New Groove: Zoogma
Our latest New Groove act is Zoogma Based in Oxford, Mississippi, Zoogma “combines the sonic diversity and precision of a DJ with the excitement and immediacy of a five piece rock group.” The lien-up features Preston Boutot (keyboards), Brock Bowling (guitar, Production), Matt Harris (drums, production), Justin Hasting (guitars, synthesizer), Ryan Nall (bass, synthesizer, production). Here is what the group has to say about its origins and future plans.
Can you talk about the development of the group? How did you meet everyone and how did the current line-up solidify?
Matt: The whole story is kind of long but I’ll go ahead and lay it all out. The band originally formed as a five-piece in October 2007. Justin and I played in another band together. After that group ended, the two of us continued jamming together and made plans to form another band (Zoogma). A friend of ours, Jason Ball, played bass and we started playing music together. Another close friend, Will Faulconer, played percussion and also joined the band. Jason met Preston in a music class at the University of Mississippi and invited him to a session. We all agreed to keep playing together and booked our first gig at Parish’s Pub in Oxford, MS on the 14th of November 2007. That was the line-up until May of 2008 when Faulconer finished school and moved home to Virginia. I knew Brock from high school so I invited him down to jam with us a few times. He sat in with us at a few shows and joined the band after Faulconer left in May. In the fall of 2008, Jason let us know that he was planning on enrolling in Berklee School of Music. He finished out the rest of the shows with us through the end of the year. We knew Ryan from working with his old band, EnergyD. We called him as soon as Jason told us his plans and asked if he would be interested in possibly joining the band. He came in for a session and we all hit it off really well. He joined the group in January 2009 and the line-up has remained the same since.
In terms of musical backgrounds and interests, what does everyone bring to bear?
Ryan: Seems like we each bring a lot of different interests to the table, but we all get down to each other’s music. I know that Justin and Brock have always been into experimental music like Tool, Pink Floyd, Jeff Beck and other groups always trying new things. I have a strong jazz background and listen to a lot of Lettuce, Grant Green, and heavy groove stuff. Preston came from a blues background, but listens to pretty much everything. Matt has been good about bringing a lot of the cutting edge electronic stuff to our attention too. Our light designer, Jerry Blackburn, is also a big part of what we listen to, introducing us to groups like Booka Shade, Aeroplane, and !!!.
How would you describe the vitality and support of your local music scene?
Justin: Oxford and Memphis have always treated us right, and I wouldn’t trade our fans for anything. Anytime we need a show of support, everyone comes together and gives us a hand. It feels a lot like family wherever we go, but Oxford will always be our home with great people, venues, and food.
Who writes the band’s music? How it is typically presented to the group and how does it then come together?
Matt: We all contribute to the band’s music. Sometimes a song forms out of an improvisational jam. Other times, one of us may present the band with an idea and we’ll all play around with the ideas at hand and develop it into a full band composition.
How do you approach original songs in the live setting?
Justin: This is where the fun starts. We will create originals with parts, movements, and changes and then take that idea and expand on it live by improvising and finding new ways to reach the changes and create new peaks and valleys within the song. If you hear us say we are playing new stuff at a show then I guarantee if you go to archive.org and download a few different versions of the song from different shows they will all have different solos, riffs, bass lines, and build-ups. I guess you could say we love letting our original material loose on the road
What about covers, can you talk about what songs you toss in from time to time? Who selects them?
Preston: One of us will come up with a song that we want to cover and we’ll talk it over as a group and decide if we want to do it or not. Our covers range from RJD2’s “The Horror “to The Beatles “Eleanor Rigby” to The Chemical Brothers “Saturate.” All with an original spin, of course.
In terms of cover tunes can you talk about any spectacular successes and failures?
Preston: No failures come to mind. As far as our biggest successes I would say “Ghostbusters.” We covered that song at Wakarusa and it definitely got the masses talking. There are videos of our version all over YouTube.
Your band bio also emphasizes the efforts of your light designer Can you talk about the importance of that and how it has developed along with the group?
Preston: Really since day one we’ve had an interest in lighting. Just a few months after Zoogma formed we purchased our first rig. It has sense gone through a major upgrade and we will continue to make it better.
We feel that our live show should be a well-rounded experience. While you’re listening to our music, you also have something cool to look at. It definitely adds to the energy of the room as well!
How often do you rehearse? What do you focus on when you get together for rehearsal?
Ryan: Rehearsal times have been sparse the past year because we’ve been touring so relentlessly, which is a good and a bad thing. We’ve had the chance to test and improve a lot of music on the road and really see how the audience relates to a lot of the tracks. We work a lot in the car, and try and squeeze in a good rehearsal when we can before a show after sound check.Can you talk about some of your performance highlights thus far? Is there a gig (or gigs) that stand out? Why?
Ryan: I know that Wakarusa this year was a highlight for all of us. Seeing that many people from so many places, many of which we’d met on the road, all come together to support us was amazing. We’ve had some shows just surprise us too, Indianapolis and the Mousetrap in August, Springfield Missouri in July at the Highlife, and a random Monday in Denver at Quixote’s in August were all incredible shows that even surprised us.
Preston: Also, we recently came home from playing two sets at Bear Creek Music Festival in Florida. I think I speak for the entire group when I say, the five days we spent there were some of the most incredible and inspirational days of music we’ve ever been a part of.
You’ve offered your debut album for free; can you talk about that decision and what the impact has been?
Preston: We all genuinely believe in the music that we are creating together and want everyone to experience it with us. Giving our tracks away for free is an easy way to spread our music around and get people talking. Thus far, the results have been unreal.
Any final thoughts to folks across the country who may be hearing about you for the first time from this piece?
Preston: Go to www.zoogma.net and give the music a listen! It’s free, so you have nothing to lose. We think you’ll like what you hear!