism – Purple deals with the political and social climate after the election, particularly from the perspective of frontman and lyricist, Tony Casa.
From playing intimate shows in small venues to opening for CD102.5 Day this year at Express LIVE!, Zoo Trippin’ have proven they can take on any scenario this city throws at them. I caught up with Casa to discuss the diverse musical influences of the band, the process of becoming woke, and how important Columbus is.
The Indie Sound: What’s your personal music history – how did you get started playing instruments and what inspired you to do so?
Tony Casa: I guess I’m the only guy in the band who’s doing this really by accident; I never meant to do music really at all. These guys have been playing around in bands for a number of years … the reason I started doing it was because I wanted to be a screen actor. I realized to get into a place like Julliard, you either have to have an insane amount of talent or an insane amount of money, and I didn’t think I had either of those.
I started dabbling in bands just because I liked the performance aspect of it. I started off as a hype man for other bands, and once I realized how much fun I was having, I decided to start doing it myself. I really enjoyed the lyrical writing aspect of it, and I was never really a good singer, but after so many years of doing it, you get better and better. Now I feel great, I’m confident and I’m fine with doing this for the rest of my life. If a movie comes around, great! If not, I’m cool with that, too.
TIS: So it seems like all of the members of Zoo Trippin’ have a lot going on in the music scene and a lot of different influences, too, so how does that affect that sound and work ethic of the band?
TC: I know that a lot of the guys are doing different things to stay on their toes and stay fresh, because this is a job like anything else. Even though we’re doing what we want with our lives, it’s just as difficult. We’re trying to stay not-bored, so if all you’re doing is playing shows, you’re going to want to get back to writing, and vice versa.
In the end, it came down to the fact that we were always recording, writing, and playing, but we wanted to reach out in different directions to keep our mouths watering.
We’re already a diverse, multi-genre band, but since we do branch out, it’s giving us constant inspiration and new music to pull from. Before, we were strictly blues rock, and we’d add a little bit of a hip hop or funk element, but nothing too crazy. Now that we’re all into these different things, I think it’s got us interested trying new ideas.
TIS: You mentioned that your upcoming album is a “reflection of the hostile environment since the election,” and the single “Uphill Swing” seems to dig into that idea. What was the personal reasoning behind taking that direction as a songwriter and as a band?
TC: This was one of our larger endeavors, not just because the size of it, the financial aspect, and the stress of it. We’re going to make it into a vinyl, and we went to a much bigger, better studio with a more prestigious engineer.
All these different things have been coming into play that make it more stressful, but with the climate going on in the world, it seemed to diminish all the stress we thought we had in our lives. We were looking around going, “oh my god this record is going to cost this much money, and how are we going to get the vinyl here in time,” but then you take a second to breathe and realize that nobody else cares about this stuff, because there’s real problems going on in the world.
At the time we were planning the record, there was the whole election debacle, and then things like the Black Lives Matter movement and the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy. So, when we would get stressed out with our personal lives, it was first world problems that we were having.
Whenever we were trying to get a break from that, at least for me, I would get on Facebook and try to just look for some cat videos, or just some nonsense to step away and take a breather from the stress of my life. But it was just decked out with all these different movements, protests, and election talk. I’d move on over to Twitter or Instagram to try and find something funny, to fill my time with, but it’s all the same stuff. That’s when it hit me, that I couldn’t get away from this stuff.
It was because of my selfish, cis-white male privilege that I was trying to openly ignore these problems. I hadn’t been participating, but I felt like a) I have to start participating and b) the climate is so hot for it that it would almost be cheating the people to release a record like what we used to do.
We love that party rock, and to have fun and forget about your life for two seconds. The whole band felt like we needed to address the things that were happening, not just for ourselves but for the other people around us. I think that’s part of the line from that song, “I know what it feels like to be alone”. But that song, “Uphill Swing”, is actually more towards the inner turmoil and trying to find unity, as opposed to the outer, like your place in politics and in the world. That song is actually more directly related to suicide.
TIS: So talking about the social media point of view, which seems to be a huge influence, a lot of artists get hate for speaking their opinions on the internet. A lot of people come back with the idea that “musicians should stick to music,” so as an artist writing about these concepts, what’s your take on that?
TC: Writing this record, sure I was becoming woke to these different subjects and trying to be more active, but I’m not there yet. I’m starting to get there, but in this album, we try to reflect on the idea that this isn’t a one-and-done. It’s not “now you’re woke, be awake,” you gotta get ready to pound Red Bulls for eternity because it’s a constant battle to better yourself.
I still have that old school side of me – the dude who grew up on a hilltop that thinks, “let musicians do music, let politicians worry about politics”. Deal with what you specialize in. On the other hand, it would be irresponsible to have a following and not to mention at the very least, the issues going on within your own local community. I’m not saying you have to get online and post every five seconds about some sort of problem.
If you’ve got a handful of issues you want to tackle, post about it, but keep it concise. I’m not doing it so much personally, maybe I will in the future, but there’s still an old part of me that thinks we should just forget about our problems and have fun. There are some artists out there, particularly a local musician I’m thinking of, that is on the internet so much with these issues that it overshadows the music. It’s driving away the people there for the music, because all they’re getting is politics, and it’s even driving away the political people, because it’s so many different subjects that it’s not concise.
TIS: How has being from Columbus influenced your progression as a band?
TC: I think it’s possibly the best thing that could’ve ever happened to us, being born here. Although Steve’s from Michigan, I don’t know if you want to put that garbage in there! But I think us all growing up around here has really influenced what we want to do, which is to not be pinned down and have a multi genre feel. Whenever people ask us, “what is your sound?”, we say we sound like Columbus. Not only do we love this city, almost an to an unhealthy obsession, it’s just really influenced the diversity of the group.
TIS: What are your plans once the new record’s released?
TC: Once the new record’s released, I’m going to go to sleep! It’s been a real stressful process, with a lot of craziness and turmoil going on in our personal lives, which I feel like we’ll be able to address now that we will have it out. The show itself has to be flawless; the release is falling on our 6th annual After Comfest Bash, which is always a huge banger.
We’ve got another band on the bill having a release as well, and our oldest brother band, The Skashank Redemption, on there too. We heard recently that Neil, who plays horns for them as well as in Zoo Trippin’, had his cancer come back. Everything was going good, but about a week ago he came over and told us he’ll never be able to play trombone again. He’s obviously in a lot of pain even just talking to us, so I said to him that he didn’t have to play, and he said “not even you can stop me from doing my last show.” That’s when it all hit us.
There’s a lot of weird, crazy things happening in our lives, so much so that it’ll be nice to have the record out and be able to focusing on our personal situations. We’ll obviously be touring in support of it and doing a whole plethora of festivals, going back into making our music videos and another b-sides record.
It’s still work, but it’s not as labor intensive as worrying about your full length album and release party. We’re also in the process of making a documentary, which started on New Year’s Eve. It was supposed to be about the release of this album, but the story has gotten so wild that we’re still filming. That’s what I’m going to be putting most of my focus into.
Zoo Trippin’ plays Park Street Saloon on June 24 as part of their album release show and 6th Annual Comfest Bash. Tickets are $10, with music starting at 8:00 p.m.