For around 15 years Zebrahead have been delivering their rap flavoured punk pop to the masses worldwide and with new album Get Nice due out anytime soon, they show no signs of slowing down just yet. Here for the first time ever in Australia for Soundwave Revolution in September, you can be sure that Zebrahead will bring the good times and lots of beer when they hit the stage.
We chatted with the bands frontman, Ali Tabatabaee about their upcoming visit and what we can expect from their new album, Get Nice.
Hey Ali, thanks for taking the time to chat with May The Rock Be With You, so where do we find you today?
Well I am sitting at home on my couch in Pasadena, California watching Jeopardy and pretty much chilling out!
So after 15 years, you guys are finally making your way to Australia…what took you so long?
Well you know what it is, we kept bribing the wrong people to come over there and I guess finally we got the right guys!
Have you had a chance to check out the rest of the Soundwave Revolution lineup, any bands you are personally looking forward to checking out or playing with?
Oh yeah, I’m really excited dude, I’ve never seen Van Halen and I’ve got a chubby right now thinking about it!
So you didn’t get to see the Gary Cherone version, Van Halen III haha?
Haha I skipped that one, I think I was hungover or something.
You are going to be out here for a over a week, what are you looking forward to most about being in Australia?
You know, I’ve never been there, so I don’t know what to expect to be honest with you. I’m sure there is going to be some drinking. You see, the thing is I have this really good friend that lives in Brisbane and I am assuming he is going to show me around when I am there, I am hoping. But I’m kind of excited to have him come and show me what local people do and enjoy that, you know what I mean?
Are you aware of how big your contingent of Aussie Zebrahead fans is?
We get like posts on our Facebook page a lot, but it’s hard because we are so removed and haven’t been there before. You never know like how on the money that is. I really don’t know what to expect, when we come over there I think we are going to have to win over a lot of people, just because we have never been there. The one good thing about our fans is that they are die hard fans and they really come out and support us, so hopefully there will be a few there to get us going!
On the flip side, how would you describe the Zebrahead live experience, for the purposes of those not familiar with the band and might be thinking of checking you out at Soundwave?
Can I just say four words…Fist Fight, Pregnant and Drunk. There we go, there’s my four words, I am sticking with that Scott!
Do you know if you guys are playing any of your own headline shows?
I think we are just doing the festival at this point, but we would love to come back and do some headline shows eventually.
You guys have toured other countries a fair bit…what’s usually the first couple of things you guys have on your list of things to check out, drink or try?
Well we always have to try the local beer. But we are kind of dorks dude, usually wherever we are, we will go find the cheapest bikes we can find and then we will get up early and go for a ride around town, either somewhere to eat or just check out the local sights and people. I think that’s the coolest thing for me and the rest of the guys in the band is getting to travel. All my friends back home have office jobs and don’t get around that much, so I really appreciate getting to go to new places as I think about all my friends at home who are stuck in an office or whatever. We try to make the most of it, we try and have fun and see what’s going on and meet new people.
Is there a country that you haven’t yet played that is high on your list…
You know we’ve never been to South America, that’s another country we’ve really wanted to do but that hasn’t happened. Hopefully one day we will make that happen, but we are just stoked to be coming to Australia.
How do you find the whole festival experience, taking your music to a bigger stage?
It’s just different. I think the festivals are really cool as you get to see a lot of the bands you are a really big fan of. You get to meet some musicians that you have been listening to and you get to make friends you otherwise wouldn’t get to make. Festivals, there’s so much stuff you get to do, of course you play, but then you get to watch other bands and just hang out. The club shows are cool too as you are closer to the crowd and the energy is a little bit different too.
With the club shows at least you know the bands are there to see you…
Exactly, exactly, a lot of the time at festivals you have to win the crowd over which is a whole different feel when you play.
At these larger festivals, or out on tour with the likes of one of my all time favourites Bowling For Soup, have you guys ever been the victim of any memorable on-stage pranks?
