The Zoo Wants to Set a Standard for AZ Reggae
The Zoo aims to put reggae music on top, plain and simple. The musical drive is clear for the four members of the latest band to spring to life in the Phoenix desert. The four men come from different walks of life, and different regions of the world, bringing with them a diverse musical culture.
Like the members themselves, the band is still young, and the early process of building the reggae empire that they crave is the hardest, and most tedious. But their collective amiable nature and devotion to their music may be the recipe to success for guitarist/vocalist Liam (Lamb) Levinson, vocalist Ben (TaSa) Tasa-Bennett, bassist Julian (Juju Stone) Weinstein, and drummer Austin (Meto) Moore. They know what they want, and believe in working hard to get it. They've already deemed their movement the Zoo Nation.
On Friday, The Zoo will take the stage with several other local acts from around the Valley at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe. Recently, the band was featured as a top three finalist in The Proof is in the Pudding contest, which gives young local bands an opportunity to play alongside the musical icons featured in Alice Cooper's annual Christmas Pudding event.
In the days leading up to The Zoo's inaugural appearance at the Marquee, Up on the Sun traveled to North Phoenix to visit the Zoo headquarters and sit down with the band. Cigarette smoke lingered above the circle of lawn chairs occupied by Lamb, TaSa, and Juju Stone as they joke with each other, laughing along in unison, while telling the story of The Zoo with confidence--their aspirations, their city, and of course, the Zoo Nation.
What are your thoughts on the Proof is in the Pudding contest?
Juju Stone: It's a good competition to be in because it exposes us to a variety of people who normally wouldn't listen to reggae music. I think for the most part, a lot of people like the feel of it because we are not traditional reggae.
What made you guys pick the name The Zoo?
Lamb: It all started with this music group I was a part of called Welcome to the A.M. My friend Tomer and I used to make this electronic music with guitar, and then I started making music with TaSa. One day I woke up and looked at my alarm clock with a Zoo York sticker on it.
We said, "We should start a collective called Welcome to the Zoo." We wanted to work with people and make different music. Eventually, we decided to form a band and shorten the name to The Zoo.
Tell me about The Zoo. Anything you want a new listener to know about you guys.
Juju Stone: [thinking hard] We are... very... unique because of our writing style. Not many bands can write a song as quickly and efficiently as we can. Not only do we have a lot written, but we can just freestyle. I'll start doing a baseline and then Lamb will start a freestyle. Then Meto will fill in on the drums and there you have a song.
Lamb: We each have very different inspirations. Juju Stone sounds like he could be Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers when he plays bass. Then TaSa and I are really influenced by the reggae feel and also hip-hop from the 90's. Meto is really into Incubus and the more traditional rock style of drumming. Putting all of that together, you would think it wouldn't work, but somehow it does.
TaSa: The really cool thing about The Zoo is that we are in it for the long run. We're really trying to get big with our music. We want everyone around the world to hear us and we want to play with other big reggae bands. And we practice and practice. With the amount of effort that we put into it, it's exciting to see where it's going to go.
What are some of the influences that have inspired the band?
TaSa: I would think the Dirty Heads, Sublime and some of The Beatles. [Looks at Juju Stone and Lamb] You guys really like the Beatles.
JuJu Stone: Yeah we do! Too much for our own good! Lamb and I essentially became friends over The Beatles when we were in youth group. We realized we were the biggest Beatles fans in the entire world, minus our fathers.
Lamb, who is your ultimate guitarist?
Ultimate guitarist. Hmmm. Well, I would have to say Bradley [Nowell] from Sublime. While bringing that reggae feel, he could still solo like a motherfucker!
Juju, the best bassist in your mind?
Hands down has got to be Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers. I learned how to play bass in an unconventional way. I found this YouTube video of Flea giving instructional tips on how to play bass and I just listened to that for three, four, five, six, 11, 12 hours. I said, "I want to be him."[laughs]
And TaSa, you're favorite lyricist and hip-hop artist?
Andre 3000, because he's been crowned the best lyricist.
Are you going to beat him?
TaSa: It will take time. [laughs]