Everyone who is familiar with the electro-ensemble Zoogma has always wondered, “What the fuck is Zoogma?” and we never really get a straight answer. Will we ever get an answer? I recently got in touch with the band to get to the nitty gritty, and drummer Matt Harris facilitated some answers. The quintet has embarked on a massive Summer tour in support of their new album A Future in Blue and they’re hitting this tour hard.
You guys just released “A Future in Blue” and it’s a hit. You can definitely hear the progression Zoogma has made over the years. What all went into the making of this full-length album?
The story of how this record came together is kind of interesting. If you’ve been following us for a while you are probably familiar with what has become our motto over the years, “What the fuck is Zoogma?”. It’s always been a fun thing for us to keep people asking themselves that but at the same time we have moved in and out of different phases with our music and never really had a defined direction other than live electronic music. As happy as we were with our last record, New Era, we really wanted the next record to be an album that really stated who we are and what our music is. We didn’t want any confusion. So that led to us asking ourselves questions about what is unique to us, where we’re from, and what has always been a part of who we are.
Growing up in the Southeast, particularly the North-Mississippi/Memphis region, blues music has always been something we grew up experiencing and performing. In fact, Justin and I met in college playing in a hill-country blues band. So after some time thinking about this, we decided to pursue this concept and fuse blues music with electronic music. About a year and half ago, we started writing songs for the record. Everything through that process felt more natural than ever and songs were coming out very quickly. Some songs started with some samples from records I picked up in various cities while on tour and we would try to write something around that. Other songs like “What It Is” started by just me recording Justin and Brock taking turns playing blues guitar riffs and then I would go back through those and chop them up in a sampler to create a new sequence that would become the foundation of the song.
We also had a few collaborations that added some nice character to the record as well. Once we had the core songs written, we wanted to do something that would make the album more of a listening experience that we felt is sometimes overlooked in today’s music. That’s how we came up with the various intro/interlude tracks like “Down & Outerspace”, “Come at Me Dobro”, “Man on the Moonshine”, and “A Future in Blue”. We wanted them there to bring a little more depth to the concept and really emphasize the core songs.
A Future in Blue seems a bit more of a composed sentiment compared to other uptempo dance party get down jams of the past. How has each other’s growth as musicians influenced the transformation of the band?
I think in addition to having grown as musicians we also kind of came back to our roots and some of our earlier experiences in music that attributed to the transformation.
How did ya’ll like working with Manic Focus and do you have any plans for future collabs with other artists in the future?
Working with JMac, aka Manic Focus, was a blast! He had a day off in Nashville and came over that evening to work with Justin and I. We had always talked about working together and the timing finally worked out to make it happen. He brought over his analog modular synth rig, Justin set up his guitar, I hopped on the drum kit and we started banging something out that turned into the foundation of “What We Gon’ Do”. A bottle of whiskey and a few blunts later we had song pretty much finished by 7:30 am the next morning! If we ever have some sort of “Behind the Music” type story to tell this would be a good one but we’ll skip over all of the little details for now.
This is quite an extensive tour you’ve embarked on with a show almost every night for two months. What’s the secret for powering through and bringing that intense Zoogma energy each night?
Whiskey, bacon, and coffee.
Any specific dates you’re looking forward to?
We’re excited to be back out on an extensive tour like this. It’s been awhile since we’ve really hit it this hard. Always love the energy in Florida for sure. Some other favorites are Denver, Philly, NYC, Chicago, and Texas.
Aside from Camp Bisco 2015 (haha), is there a festival that stands out as a memorable favorite, or a venue you all enjoy to play the most?
Electric Forest is always a magical experience. Hangout Fest is about as chill as it gets because you’re right on the beach at a music festival. I think the most memorable will always be Wakarusa 2010 which was our first major festival play that kind of jump started everything for us.
What are your feelings about the drama going on with Soundcloud and the possible alleged shutdown of everyone’s favorite streaming site?
If Soundcloud shuts down, that will be unfortunate for a lot of people who have relied on it as their outlet for getting their music heard. But that being said, I think there will always be great independent options to distribute your music and have it heard.
Are there any plans for Halloween and New Years for Zoogma?
Yes! For Halloween, we’re playing in Asheville, NC 10/27 at Ellington Underground. Our NYE show, we’re very excited about! We’ll be in our hometown, Nashville, with our long-time friends/brothers, Papadosio, at Marathon Music Works! We haven’t been home for a NYE show since we threw the Zoo Year’s Eve parties in Memphis back in 09-11 so it will be fun to ring it in with all of our family and friends. To add on top of that we’re sharing the stage with some of our best friends so it will be a special night for sure!
The Florida run of Zoogma’s tour kicks off in Orlando at Venue 578 on 9/13; continuing to The High Dive in Gainesville on 9/14; Tampa at The Crowbar on 9/15; and ending in Jacksonville at 1904 Music Hall on 9/16. See the full list of dates below:
Never forget to support your favorite artist and purchase A Future in Blue in its entiret via Bandcamp here.