Zoo Trippin' Detail One-Of-A-Kind Concept Album
"We thought: So this is something I’m not comfortable with, because it’s new to us. So let’s drive it home anyway. Let’s fight through it and find out."
There are bands with high energy, and there are high-energy bands. If we created a scale of on-stage intensity, from, say, Long Beard to Slayer, I’m proud to say that Columbus’ own Zoo Trippin' would land somewhere around FIDLAR - and sound damn fine doing it.
Take, for example, their latest release: Great White Buffalo. The standout opener, Animals, dives headfirst into high-energy rock riffs and pounding percussion, just before frontman Tony Casa begins to deliver a rhythmic, steady verse, culminating in an urgent call to arms: “Nobody gets down like my brothers and sisters do… Join the Animals, here at the Zoo!”
What might be more impressive about Zoo Trippin’s sound, however, is their stylistic range. Great White Buffalo is able to weave seamlessly between heavy rock, blues, and even country influence all in the matter of 24 minutes. For this reason, I am incredibly excited awaiting their upcoming release, Purple.
If Great White Buffalo was the band finding and solidifying its sound, Purple is their effort to shake things right back up. The release will be the band’s first full-length collection, as well as their first concept album - where the band attempts something that has potentially never been done before. I had a chance to sit down with Zoo Trippin' frontman Tony Casa and lead guitarist Lynn Roose III at their band house last week to ask them a few questions about this much-anticipated release.
G: So Purple is a concept album… Can you describe the concept?
Lynn Roose III: So, about the theme of the album, the color purple... Lyrically, it talks about opposing sides, red and blue, coming together. But musically, I tried to take it a step further and base it on chromeo-synesthesia, where someone can hear a sound and visualize a color. It’s a small percentage of people that have it, but they all have their own unique “color wheels” - if one person hears a G, they always see yellow, whereas another person will hear a G and always see green.
I based our album colors off of this Russian composer from the mid-1800s named Alexander Scriabin, specifically because he was one of these over-the-top characters like Mr. [Jack] White and Mr. [Kanye] West that we address in the first song, “Mr. White and Mr. West”. They’re all kind of over the top, ahead of their time, revered as geniuses, but also controversial at a lot of times. [Scriabin was] a little bit of a dickhead, at least as some historians describe him, but he invented a specific type of organ - when he’d play this piece he wrote, he would hit the keys on the organ and colors would come up on a screen. Back in the 1800’s, this was pretty fucking wild, right?
Tony Casa: It’s like a Pink Floyd show.
Lynn: Exactly! So one of his craziest ideas or inventions was a chord called the Mystic Chord. It’s made up of augmented fourth intervals, it sounds really bad. It’s super dissonant, it just doesn’t sound happy at all. There’s a piece that he wrote that’s about 40 minutes long, and it’s basically just this chord in different voicings. It finally evolves after, like, two-thirds of an hour, but I used his chord to open up the album. I played it on the piano in the same key that the first song is, and it kicks in - kind of like, as a head nod. All these songs are based on his color wheel, so on Side A, or Side Blue as we’re calling it, it’s his blue and purple songs - so songs in the key of E, E♭, C♯ and stuff. But then Side B is Side Red, all his red songs.
Tony Casa: So you’ve got your basic ingredients of a concept album, what with the songs having the transitions and being one solid piece, as well as the lyrics being something that’s commenting on a general theme - finding the middle or moderation of everything in life - but that musical step is a direction that I’ve never heard a concept album going into before. And maybe it has. I don’t know if we’re the first people to do it or not.
G: How did writing with these ideas affect the process?
Lynn: I don’t know if people will get it. It was a fun little parameter to force ourselves to write around, it forced us to write in keys that we’re not used to writing in, and using different tunings, and it forced us to explore and really try new things.
Tony: It’s thinking, like, this is comfortable, so let’s do it some other way. We thought: So this is something I’m not comfortable with, because it’s new to us. So let’s drive it home anyway. Let’s fight through it and find out.
Lynn: It’s like Jack White’s theory that if it takes you three steps to get to the microphone, put it four steps away, so you have to try harder to get to it. It’s that kind of mentality.
Tony: It’s definitely an album for musicians in that sense. I don’t know if the average listener will pick up on those bits, but it’s a little treasure trove for people who know theory.
