Wednesday, January 17, 2018
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After festival success, Tampa band Zulu Wave getting bigger at home

Although the group has only been together for about one year — with members hailing from Tampa, Washington, D.C., and Johannesburg — Zulu Wave has already gone far.

The band was recently tapped to perform at New York's CBGB Festival on July 7. They ended up playing a free show in Times Square, where they shared the bill with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, The Hold Steady, Superchunk and Duff McKagan's Loaded.

For guitarist-vocalist Mike Barrow, the moment when the surreal situation sank in was when McKagan, the former bassist of Guns N' Roses, came up to compliment the band on their sound.

"As if that wasn't enough, then Glen Matlock from the Sex Pistols came in and starting talking with him, and then Krist Novoselic from Nirvana came in," he said.

For drummer Dan Sullivan, it was meeting former Headbangers Ball and 120 Minutes host Matt Pinfield, who was already a fan of the band.

"He came up to us and was like, 'Oh, you guys are Zulu Wave,' " he said. "He goes, 'I f---ing love Puppy Tails!" referring to the song off their EP Theep.

Playing such a high-profile show comes early for Zulu Wave. The group started when Barrow, who was leaving Africa after five years in South Africa and 17 in Zimbabwe, was looking on Craiglist for a band to play in.

Barrow then connected with Sullivan and keyboardist Ariel Cortes. After a stint with another bassist, Ryan Coons of the Tampa indie group Empire Cinema joined to complete the band's current lineup.

Categorizing the band's sound — which blends rock, experimental and even African elements — becomes a little easier after learning each member's various influences.

Coons counts progressive acts such as Minus the Bear and RX Bandits among his favorite bands. Cortes lists jazz musicians such as Bill Evans and Dave Brubeck.

Along with The Mars Volta and Radiohead, one of Barrow's biggest influences was BLK JKS, a South African group that blended experimental rock with traditional African music.

He said seeing one of their shows three years ago in a small Johannesburg venue changed his perspective on playing music and how to incorporate his African roots within it.

"They inspired me to think outside of what I'd been doing and sort of made me think you don't want to be an African band, but you sort of want to embrace it," Barrow said.

Zulu Wave is currently recording a full-length to follow up Theep. Barrow said the new record will be a little darker and edgier than previous work, and will blend pleasing melodies with contrasting, noisier moments.

"We kind of call it a dinosaur sound — if you could somehow match up really pretty sounds with a dinosaur," he said.

Beyond recording their new album, Zulu Wave is also in the process of planning to play in New York again and have applied for CMJ Music Marathon & Film Festival — although they have not heard yet if they've been accepted.

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