Saturday, February 27, 2010

Interview with Michael Eber (Zevious)

Zevious find themselves at the advent of their March East Coast/MidWest tour, eagerly awaiting their latest opportunity to share their unique electric jazz compositions with fans and engage those unfamiliar with the NYC trio. This past fall saw the release of their latest creation, "After The Air Raid" on Cuneiform Records which the band takes a smooth left turn from their mellower self-titled debut.  With increased intensity, distortion, and complexity, these three men are on the rise. Ithaca Underground's Bubba Crumrine sits down with guitarist Michael Eber to tell us more about the new album, its players, and more.

IU: What brought on the transition from the more acoustic jazz of your self-titled to the amped up intensity of 'After the Air Raid'?

Michael: We started the band initially to get paying gigs in restaurants playing jazz. It really wasn't in any of our natures to stick with that mentality so we moved on to writing our own material pretty quickly. It took us about a year and half or so to find our voice as a band, but once we discovered it, we started gravitating towards a heavier sound. You can hear glimpses of it on our first album, but "After the Air Raid" is a much more focused and honest sounding record.

IU: What were the most trying and most exhilarating parts of the three years of composition & recording?

Michael: Every show is exhilarating since we just get to relax and play - all the hard work is pretty much done. Recording "After the Air Raid" was pretty amazing too - I literally didn't see daylight for 5 straight days. Each day was at least 14 hours worth of work, but in the end the whole week was a great creative experience - draining and rewarding. Definitely the hardest part is rehearsing. Some songs take us 3-4 months to be able to play and turn into music, so rehearsal is kind of like bashing our heads against the wall for 3 hours at a time.

IU: How has the reaction to “After The Air Raid” been from those who were familiar with your earlier work?

Michael: Some mixed but mostly positive. There were people who liked listening to some jazz that was a little different but still relatively relaxed. Overall the
change to more intense, high energy music has led to much more excitement from a live audience, especially when we play for new people. Some people miss seeing us in the quieter setting, but for the most part even those people appreciate the energy we bring now.

IU: How has the material been accepted overall since you've been touring behind it this summer?

Michael: Our audience seems much more engaged in our performances. People are relating to the music better, even if it is a little more complex. There were always audience members who were there to appreciate the music, but because we were mostly playing quieter venues, there was a tendency for people to talk or treat it almost like background music. I have definitely noticed people paying more attention now since the music is more demanding of both the band and the audience.

IU: What's changed for the band since signing to Cuneiform? That label has such a great history and present roster.

Michael: Signing to Cuneiform has been really great for us. We have all owned Cuneiform albums for years, so getting signed by them was pretty incredible. They have an amazing roster of bands, and we have been able to connect with some of them now. Also, we are getting out to way more people just because of Cuneiform's reputation.

IU: As more bands like yourselves continue to merge so-called "high and low" music art, where do you see the future of complex music heading?

Michael: It's hard to say... Our music is complicated but it is not made for the sake of complexity - it just happens to be what we hear and are drawn to as composers/performers. I still really love bands that play simple music so my hope is that wherever complex music is going, it stays honest musically.

IU: Where did you come up with the idea for such a visually interactive website? The visual adjustments while playing tracks is pretty fantastic!

Michael: The website was designed by a really good friend of mine - Kris LoCascio. He and I have been collaborating since we were 13 years old. He was the first bass player I ever played with and now he is a really brilliant and creative web designer. Kris came up with the whole idea and design for the website. In talking about the music, we felt that it was very visual to begin with, so it would be cool to do something different visually with the site - so we could affect different moods with each listen. It's always great to collaborate across different media. The art for the album was also made while the artist, Pete Smith, listened to our music. Definitely check the website again soon - a brand new video is just about done and will be posted shortly.

IU: What musical background do you each have?

Michael: All of us went to music school. Johnny and I met at Muhlenberg college where we were both music performance majors... Jeff did his undergrad at UArts in Philly.

IU: What other projects are you all involved in?

Michael: Jeff plays in an amazing progressive instrumental rock band called Dysrhythmia and Johnny plays in a really awesome free jazz/shred band called Many Arms. I have an instrumental microtonal rock band called Smother Party. All highly recommended!