G: What genres do you approach in the record?
Tony: [laughs] We have a metal song! The album starts with that real hearty, rock metal song, and the end of the album is very light hearted.
Lynn: Yeah, acoustic, Jack Johnson-y, kind of. It’s all over the board.
Tony: There’s standard stuff in there too - your classic Zoo Trippin’ stuff when it comes to sounds and lyrics, but there’s also a circus carnival sound.
Lynn: Almost slovak-esque. We also have one that even borders Modern Country. There’s a lot of different styles on this album. Normally we’d write a song and try to add a little flavor into it, but this time around, we decided to just go full tilt with whatever genre we were going into. So if it’s sort of like a blues song, let’s make it a fucking blues song. Is it kind of a funk song? Let’s go fully into it and make it a true funk song.
G: What was the recording process like this time around?
Lynn: First of all, it was amazing working with Joey Gurwin. He gets musicians. He knows when your takes are starting to fall off, when to call for a break, when to move on, he has such a good ear, it’s wonderful. But throughout the whole recording process, people were really nailing their parts. We were bringing people in that we didn’t write parts for. For instance, on "God Is In The Rain", we wanted a tuba. We didn’t write a part, we were just like, hey, y’know, listen a few times and add in your flavor. In a half hour he did it and was out of there. It happened left and right. The band would have an idea about something, and Joey was like “Yeah man, I was thinking that same thing” and vice versa - he would have an idea and we’d be like, “We were just talking about that!”
Tony: A lot of mind reading going on during that whole thing, it was good.
Lynn: For how seemingly ill-prepared we were, it really came together.
G: I saw that, actually - Tony, didn’t you get that Tuba player from a facebook post, like last week?
Lynn: That’s how he finds these people! I’ll walk up to him at 4am and be like “Hey, what do you think about having a tuba in this song?” and he’s like “You need a tuba player? I’ll find you a tuba player.”
Tony: It’s a bit we got from The Big Lebowski. “You need a toe? I’ll get you a toe by 2 o’clock tomorrow.”
Lynn: With paint on it!
G: Something that I don't think gets enough attention - what is the Album Art going to look like?
Tony: The same thing, actually, is kind of what we did with the album art. The pieces are really falling into place. [Lynn]’s like, “Do you know anybody that does graffiti?” Oh, I’ll get you a graffiti guy. I put up a Facebook post, it started blowing up, and first guy that mentioned us back was Adam Gilbert. I’d even had some qualms with him in the past, when he was in a band called ofHuman... But we wound up settling our qualms, and he went on to join Starset, that band with the crazy space outfits and shit. He hit us up and said “Dude, I do splatter paint!”, which was another bit of mind reading - earlier, Lynn was like “Let’s make a white vinyl record with a purple splatter of paint, like a Ralph Steadman. Then Adam comes in like “I do splatter art!”
Lynn: Lots of instances like that. It’s actually very strange. It seems like it was meant to be in a way.
G: Any final thoughts?
Tony: If you’d have asked me five years ago if I’d be doing something like this, I’d have said no way. But I’m so glad we have it. It’s been hard to pin down our sound and style but I like being able to have a full-length that embraces that. Maybe we are all over the place. But that’s the point, you know? Bringing all that together.
Zoo Trippin's new full-length, Purple, is set for release June 24th. The band is accepting donations for production costs at their GoFundMe Page here.
Catch Zoo Trippin' before the release of Purple:
2/17-18: The Big Warm Fuzzy, Vandalia OH (Indoor Festival)
2/23: PK’s, Carbondale OH (w/The Monolithic)
2/24: Muncie IN
2/25: Victory’s Bar, Columbus OH [FREE] (w/The Original Soundtrack, The Monolithic, Soraia)
3/22: Music Video Release @ Scarlet & Grey Cafe, Columbus OH (w/Tropadelic & Broccoli Samurai)
4/27: Woodland’s Tavern, Columbus OH (w/Rock Stead & Andy Shaw Band)
5/6: Steadfast Festival, Columbus OH
5/27: Ace of Cups, Columbus OH (w/Go Go Buffalo, Chrome Snatchers, Cadaver Dogs)
7/24: Purple Release Show @ Park Street Saloon (w/Sassafras, Skashank Redemption, Vibe and Direct)