'Who wouldn't like to be called a party band?’ – Interview with Zebrahead

  Inge van Nimwegen    22 november 2015

About a week ago Snoozecontrol went to see Zebrahead in De Helling, Utrecht (NL), and met up with Matty Lewis (guitar & lead vocals) and Ali Tabatabaee (lead vocals) before the show to talk about touring and the many different albums they released this year. 

You played this exact same venue two years back – how’s Europe treating you this time around?

Ali: ‘It’s been great! We’ve been on tour with MxPx, who’s playing with us tonight, and another band called Man With A Mission. They’re a Japanese band.’
Matty: ‘But they’re not playing tonight.’
Ali: ‘But they’re really good. It’s been great! Everybody’s been getting along really well, and we’re all friends, so.. basically we just hang out all day and get to play shows at night.’

You’ve recently toured with the US opening for MxPx as well.

Ali: ‘Yeah, in America we did a little run for them. The thing is, we’ve known them for a very long time and we’ve done a lot of tours with them. It’s always good to see them on tour.’


You released a split-EP with Man With A Mission earlier this year. How did that come about?

Matty: ‘Well, they came over to write in LA. We were there as well, and they basically came up to us saying, “Hey guys, you want to do a record, or write a song together?” and I said “Yeah man, this is a good idea, alright!” I remember I sat down with Ali and said, “This is a great idea right here, this.”
Ali: ‘That’s pretty much exactly how it was. “Let’s write a song!” And wrote a song, “Let’s put it in a small little EP!” Sure, and we just did it. It was great, we like the guys.’
‘It was a good collaboration and we were very happy to do it. It was really easy as well, it was seamless, like the same band working for the same things. It was meant to be.’
Matty: ‘It was a match made in Heaven.’

Next, you toured Japan with Man With A Mission and enjoyed a bit of success there.

Matty: ‘We’ve been very lucky.’
Ali: ‘Yeah, we’ve been going there for the last 20 years, we did build up a fan base there; so some of the shows there are a little bit bigger. We’re very fortunate to have that, but we love coming here too. And Man With A Mission, they haven’t travelled too much outside of Japan so they’re now experiencing Europe, through touring and stuff.’


The band has been really, really active this year. Apart from the split with Mith With A Mission, you also released a new album (entitled ‘Walk The Plank’) and brought out ‘The Early Years: Revisited.’ An album filled with re-recordings of older songs, from before Matty had joined the band – but why now?

Matty: ‘We’d been wanting to do that for a long time; I think it was about time. We’ve been a band for twenty years now so we thought, “okay sure, let’s do this and put out what we have!” It was fun to re-record those songs, especially the old ones.’
Ali: ‘We thought that many of the fans would want to hear Matty’s voice on these songs. So when we had time, we were like, we might as well do it now.’

Do you think many fans were unfamiliar with these songs up until that moment?

Matty: ‘Hmm, I don’t know. I think if you were new to the band, and you’d want to start listening to one record, this would be a great record to get. It’s a bit like, “oh, that’s the hits? Those are the hits.”

Do you feel that you’ve grown between recording these songs for the first time and now?

Matty: ‘We’ve not matured.’
Ali: ‘We’ve definitely not matured. Not matured at all. I think we’ve gone backwards, as far as that goes.’[both laugh] 
'I think that because we play a lot of music together, we learn to write together better the more we do it. I think as far as that goes we’re a little more focused on stuff such as our song structure, and how we want the songs to ultimately sound like, or end up like. But I think that’s just experience of working with somebody for 20 years, you know.’
Matty: ‘I always pick up the slack whenever Ali sucks.’
Ali: ‘And that happens a lot!’
Matty: ‘And he picks up the slack wherever I suck.’
Ali: ‘But that doesn’t happen, right..’


It’s difficult to define your genre: Wikipedia mentions six different genres to define Zebrahead, ranging from rapcore to pop punk. Do you think that’s a compliment to your music?

Ali:’ I don’t really know. I like punk music, I like rap music.. I think it’s kind of hard to put a label on us, because Matty sings, and we have some poppy-er stuff, and then I rap. They try to make a name for it.’
Matty: ‘It’s not rock. It’s rock ‘n’ roll music. What are labels anyway? Labels are for cans.’
Ali: ‘It’s kind of crazy though, that there are so many. I didn’t know that. Matty, have you ever looked at Wikipedia for us?’
Matty: ‘No. I looked up mine once, because someone said something in it that was not true. None of it was. There was like, three facts on there that were true, on the whole. But they don’t know me!’ [laughs]
Ali: ‘Actually, that was me. I wrote the Wikipedia for you.’
Matty: ‘Well.. I guess you don’t know me then!’


Do you like to be called a ‘party band’?

Ali: ‘We love it. We love it! Who wouldn’t?’
Matty: ‘Yeah, who wouldn’t like to be called a party band? Would you rather be called the ‘most dull band in the world,’ so ‘not-party...’
Ali: ‘I think when people say ‘party’ it’s mostly because at the shows, all the kids are going nuts and having a good time.’
Matty: ‘Yeah!’
Ali:’ So we take it in a positive way. We’re not about deep lyrics, we’re about having a good time. We’re not Coldplay.’
Matty: ‘We love being called a party band!’