An Interview With North Carolina Punk Band ZEALOTROUS

Punk band ZEALOTROUS is comprised of members “Zero” on vocals and guitar, “One” on bass and vocals, “Three” on drums, and they have just added “Four” on guitar. They are based out of Durham, NC but have a message that speaks volumes to anyone with a strong opinion on today’s society. I met them at a random show I had stopped by early last year before the pandemic hit, and was blown away by their fierce energy. I recently had the chance to interview them and this is what they had to say.

How would you describe yourselves as a band to encourage new fans to check you out?

ZERO: ZEALOTROUS is angry political punk rock for anyone who’s pissed of at all the injustice and corruption we see in our society today. We raise our voices and throw down hard as a form of catharsis, but we also hope that it reaches people who might be feeling alone or paralyzed from outrage fatigue. If our music and our shows can bring people together and show them they’re not the only ones feeling this way, maybe it’ll give somebody the energy to take action the next day. We want to rage against the system in a way that empowers people to stand up and fight for each other.

In terms of where we fit musically I’d say our primary influences are 90s-00s punk and post-hardcore. Each new song we work on seems to draw from some unique subset of those and other influences, which keeps things fresh and interesting for us, and hopefully for the listener too.

How would you describe your newest single, “Hey Donald!”?

ZERO: Forty-nine seconds of fury for fascist 45! I wrote it last spring as a laundry list of all the evil bullshit he’d been up to recently, and ended up covering quite a few topics for such a short song. Due to COVID, we recorded our parts separately at home and ended up having to rush to get it released before the election!

Genre-wise I’d say “Hey Donald!” probably falls somewhere around melodic hardcore punk — some influences I had in mind were Good Riddance, Anti-Flag, and our friends Orphan Riot from Burlington NC!

What first got you into music?

ZERO: I played trumpet for a long time growing up, but everything changed when I got my first guitar at age 14. The ability to figure out any song on the radio was HUGE for me, and it set me on the hard rock / punk / metal path I’ve followed both as a listener and as a musician.

ONE: It’s a bit scary how similar my music origin story is to ZERO’s… I played trumpet through my middle and HS years and found I really liked music, but I didn’t fully get into it until I got a guitar junior year. Like Z, I wanted to be able to play the music I actually listened to, and from there I quickly fell down the rock/ metal/ punk rabbit hole. In college I switched to bass mostly just to join a friend’s band, but quickly found that it was the instrument that I was meant to play all along. And I’ve never looked back.

FOUR: I didn’t get into playing music seriously until college, and I didn’t have much time for it until after college (double majoring in the sciences takes a toll). My parents were teens in the 80’s, and while it wasn’t a musical household, I passively picked up some classics from them. We weren’t well of — everything I learned was on my own on a brand-less guitar that didn’t get played for years, sitting in the house. My grandfather is a super talented multi-instrumentalist, but I don’t know him well. Maybe it’s in my genes.

THREE: My dad was a drummer and I grew up around all types of music, but I never played much as a kid. I took piano and guitar lessons but never got into it that much. It actually wasn’t until I was almost done with college that I got into playing drums seriously. I don’t know why they let me in the band!

What else are you passionate about besides music?

ZERO: Social and economic justice, crushing racism and sexism, and rendering billionaires extinct. Also zombie movies!

THREE: Geography, hats, and record collecting.

FOUR: Sci-Fi, AMD PC builds, Nintendo, programming, DIY everything, music production, the art and psychology of learning, and harm reduction in the universe.

ONE: What Z said… though I can’t quite say I’m passionate about zombies… But definitely also food, preserving and exploring this earth, Sci-Fi and fantasy movies/TV/video games, and lately, astrophotography.

FOUR, you’ve recently joined ZEALOTROUS as the new lead guitarist. Congrats! Tell us how that came together – what got you interested in the band?

FOUR: Hey, thanks! I’m into supporting local artists, and when I saw their Carrboro Music Fest set, the style of lead playing caught my attention. Pair that with really smart lyrics from ZERO, and hearing ONE shred some bass – it sounded rad. I just told them it ripped and they told me about the spot opening up.

And how’s it going? What’s it been like so far?

FOUR: I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve really played with other people. It comes with the intoxicating freedom to not have to be in control of all the other elements of the song at once, and an exercise in trust. Working with ZEALOTROUS lets me stay fully present in just being able to play. It feels like cheating! I fell into step with the guys pretty quick– they’re good humans.

ZERO: It’s always interesting when bands get new members – you want the old stuf to sound consistent but at the same time you want to hear what the new member brings creatively. FOUR is doing a great job learning the songs, and has already come up with some really cool parts. It’s been fun developing chemistry with her and we can’t wait to hit some stages together!

