Super size it
ZILLA is a band that shouts it out.
“Why all caps?” asked Jamie Janover. “Because it kind of goes with the vibe of the name. I think people have used zilla as a suffix in slang forever, like babe-zilla. Obviously, it’s a play on Godzilla – God’s our silent partner.”
Janover plays the hammered dulcimer for the group. After mountain rock band Possum Logic opens for them at 4 p.m., ZILLA takes the stage today at State Bridge Lodge in Bond.
“We do a lot of improvising,” said Janover about the band. “It’s groove-based music where somebody starts playing something, we all listen, we react and we spontaneously compose songs on stage. It’s kind of live electronica, or dulci-tronica.”
The dulcimer isn’t a common instrument these days, and is nearly extinct outside the realm of bluegrass and folk.
Janover is joined on stage by his roommate and String Cheese Incident drummer, Michael Travis, guitarist-bassist Aaron Holstein and keys man Steve Vidaic.
ZILLA was born out of a String Cheese after-party.
“We had such a good time we decided to go on tour,” said Janover.
While there’s crossover between String Cheese’s audience to ZILLA’s, the music is completely different.
“They’re more rock-based, bluegrass-based music,” he said. “We don’t play anything bluegrass related – it’s really groove-electronica based.”
The musicians are fond of keeping it fresh, which means they might trade instruments mid-song. Travis might switch to guitar or bass and things move on from there. To ZILLA, stagnant is a dirty word.
“Change is the only constant,” explained Janover. “We’re a sonic funnel of the history of the universe.”
And what in the hell does that mean?
“Within the whole universe,” he continued, “everything is collectively touching other points through the vacuum of space. So everything is connected to everything else. There’s a collective connection.”
In so saying, when ZILLA plays, they’re part of the fabric of the universe. But apparently there are rules about this sort of thing, rooted in awareness.
“You can’t be (the sonic funnel) without thinking about it,” he said. “We’re not strict musicians – we’re improvisational, and always thinking about other things and reacting to them. In order to play like we do – we come off as playing structured song forms, even though we’re not. To do that, you have to be somewhat selfless instead of just reacting. You have to be open to the energy in the room.”
And for Janover, it doesn’t just have to do with reading his peers on stage. The audience is an important member of the set-up, too. If the crowd goes wild when they play a certain way, they might stretch it out and keep building on that.
“There’s a cyclical energy exchange between the listener and the musician,” continued Janover. “And ideally, the audience has an effect on the band. That’s how a really good show starts. It helps the music to be better, the audience to be happier. It’s symbiotic – that’s the magic of a live show.”
ZILLA only names the songs they put on their Web site as mp3s or on CD. Otherwise, the songs remain nameless, though they can recreate something similar if they hear what they’ve played before. But it’s never exactly the same.
The group heads off to the West Coast for a tour this summer, though it has to fit in with String Cheese’s schedule. Today’s concert is one of four the group is playing in Colorado.
“This is going to be a very fun show,” promised Janover. “We’re really psyched to be playing in the mountains and it should be great. Everyone should come out – it will affect the way we play.”