BY: MICHELLE PEREZ-VEGA
Zr. King – perhaps the best-kept secret in New York City – won’t remain that way for long. The band’s latest album, Musically & Morally Bankrupt, will be blowing minds wide-open when it is released on May 17, 2019.
Described in part as “an explosive sonic collision of raucous swagger and anthemic hooks,” Zr. King formed in 2012 out of the ashes of the brothers Lotti’s (bassist Brandon and vocalist/guitarist Griffin) former band, Social Hero. The new unit was fleshed out with guitarist Matthew Thompson and drummer Derek “D-Pain” Skyler and, in 2014, Zr. King released its debut, A Potentially Lethal Game of Chance, which was met with rave reviews.
Zr. King was on a roll and had a number of new tracks raring to go, but then were sidelined a little by a thing called Life: Around 2016 Skyler chose to leave the band to pursue another musical opportunity in Las Vegas. Thompson and his wife welcomed a daughter, which resulted in some infant-induced sleep deprivation. Throw in a couple of job changes and things that appeared to be mere minor delays turned into years.
Fortunately, delays are hopefully a thing of the past for Zr. King. The band added drummer Medley Shabazz to the mix, the stars and planets are kind of aligning, and the members are raring to go. So, let’s talk about Musically & Morally Bankrupt, shall we?
Griffin Lotti, for one, is excited about the release, which he personally describes as “a melodic jet engine chewing up and screaming through the sky.”
“There’s a lot of intrinsic musical chemistry between all of us,” he said. “There’s so much nuance in the way that we write and play songs together. And it resonates with people who all have different musical tastes. We have real solid melodies and hooks…when people hear the first ten seconds of us, it’s like, ‘okay, we’re going for a ride!’”
A ride?! Zr. King’s music is like being caught in a glorious mental mosh pit, complete with all the exhilarating dizziness and spent energies that leave the listener yearning for more raucous sounds!
“I’m in a band with some of my best friends,” Lotti shared, “where we get to hang out and make some really good and really loud music. There’s an element of that spirit in our music. You know, the fact that it’s not necessarily perfect but it has that energy that you really can’t get anywhere else. It’s awesome to feel that wavelength and an exciting thing to be part of.”
In this day and age, a lot of bands promote a certain message, such as political or religious in nature. For Zr. King, the message is simple.
“The message behind our music is simply rock and roll,” Lotti said. “It’s meant to be – and to have – a good time. Experience the moment – get away from your phone, get off social media and your computer, and experience the music. Have a blast while doing it!”
LET ZR. KING ENTERTAIN YOU
This isn’t to say that that the music of Zr. King is lacking in substance. Quite the contrary. The band can go from an upbeat and frenetic mode to a more progressive and serious side in a heartbeat. But, we’ll let Lotti explain.
“Take ‘Don’t Call Me On Saturday,’ which is an up-tempo song with a killer baseline,” Lotti offered. “It always has people really freaking out and dancing on me when we play it live, which is awesome!”
“We had the instrumental song and there’s this break, a heavy part that cuts off before kicking back in,” Lotti added. “I felt there should be some vocal break, but had no words at the time. So I just threw in ‘don’t call me on Saturday,’ because the syllables fit in place; you know the Beatles sang ‘scrambled eggs,’ which turned into ‘Yesterday.’ We started fleshing out the vocal parts then, and it was written in about 15 or 20 minutes. So it turned into a ‘Don’t call me on Saturday because I was out having a great time Friday night, I got paid, hung out with friends, partied, and now I feel like crap today’ song! I think it’s in the running for my favorite on the record.”
Then there’s “Telamon (The Greater),” an 8-minute tribute to Lotti’s self-proclaimed “inner nerd.”
“I grew up reading classics like The Iliad and the Odyssey,” Lotti said. “We had this really long, drawn-out song that had multiple sections and different time signatures, and it really felt epic, like a war song, something you would hear as the music to a Ridley Scott movie, or something crazy like that! It goes through the process of briefly outlining the story of going to Troy to fight the battles that are going on. It was the most challenging to write and the most progressive song on the record.”
Hey, whatever works, right?
“Right!” Lotti laughed. “I had a buddy listen to the record. He said, ‘Just when I think you guys are going right, you turn left like whenever you want to, and it works!’ We’re constantly writing and we’re constantly pushing ourselves to come up with music that we’re excited to play and that we hope people will get excited to listen to. We’re always constantly trying to push the creative envelope. We’re always growing.”
AND AS FRANK WOULD SAY…
If Zr. King can make it in New York City, it’s guaranteed the band members will be able to make it anywhere. But, there are a gazillion other bands there who are ready to chew you up and spit you out (and on you) on a moment’s notice.
“Well, yeah, but that’s part of the challenge, right?” Lotti said. “On the one hand, we’re in this big city and have good venues to play. I had my chance to play at CBGB’s and I played at the Continental, so I’m satisfied with that! But it’s difficult. In a place like New York, where there are so many bands, there’s not the same kind of cohesion that you can see among like-minded groups.”
Part of Zr. King’s plan is to become an established band on the Eastern circuit and branch out from there.
“Yeah, we don’t do it like we did 15 years ago,” Lotti agreed. “Then it was like, ‘oh, it’s Thursday, we’re going to get in the car and drive. We’re taking Friday off from work. We’re going to drive to Ohio and play in Columbus, then we’re going to go to Michigan and play somewhere in Detroit. And then we’ll drive to Illinois and play in Chicago. And then we’ll drive 15 hours back on Sunday and be back at work Monday morning.’ Like, we don’t do that anymore. That’s for sure.”
“I really love playing music in the city and being able to rehearse here,” Lotti continued. “We’re fortunate to be able to rehearse and keep our gear at a place on Eighth Avenue. Go in there, play music, which is awesome. We’re getting more exposure and awareness of our music by just staying here in the city for now.”
And being a self-proclaimed Indie Band has kept Zr. King afloat. Many bands erroneously believe if they don’t sign with a major label that the chances of them “making it” are slim. Lotti takes exception to that.
“Right, we’ll give you the keys to the kingdom if you sell us your soul to be able to do it,” Lotti laughed. “We’ve had offers where people said ‘sign with us and we’ll put your record out. Just sign this contract that says that I own you, rights to all your stuff.’ Like, well, wait a minute. No, I think we’re going to try and do this on our own.”
This isn’t to say that being an Indie band is an easy road to take.
“I think part of it has created an environment where it’s a lot easier for us to record a really good sounding album and get it out in a way that’s accessible to everybody,” Lotti said. “But, the flip side to that is; now everybody and anybody can make an album that sounds great, even if their songs are crap! It’s a double-edged sword of being able to create it, but also finding a way to make it stand out. That’s the beauty of Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, and Amazon. If the singles are going to be out there, they can be out there, everywhere. Anyone who wants to search for us can find us.”
Separating the pearl from the swine, right?!
“Um…you know,” Lotti laughed. “If it goes somewhere and people really like the music, if they want to play it and hear more of it, that’s awesome.”
And if they don’t?
“Hmmm….,”Lotti pondered. “If they don’t, we’ll just keep playing it for ourselves. But we’re really excited now. We’re moving in the same direction and we’re excited about what we’re trying to promote.”
(Zr. King will be celebrating the release of “Musically & Morally Bankrupt” on Thursday, May 16, 2019 at Arlene’s Grocery, 95 Stanton St., New York, NY 10001. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $10.)