“We’re human beings; not having to work an office job, that’s something we’re reminded of when we get onstage, so we try and let that show,” says Lewis, reached on the phone from his Las Vegas home. “We’re just regular dudes. We know we can’t change the entire world, but you can change that hour for everyone that’s come to our show. We just want the people in the crowd to have a good time.
“What we lack in talent, we make up for in enthusiasm,” he continues, giving a certain insight into the band’s appeal. “We may not be the best band around, but we do give it 100 per cent onstage. We make sure that we have fun and ensure that everyone else is having fun. You go to a concert to have a good time, not to cry with a bowl of ice cream.”
Formed during the Orange Country, California punk explosion, Zebrahead understands that their audience is made up of a varied collection of people. So too then, should their songs contain a varied number of genres. Lewis admits that when it comes to influences within the band, there is indeed an incredible amount of variation.
“I know (vocalist Ali Tabatabaee) he’s into a lot of rap. Greg, our lead guitarist is into metal. Ed, our drummer is into punk rock. Ed, our bassist, is into surf rock, some ska punk and I love ‘80s metal and ‘80s cheesy pop. Our music and our influences, it’s like a shitty drink but still gets you pretty drunk.”
It’s a drink that’s managed to sustain lineup changes and an ever-evolving record industry. Get Nice!, their 2011 full-length was their ninth, further solidifying the band’s fanbase. It may very well be the many number of genres Zebrahead fuses and subsequently balance in their albums which has kept them afloat since 1996. But if that’s the case, Lewis is unaware of it.
“Sometimes things just happen. If we want to write a hip hop song, we’re going to write a hip hop song. We never say we need four metal songs, two punk songs or anything like that. For some reason, it just comes naturally for us. Maybe subconsciously we try to balance it out,” he says, before pausing to consider this statement. “Actually, no,” he says, laughing. “We don’t know what we’re doing.”
Lewis joined the band in 2005 after creative differences led to the departure of then guitarist/co-lead singer Justin Mauriello. Many fans were concerned how Mauriello leaving the band would affect Zebrahead’s vocal dynamics. His vocal pairing with Tabatabaee’s rapping was a key element to the band’s approach. Lewis has since quelled any fears. He’s stepped up as co-vocalist, though that doesn’t mean he can maintain a lucid retrospective look back on his time in Zebrahead.
“It’s all kind of a blur,” he admits rather sheepishly.
Lewis may be the newest member of the band, but he certainly understands how the band approach the writing of a new record. The key again is for Zebrahead not to take themselves too seriously and to always make their intentions clear.
“First things first, we try to write songs that don’t suck. And I know how that sounds, but we try not to write songs that we think people will like, or that the industry will like. It’s got to be cool for us first and foremost.”
And the next batch of Zebrahead tracks might not be too far away. Lewis admits that he has writing a new track before he took my phone call and that the band now has a loose timing outline for their next record.
“We’ve written a bunch of songs in the last two months and we’re putting the finishing touches on them before we go into pre-production. We’ll probably go into the studio in January or February.”
Until then, the band’s appearance in Australia will have to satiate their fans desire for a party. Rest assured, when it comes to Zebrahead, they’re looking forward to the party just as much.
“You simply can’t have a party without good music. The last party I went to, some dude plugged his phone into the speakers, and I was so unimpressed by his music choices. It was the kind of music I assume you hear before you commit suicide. I don’t want that at a party! Everyone should be happy.”
BY JOSHUA KLOKE