Punk rock, pop-punk and ska punk are easily the genres that Slam Dunk Festival is known and respected for hosting and promoting, despite their inclusion of other genres during its growth over the years. One of its regulars are the fun loving Californian punks Zebrahead, who are now eleven full-lengths into their career, with the latest looking back at their roots with the aptly titled ‘The Early Years – Revisited’.
Whilst at the Midlands date of the festival in Wolverhampton, we caught up with guitarist Dan Palmer to talk about the past two dates of Slam Dunk, their split with Japanese outfit Man On A Mission, revisiting their earlier work, and more.
DP!: You’ve played Slam Dunk for the last two nights. How’s the festival been so far?
Dan: It’s been a blast! It’s like we arrived on Friday morning and it’s been like a party. The Leeds and London shows were amazing. Leeds was really cool and sunny outside. It was like a California day. It was incredible. It’s really energetic, like everybody’s drunk.
DP!: How do you find festival shows compared to your own headlining shows?
D: It’s a lot of fun because there’s just so much going on, plus also you’re playing with a lot of different bands and get to see friends that you haven’t seen for a while. It’s funny because you get to see them in random places around the world. It’s a cool thing also, because people could check out bands they don’t know if they took a wrong turn going to the toilet. I’ve been doing that a lot. (laughs)
DP!: You released ‘The Early Years – Revisited’ this year. Where did the idea come from to re-record old songs?
D: Our singer, Matty, joined the band in 2005, and we’ve been doing old songs for so long and lots of people kept asking “Oh, we want to hear re-recorded versions with Matty doing the old songs”. So, we were like “Okay, let’s do it!”, because it’s our twenty year anniversary coming up. We decided to record all the old songs that we usually play, and it was a lot of fun to do.
DP!: Why did you feel it was important to keep the sound of the original songs?
D: Because we didn’t want to piss people off. (laughs) We didn’t want to change it too much so we wanted to keep it as close to the original sound as possible. We even used some of the original stuff in the re-recording, and the same producer for a few of the songs. We were going back and forth, trying to match the tones, like guitar tones or vocals. It’s a lot of work because when we got a good sound in the studio, it was tempting to be like “Ah, let’s go with it”, but then we had to think “Ah, it’s not close enough”.
DP!: The LP has been listed as your eleventh release. How do you keep your albums fresh and exciting? Do you approach each release as if it’s your first?
D: I don’t think we think about it that much. We just start writing songs and see what comes, but we also have to think, “Oh, we’ve already done that”. We try not to plagiarise ourselves.
DP!: Do you still see a lot of your older fans coming to your shows?
D: It depends. In the US, we play to a lot of older fans, but when we play Germany it’s usually to a lot of younger kids. The band is now older than some of the people coming to our shows.
DP!: Earlier this year you released a split with Man On A Mission. How did you decide to work together?
D: We went to LA and they wanted to work on some songs. Our good friend knows them, he’s a tattoo artist. We all just hung out one night and went out for beers drinking, and we was like “Hey, we should write a song together”, and it was so easy. I was like “Hey, I sent you some demos of our new song”, and he’s like “Oh, I really like that song”, so we asked him if he wanted to sing on it. So, the song we wrote together, it was the same thing. We started jamming, got some beers, and we were like “Let’s go with this”. It was so easy.
DP!: What can we expect next from Zebrahead?
D: We’re working on a new record, and new songs. We can’t really elaborate yet, ’cause we don’t know yet. We want to start tracking in June, and we’ll hopefully have the record out probably October or November. We’re gonna also tour the UK.
Interview by Kieran Harris