FOUR, what’s the highlight for you so far?

FOUR: I’m really grateful to be in a band that gives everyone an opportunity to co-create. Lead lines allow you to bring an immense amount of context and energy into a compact space — and they already have so much energy! The shows will be sick.

ZERO, which of the songs that you’ve written means the most to you, and why?

ZERO: It always seems to be the new stuff that nobody’s heard yet! I think it’s a common thing for artists and creators in any medium, but the song I’m working on at any given time is usually the one most closely aligned with my current mindset, you know?

Of the songs we’ve released so far, “Breakdown” is the most personal and vulnerable. Each time I sing those lyrics I really ‘feel’ them. I find myself willfully reliving some painful experiences because it lends more emotion and authenticity to the performance.

What are some of your favorite ZEALOTROUS show memories?

THREE: Our first show and our EP release show with The Muslims at Local 506 in Chapel Hill both stick out to me. Also our Christmas time show at The Kraken was so festive, intimate, and wild!

ONE: Our show at Game Over Comics was probably our tightest and most energetic to date and was an absolute blast! Plus any show with Orphan Riot and Rocket 77 is always going to be a good time.

ZERO: I definitely agree with all of those! In 2019 we played a show at Clayton Beverage with our buds LunchBox Hero and some other great bands. Our set was a blast, but the highlight for me was later during the LBH set — one song built up to a big breakdown and the owner of the venue launched himself into the crowd and started a big ol’ mosh pit in the middle of his own bottle shop! That memory alone was worth the drive out to Clayton – and as far as I know no bottles were broken.

Do you have any favorite releases from the past year?

FOUR: This could get weird and totally unrelated, hahah. Of 2020 releases, I’ve been listening to Cory Wong, White Reaper, Dirty Projectors, Sad13, Vulfpeck, Deerhoof, Bully, Car Seat Headrest, Soccer Mommy, Ariana Grande, The Strokes, Sufjan Stevens. And locals like Khx05, Jovi Mo$coni, Kwach, Heat Preacher, & The Muslims. Shout out to all the artists who had a really rough time this year and released nothing. I still love you.

ZERO: My top ten from 2020 are: War on Women, The Muslims, Satyr, The Bombpops, The Stifled, Bad Cop / Bad Cop, Fever 333, Inferiority Complex, Anti-Flag, Strike Anywhere

THREE: For more punk related stuff some of my favorites were releases from Soul-Glo, The Garden and IDLES. In general though my top 10 were:

1) Ringo Deathstarr – Self-titled

2) Hum – Inlet

3) Once and future band – Deleted Scenes

4) Denzel Curry&Kenny Beats – Unlocked

5) Intronaut – Fluid Existential Inversions

6) The Strokes – The New Abnormal

7) Knwxldge – 1988

8) George Clanton and Nick Hexum – Self titled

9) Forming the Void – Reverie

10) Inexorum – Moonlit Navigation

ONE: Some of my favorites have been from: Elder, The Ocean, Vulkan, IDLES, Jason Kui, Intronaut, Polaris, Fools Ghost, Katatonia, Kardashev, and Teramaze

What are you working on right now?

ZERO: Our upcoming single “Donut Shop” (due out February 5th) is a point-by-point indictment of American law enforcement and the failure of so-called “good cops” to do the right thing and force reforms addressing police brutality and racial discrimination. I finished the lyrics last March, months before George Floyd’s murder and the ensuing protests made the message even more urgent. This one couldn’t wait until our next album.

What do you look forward to doing as a band in 2021?

THREE: Playing live music 🙁 Also recording new music.

ONE: I mean, yeah, what THREE said! Plus really hoping we can put out a true album. We’re most of the way there already in terms of new songs and it’s going to absolutely KICK. *SS.

ZERO: SHOWS! Nothing compares to the joy and catharsis I feel performing with this band, and I’ve missed that more than anything. We can’t wait to see people react in real time again, and to feel that sense of community! We’ve also got lots of new music we’re excited to record and release this year.

FOUR: I’m really more of a hermit, so shows will be a neat departure. Of the few I’ve played, there was an unexpected give and take with the crowd that I can’t really liken too much else. What else gives you such a visceral connection to all the other humans in a room, strangers or not, all at once? It’s a different type of understanding, on a different level of consciousness. Very sure that I’m with the right people to create that experience.

Stay connected with ZEALOTROUS on social media and be sure to be on the lookout for their upcoming single “Donut Shop” on February 5!

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