It was a cold Friday evening when we sat down in a room with Zebrahead vocalist Ali Tabatabaee to have a quick chat about the tour, the new album and what's next for the band.
Friday December 9th saw Newcastle the victim of freezing winds and frosty paths. However Friday also saw the return of Zebrahead to the city. Having last played here back in March 2010 it had been a while since we had last seen them. So how has the tour been thus far?
“The tour has been great so far.” Ali tells us “The really cool thing is the first leg of the tour, which was mainland Europe, we did with our friends Kids In Glass Houses. So it was kind of like hanging out with friends and then playing shows. And then the second half of the leg, the UK part of it, has been with Army of Freshmen and Paige. And we've known Army of Freshmen for a while, and we've played with Paige once before, so we kind of knew them. But everyone's friends and everyone's hanging out all day and so its pretty chill.”
Another thing that has been pretty chill is the weather that has battered the UK, aside from which has it been good to be back on UK soil?
“Yeah,” he laughs “I think we've all been enjoying it a lot. Its been a little cold, a couple of us got sick for a while. We're California boys we're not used to the cold weather, but its been nice. The shows have been good, its been good to see some of our friends here too.”
Have they managed to get out and about in the cities?
“You know to be honest with you, like, its cold,” he admits, to which we can't disagree because it is freezing “I tend not to go out too much because I'm worried if I catch a cold, I might lose my voice or something. But in the summer time and stuff when its a bit warmer, we all have bikes and we keep them in our trailer. So we wake up, jump on our bikes and go see the city and then come back for sound check.”
That sounds like a lot of fun, so it's a shame it's not a few degrees warmer. But when it is, if Zebrahead are in your town keep an eye out, you might just see them riding past.
Now we here at Cult-Following have read and have heard some great reviews from the tour so far. So for someone who maybe hadn't seen the band live, if Ali could sell the Zebrahead live experience to them, just how would he do it?
“I would just say if you're going to come to a Zebrahead show you have to be prepared to have a good time,” he states “Crowd participation is required, so you have to come with an open mind. And we recommend drinking a lot before the show, because we sound a lot better if you're drunk.”
We have to disagree, as to us they sound just great without the drinking.
“Are you sure?” he asks and we confirm before he laughs “Thank you. That's the first time anybody's ever said that.”
It's been quite a while since the band rocked over to the UK and it's been equally as long since we'd heard from them - aside from the fantastic video for 'Ricky Bobby' and the quick pit stop in London back in August. So we were curious to find out what they'd been up to over the summer.
“We did some festivals over the summer,” Ali tells us “And then it was right around the time when the album was finishing up, the artwork and getting all that done so, we were finishing up on the album. And then we did a little bit of touring and some of the festivals.”
How were the festivals?
“They were awesome.” he explains “We had a great time, I mean festivals are really cool for me personally, because you get to see some of your favourite bands play. The only thing that sucks about festivals is the crowds are so far away from you. Clubs are cool because the crowd is right in front of you. But if you're on tour with bands that you like and get to watch them play that's always a plus.”
Earlier this year Zebrahead released their latest album 'Get Nice', which could surprise people who may have dismissed the band previously. 'Get Nice' is a glorious record which style-wise is considerably different to any of the band's earlier records.
“We started working on that album a while ago,” Ali begins to tell us “And we had worked on a lot of songs. And right in the middle I think of the writing process, the tsunami earthquake hit Japan. And obviously we have a lot of friends and fans there, so when that happened, we kind of took a step back and we thought what we could do to help. And we all were talking about how, you know when there's something going on in our lives that is difficult, music has always helped us. And so we thought we'd go back and rework the songs, to kind of have more of an uplifting feel or message to them. So some of the songs got reworked completely where we threw everything out and we rewrote it. And 'Get Nice' - actually the title track - was the song that we were working on when that happened. So that song is kind of representative of the album, because it gave it a whole different tone a whole different kind of feeling.”
And it does. If that story about how the album came to be isn't enough to get you to go and buy a copy we're not sure how to convince you. But trust us when we say that it will be well worth it.
Given that the record as a whole is great, and we ourselves are hard pushed to choose a favourite song, does Ali have his own favourite track?
“I do I have two,” he nods “I really like 'Ricky Bobby', and also 'Demon days', those are my two favourite songs.”
And what about fan favourites, have any stood out since it's release?
“Yeah, we just did a poll actually,” he tells us “And the fans picked 'Blackout', which is the first song. Actually I like that song too,” he admits “'Blackout' was picked as the favourite song, so we actually just filmed the video in France when we were there for it [the song]”.
Are his favourite songs the ones he looks forward to playing live or are there any others that he prefers?
“You know 'Ricky Bobby' is really good live,” Ali explains “Because its a faster song so the crowd gets moving. And so I think I would say 'Ricky Bobby' probably. We don't play 'Demon Days' that often, we've played it I think once now or something. But we try to play more new songs, but its just difficult because you only get a certain amount of time. We play like four or five new songs and you've got to add old songs that people know as well to.”
Now last time we spoke to Ali, 'Get Nice' was still in the making and when we asked about the record Matty and Ali stated that “this record was the most amazing thing since Ghandi, Fergie and Jesus” - does this still stand?
“Well I'd like to add a person to that.” he states “I'd like to add Justin Bieber. It's the greatest thing since Justin Bieber.”
So is Ali a Justin Bieber fan?
“I have Bieber fever.” he admits “I do.”
The next question – does Ali have a t-shirt?
“I try to do his dance moves,” he tells us “In front of the mirror... Naked.”
As we're sure many people probably try.
“Sure, yeah.” he nods
And so with Bieber fever running wild, what's next for Zebrahead?
“Well we have seven more days left of the tour.” Ali goes on to explain “And then we go home for Christmas, and we hang out with our families for three weeks. And then we go off to Japan for two and a half weeks. And then we come back home for about three weeks, and then we are going to Australia for the very first time, for about three weeks. And then coming back to Germany, and then hopefully we'll be doing some festivals in the summer.”
And with that our interview draws to a close. With a few more dates left on this tour and all that in the pipeline for next year, we're sure we'll be seeing the band again very soon.