Let me think…it’s always different with different bands, but for some reason there is always excessive drinking on the last night of the tour. The other bands usually try and get you really fucked up before you play and then when you play, random shit happens like there’s a lot of nudity from other bands coming out. Sometimes they will take your instruments so you can’t play anymore. Once when we played with the Bloodhound Gang, one of the dudes came out and pulled a road case, tied to his nut sack. That was kind of interesting, I’ve never seen that happen before!
So very soon, you guys have your new album “Get Nice” coming out…how did the whole process for this album compare to your past releases…easier, harder, more beer consumed?
Huh, we always try and drink beer during recording! The thing is Scott, this album was the first time we have actually recorded in our own studio. It was a lot more relaxed and it wasn’t like we’ve only got a month to go in there and knock out these songs. We were there whenever we wanted to be there, for as long as we wanted to be there. It was a really cool experience, it was more like just hanging out with your friends and writing. You know, if you liked something you recorded it, if not, you just moved on. The pressure of time wasn’t really there, it was more chill and more organic I guess. It wasn’t something we had to do, we wanted to be there for as long as we wanted to be there.
So if your covers album Panty Raid was dedicated to all the female rock star love interests your drummer has had….what inspired your new album Get Nice or who is that dedicated to?
Well we were writing for a long period of time and the song Get Nice, we were working on that song when the earthquake hit Japan. We have a lot of friends and fans over there and at that point, we restructured that song in a way where we thought, what could we do to possibly help people in Japan. Musically we thought if we could write a song you could relate to and if you are going through a hard time and look past that and try and focus on moving on with your life and using that bad experience and grow from it. So that song Get Nice, we rewrote the lyrics and ultimately that song is about anybody going through a hard time, trying to learn from the experience and moving on and not let it defeat you. I think that’s a universal thing people can relate to. After that happened, the album got a whole different feel to it when we were working on other songs. Some of the songs have more of a positive feel, that was one of the major inspirations for us while we were working on this album and I think it motivated us a lot.
You have so far released a couple of videoclips for Get Nice and Ricky Bobby…how have these songs gone down with the fans? Are these a pretty good indication of what we can expect with the rest of the album?
There’s kind of a wide range between those 2 songs. Ricky Bobby is more of an aggressive song and Get Nice is a bit poppier and a positive song. I think the album in general has a very wide range with the feel of each song. I think it’s representative, but then there’s songs that aren’t like either. It’s kind of hard to explain. I think I’m word vomiting right now…. I guess you just have to listen to it. You tell me Scott when you hear it about what you think….
I will do! So I see also that you once again haven’t disappointed in the song title department with Nudist Priest and Truck Stops and Tail Lights, which tell me is that a big power ballad haha?
Haha, I hope not! The way we write our songs is we just give them random names when we are working on them. We don’t even know what that song is going to be about really, it’s just like an idea and the song may not have anything to do with the title. Some of the songs the titles stayed because we couldn’t come up with a new one, because everyone would still call it Nudist Priest. So we were like fuck it, let’s just call it Nudist Priest because we are going out on tour now and it would be like, what is that song we are going to play? I don’t think there’s any power ballads on this album, maybe we will do an all power ballad album next time!
Zebrahead has been doing it’s thing now for 15 years, with close to the same lineup…what’s been the secret to this longevity do you think?
When you have been playing music with these people for so long it’s like a family. They’re like my brothers and it’s like any family, we fight sometimes, but at the end of the day we always know we are brothers and we will call each other a couple of days later and be like dude, you’re being a dick, or say I was being s dick or whatever. We kind of make it work and it’s like any relationship, you have to put effort into it and luckily I happen to be around a bunch of relatively normal guys! I think that has a lot to do with it you know.
Ok well that’s a wind up Ali, have a blast at Soundwave, make sure you drink lots of beer and have a good time in Australia!
Thanks Scott, I appreciate the interview!
Band Members: Ali Tabatabaee – Vocals, Greg Bergdorf – Guitar, Ben Osmundson – Bass, Ed Udhus – Drums/Beer, Matty Lewis – Vocals/Guitar
Latest Release: Get Nice – (2011, 3Wise Records)