Photo courtesy of Zorch’s Facebook.
Welcome to the world of Zorch: the multidimensional stratosphere where an emerging band out of Austin hangs loose, playing music that can be defined in countless ways, yet ultimately meets no description. Experimental, rock, noise, instrumental, garage, interplanetary, jazz, soul – the rhythm and blues of their sound comprises all these idiosyncrasies and more.
Based in one of music’s most happening hubs, the group – a duo consisting of Zac Traeger and Sam “Shmu” – began in 2009, forming an alliance to test the boundaries of everything from tribal to pop in their local scene of Boston. Shortly thereafter, they jetted south, where the air was warmer, the people kinder, and the music tides rising, and have built their platform accordingly.
Over the past few years, Zorch has independently-released two EPs and made a name for themselves playing at festivals like SXSW, where everyone from Esquire to NPR was singing their praises. This year, they have completed their first full-length album, and will be rocking out the stage to show it off and build momentum.
BTR talked with the guys this week about their work, the biz, and why music is a living, breathing soul.
BTR: How would you describe your music to someone who was deaf and didn’t know sound?
Zac: Danny DeVito.
Sam: Bowel Movement in the basement of the luxury suite.
BTR: Interesting. What would you say is the best venue for your music?
Zac: I always appreciate a good house show, or cramped warehouse, or sweaty sweat dance party. Ideally, IMAX 3D though. We’ve been storyboarding our IMAX movie for awhile now with a few people in town. Just waiting for the price to go down. Totally serious.
Sam: Outdoors. Festivals that are outdoors. Outdoorsy venues. ‘Cause we’re so loud, so when we play outside, it’s not that unbearable. We’re a much more difficult band to enjoy in a small concrete room. The only downside to playing outside is that my omnichord and Zac’s moog easily go out of tune.
BTR: Why move from Boston to Austin? Why not New York? Why not stay in Boston?
Zac: Boston is a great city, but kind of a bummer people-wise. Sorta cold and hard to make friendships. New York is great, but I just didn’t want to live there and was sick of the cold. Austin was just really friendly and is always a great place to come back to after touring. The community has been really supportive of us, and we try and reciprocate that in whatever way we can. It feels like home at this point.
Sam: I never felt like I fit in, in Boston, like it was never my home. Within two months of living in Austin, I felt immediately at home, people were just so open, down to earth and friendly. New York is great to visit for me, but not my type of place to live; I’m too anxious. I need an environment that moves a little slower and has easier parking access.
BTR: You seem to creatively involve your fans into the mix of your music – what’s your personal stance on the music industry now? What is the route to financial success for an indie artist?
Zac: I think maybe you already answered your own question. We always are trying to involve fans creatively. As far as financial success, I just don’t think there is one answer for that. For us, it seems like being as creative as possible. I don’t know if it’ll ever make us financially successful, but it seems to make fans happy and it definitely makes us happy… Hopefully one of those people happily gives us all their money so we can keep coming up with ideas and creating and eating food.
…I guess if the question is, “How are we gonna eat, pay rent and play music? And can we sustain our careers on just playing music?” Well, signs point to no with most people, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. You just can’t be boring about it. That’s the exciting part about it – creative people thinking in non-traditional ways and reshaping the system of the consumption of creative goods.
Sam: Connecting with fans in creative and cutting edge ways is the best way to achieve financial success for the future in the music industry, I think. Creating your own business models that involve fan choice, interaction, etc. is what it’s all about.
BTR: Emily White, a music writer for NPR, recently confessed to owning over 11,000 songs in her personal library but paying for only a handful with no remorse. In other news, it was also reported that major record labels were paying college students to snitch on their friends who were illegally downloading music. Should we fight the battle or give it all away?
Zac: As far as Emily White and NPR, it’s a really multifaceted answer and argument. I really liked “the Trichordist” response and obviously as an artist I connect to that. It’s easy to immediately dismiss Emily White as stealing from artists and post the Trichordist link to Facebook, but, the issue really is that things are just different. The question, I think, that needs to be addressed is, “How do we return value to a digital product in such a fast-paced internet/information based society?”
There [has to be] a mental break for people to attach the idea of an mp3 directly to artist profit…I think the answer lies somewhere in personalized and individual connections, the consumer has to feel that direct connection with the artist, and therefore will be more willing to give money towards something that moves them.
Sam: I agree with the last thing that Zac said. It’s all about making personal connections with the fans, that’s where happiness for everyone and artist revenue meet. It’s not really about supporting or not supporting the free culture movement, but it’s the result of modern technological advancements and…the beliefs of the free sharing of ideas.
BTR: What can we expect from Zorch this year?
Zac: It will be a very exciting year for us. We have a full-length album that will be totally finished on Monday. We are gonna send that to some record labels and hope that someone is way into it. We also have six more albums of side project material that are totally finished, and those will be posted on rawasfuck.com, which is where we put all our side-projects.
Sam: Hopefully we’ll tour North America, Europe and perhaps Japan extensively.
BTR: Where do you go to find new music?
Zac: Shows for the most part. I stay up on who is playing where all across the country, and what bands are opening for whom. I read my music blogs and such things, but, for the most part, I’ve already heard of the bands that are all over the news headlines.
Sam: Dirty bathhouses. Just kidding, the internet, blogs, music and culture based websites.
BTR: Your bio says you “work incessantly to produce a new kind of music experience.” In doing so, what do you maintain from traditional arrangements and where are you seeking divergence?
Zac: We usually stick to the making sound across time part in order to provoke some sort of reaction. Beyond that we’ve definitely tried a whole lot of different things. For example, we’ve done improv karaoke on a few occasions in Austin. We rent a karaoke teleprompter and give people a list of thousands of songs. Then, they request songs and we make up what we think they sound like on the spot and people start to sing. It’s usually amazingly terrible…But there is something amazing about that. We did an all Christmas song improv karaoke and people got really wasted in ugly sweaters, and hacked up classics while we improvised… It was great.
Sam: We’re creating slimewave; it’s an emerging genre that we made up. When we perform live though, the audience as being part of a communal experience is something we strive to achieve.
BTR: Music is a “living organism” you say; if so, what keeps it alive?
Zac: Emotion, creative thought…What’s that quote? “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and cannot remain silent. “ Victor Hugo. (I googled that for the record).
Sam: I don’t like it when bands play the same exact thing every night; it’s too stiff. I don’t think it’s true to what music is supposed to be. Our songs evolve over time cause we don’t play it the same every night. We leave enough room for the song to breathe and grow in order to keep things interesting for us and hopefully for the audience too.
BTR: Describe your personal best music experience.
Zac: Dang. Can’t do it like that. So many.
Sam: Having sex with a trophy. I mean, um, I didn’t do that. Uhhh, forget I said that. Erase that from the record. Shit, it’s too late, I’m fucked; it’s in print. Now everyone knows my dirty dark secret that was literally my best music experience.