Q&A: Zozobra’s sludgecore for the short attention span

Zozobra: Savage MastersZozobra: Savage Masters (Brutal Panda, 4/2/13)

“Venom Hell”

Zozobra: “Venom Hell”

There was a time when having a short attention span was seen as a character flaw. But for musicians operating in the modern world, being able to compartmentalize, to jump from one thing to the next with nary a blink of hesitation, might be an evolutionary next level.

If so, Caleb Scofield is a good candidate for king of the over-caffeinated, hyper-intense land of tomorrow. The bass player, enlisting the help of Cave In band-mates Adam McGrath and JR Conners, crammed writing for the new Zozobra record, Savage Masters, into a few warm months last year with an intense but focused plan of attack: write fast, keep it short, and don’t over-think. The result is the most blistering six songs that Zozobra has yet produced, all in the span of about 15 minutes. Scofield’s blitz went off so well he almost didn’t have time to write lyrics.

Right out of the gate, this album is noticeably more up-tempo than the first two Zozobra albums. Is there any significant reason you’ve stepped on the gas?

During the writing process, we committed ourselves to finishing one song per practice. I think the urgency of these songs is a reflection of that process. Also, at the time we were revisiting a lot of our favorite hardcore and punk records of the past. The thought of writing some songs that were less heady and more to the point seemed exciting.

The record also is short. With that said, the songs are all well thought out and carefully crafted. Did you have a lot of songs left over that you didn’t think made the cut, or is this it?

The length of the record is definitely intentional. We had always planned on just doing a five- or six-song EP. Everything we wrote ended up on the recording. With that being said, the thought of a 40- or 50-minute recording doesn’t sit well with us. It’s such a commitment as a band and for the listener. I think our collective attention spans have decreased over the years. Keep it short and sweet, and hopefully leave them wanting more.

When Harmonic Tremors came out in 2007, your friends said that the guitars sounded like a bass player wrote their parts, which of course is true. It made for a unique sound. Savage Masters also is a very bass-heavy record. Have you evolved as a musician from having this band? Do you think that you still write songs like a bass player?

That’s hard for me to say, really. I would hope that any musical venture helps to make you a more well-rounded player or writer. In the past with Zozobra, I would write songs in their entirety, demo them, and then show them to whoever I was collaborating with to learn. That approach requires a lot of time and work and can sometimes take a lot of the fun out of it.

This time around was much different. I really wanted to have things be more collaborative. I’ve always felt that I’m a much better band member than a band leader, so to speak. I have such a long history with Adam and JR, and I knew the material would only benefit if they were heavily involved with the creative process. I think it helped greatly in allowing this recording to stand out from past releases.

Ostensibly, this type of music is very serious, both lyrically and in its heaviness. At the same time, it seems like it would be incredibly fun to play. What do you think of that?

I think that I like that. That was pretty much our goal: write some fast tunes that will be really fun to play live. I think the few moments that really slow down and become riff oriented help to keep that heaviness alive. I’m very happy with the lyrics, which is something I usually struggle with. They were written while we were at the studio, listening back to the basic tracks. During the time it seemed ridiculous that I had nothing written yet, but in retrospect I feel that it helped marry the lyrical content to the music itself a lot better.

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