At this point, I think it’s safe to call Zebrahead a punk-rock institution. 24 years in the business, 13 albums under their belts, a Grammy nomination and a generation of bands inspired by them, yeah, institution just about fits. Supporting the release of their 13th release, Brain Invaders back in March, they took to the Download stage, bringing some of that O.C, California sunshine to a rain-logged Download Festival. Bringing a set from across their entire career, songs like ‘All my Friends are Nobodies’ and ‘Mike Dexter is a God, Mike Dexter is a Role Model, Mike Dexter is an Asshole’ showed not only the versatility & songcraft of this band but also their sheer ability to connect to a crowd. Ahead of their appearance on Download’s Avalanche stage, we had a chance to sit down with guitarists (& co-lead singer) Matty Lewis & Dan Palmer:
What does playing Download Festival mean to you?
Matty: Well this is our third or fourth time playing and of all the UK festivals, this is the most memorable for us, possibly because it’s always the rainiest and muddiest. The shows are great but it’s that mud, it really sticks to you.
Dan: The line-ups are insane, last time we were playing against Aerosmith so we’d finish playing a song, be tuning up for the next and hear ‘Love in an Elevator’ it’s just crazy. This year with Def Leppard, Man with a Mission, Whitesnake, so much to see.
Do you have the time to go and see anyone while you’re here?
Dan: Well we’re hoping to see Man on a Mission, Skid Row-
Dan: -yeah Tesla. I haven’t really had a chance to look at the line-up in detail.
Matty: We don’t have that much time because we’ve got a quick turn around after the set. But if we had the time, we would.
It’s a very diverse line-up…
Dan: It is. It makes it more fun. Like you can wander across a band you’d have never listened to but hear and fall in love with. Like we were playing this festival in Germany and came across this group called The Boss Hoss, who said they were from Berlin, Texas. They come out dressed as cowboys and stuff. Like I never would have thought to listened to them but they’re so awesome. Every time I see they’re on a line-up, I think, “I’m going to check out The Boss Hoss.”
Do you use festivals to collect new band recommendations?
Matty: Honestly, we’re so busy so we’re lucky if we get to see one or two other bands but every so often we do. And they might turn out to be like The Boss Hoss, you never know.
Dan: The best thing is when we play a festival early in the day, we just have the rest of the day to get shit-faced, cruise around, run into random people and be all, “Hey, what’s going on?
Matty: This is our first day on tour, we’ve got an early flight, I think about 5.30am tomorrow, so we can’t really stick around after the show. I know, it sucks.
Is there anywhere you’re looking forward to visiting on the tour?
Matty: Well, it’s a European tour, we’re playing Germany, Italy, we have a flight tomorrow to Switzerland which is always great.
Dan: Greenland Festival is always beautiful.
Matty: It’s right in Interlaken, in the Alps, the festival’s right there. It’s beautiful.
So Brain Invaders is your 13th album…
Matty: Sounds about right actually.
How would you sell this new album to someone who’s never heard Zebrahead before?
Dan: It’s not the worst record.
Matty: It’ll get you good grades and get you laid. In that order.
Are you going to get that on a sticker on the record from now on?
Matty: Yeah, definitely. Just right next to the ‘Parental Advisory’ sticker, one saying ‘Will get you good grades and get you laid’.
Dan: Good grades, good lays.
Are you likely to be playing much from the new album, mostly older stuff or somewhere in between?
Dan: I think we’re only playing one new song.
Matty: We’re not assholes, you know what I mean? Like no one wants a whole set of new songs.
With Download becoming a festival of Music and Wrestling, what are your thoughts on that?
Matty: Well, it’s great. There’s a lot of mud so there could be mud wrestling.
Dan: I don’t think there’s a lot of mud wrestling going on. Well, there might be a little bit.
Matty: Not in the ring. Book it on the fly.
Dan: After hours perhaps. Something in the tents going on.
Dan, do you have any moustache grooming tips?
Dan: Well, once a month or so, use shampoo. Keep it washed, use a good holding, nice-smelling moustache wax.
Matty: I just shave mine.
Being members of Zebrahead, if you could have the head of any animal, what would it be and why?
Matty: Wow. I think a Tyrannosaurus Rex. That would be pretty badass. What about you, Dan?
Dan: T-rex is pretty good. I’d probably go for a Unicorn. I’d look good on a mantlepiece.
Plus the combination of horn and whiskers would be a good one.
Dan: Yeah, I need the horn, I need something to hang my hat off.
Before we go, any messages for the fans?
Dan: Just check us out, come see us on tour, I’m sure we’ll have a beer or two and a good time.
Brain Invaders is available now. Zebrahead will be touring the UK in the Autumn, more information can be found here.