TOFU AND WHISKEY If experimental artist Nick Zammuto was pulling from a storied sample library after all those years with beloved former band the Books, he's now building from scratch with his new band, Zammuto. The first Zammuto record sprang from a more angsty place, a fear of the unknown after the breakup of the Books. Skyping from a McDonald's in Springfield, Mass., a humble Zammuto admits to fears about "lightning striking twice," regarding his musical evolution.
His fears are unwarranted; the Zammuto self-titled debut (Temporary Residence, 2012) is as invigorating as it is multifaceted; mixing classic pop sensibilities with digital burps, buzzy electronics, sampled found objects, and still a more traditional band set-up than the Books, the artist has again found his own creative niche: the mad scientist family man, digging through crates of toys and creating emotional connections with the sounds he squeezes out of them. And he's kept his humor in tact, with tracks titled "Zebra Butt," "Groan Man, Don't Cry," and "FU C-3PO."
Zammuto, the band, travels to the Independent this week (Sat/3, 9pm, $15. 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com) but it's been to SF once before. It came out west this spring to open for Explosions in the Sky at the Palace of Fine Arts. And after that show, Zammuto met some young Australian rockers. I'll let him tell the story:
Nick Zammuto I was at the merch table, and this group of Australians comes up and buys everything on the table. I'm like, 'you guys look like you're in a band or something.' And they're like, 'oh yeah, we're Gotye.' And I'm like, 'cool, I've never heard of you, I'll check it out.' Literally, in that moment, they had the number one single in like, eight countries. I felt like a moron. Two weeks later I got a call from Wally [De Backer] to come tour with them, so we ended up playing seven shows with them. I live under a rock, I don't have time for anything except working in my studio, and playing with my kids.
San Francisco Bay Guardian Has having children has affected your music?
NZ I have all boys, three sons, who are six, three, and one, you can't help but live vicariously through them, because they experience life in such directness. I think it's tuned me in to a simpler way of looking at things, and to be around that kind of innocence is inspiring. Just the sense of wonder they have is infectious.
SFBG How has your approach to songwriting shifted with Zammuto, as compared to the Books?
NZ I've never really been part of a band, I sort of came to that realization when we started rehearsing the [Zammuto] material. The Books was really a meta-band in a lot of ways, and at the end I was starting to think of it as a sort of glorified karaoke; we'd get up on stage and have all these electronic rhythms going on and we would just kind of play along with it. With the new project I really wanted to make something that was meant to be played live.
Key to that was finding a great drummer, and I think I found just an amazing drummer [in Sean Dixon]. Having a live time keeper on stage has been the biggest difference between the new project and the Books. And for me it's been the most fun, to play with him, and see what he does. We really connected over this idea of polyrhythms. He helps me find these grooves that are really unusual. And I think the reason why I shied away from drums for so long is that it's a very kind of genre-fying instrument. It's hard to do anything out of the ordinary because it all sounds too ubiquitous. But Sean's the kind of guy who sounds like nobody else. It's a real balance with Sean between precision and heart.