Greatest hits of the 60's, 70's and 80's? Well, not exactly... Somewhere in the vast expanse between Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie, I caught up with Michael Ledwidge, keyboardist/guitarist for Vancouver's Zumpano, to discuss his band's multi-generational influence.
"As soon as you do something that has a strong melody, with people who can play their instruments, you're immediately retro. It's fine in a way, because we've kind of walked right into it." In currently supporting their new album, Goin' Through Changes, Zumpano have perpetuated a brand of hooky pop that gives the music a timeless beauty. But don't read "hooky pop" as necessarily the kind of goofy sugar pop that is already abundant in this city. Zumpano's thoughtful lyrics and complex songwriting have earned them both a strong fan base and recognition south of the border, namely from Seattle's quintessential pop-rock-grunge label, Sub Pop.
Ledwidge cheerfully recalls the days the label came to court them: "Somehow somebody got a demo tape to the people in charge and they really liked it. It was a total Cinderella story. We liked the idea right away and there wasn't really anybody else interested, so it was a pretty easy deal to do."
Ledwidge is brutally honest about the influence of the label during the recording process, though. "If you have ever heard nightmare stories about record company people coming in to the studio and that sort of thing, there was a lot of that. Which doesn't really bother me since it's their money -- they kind of have a right." The band rationalizes that, although it can be "a little intimidating, it's alright, as long as our expectations remain bigger than theirs."
Zumpano have created more than just a buzz in music circles; they have caused a little confusion over the role of the band's drummer, Jason Zumpano. His mug is found plastered all over the album, inside and out, and their bio speaks tongue-in-cheek of a tyrannical front-man. "It was just some dumb joke that has gone on way too long. Naming the band Zumpano was just funny because Jason is this low-key guy, but he has this great name that sounds like a prog band from the 70's," explains Ledwidge. "Jason is kind of the poster boy for the band. We had to wear him down enough to be on the cover."
A solid album and the support of Sub Pop haven't left Zumpano on easy street, however, as Ledwidge asserts: "We're unknown, totally. We are lucky enough to get a few people out to the shows but it still feels like shooting in the dark." Hence their determination to tour in support of the album, even in the worst of conditions. "If you don't go out and play and meet the people then you can get these affluent ideas about art. But when you get out there and you're in Thunder Bay and somebody wants to hear C.C.R., then it's a reality check." And, after all, as Ledwidge concludes, "It's just entertainment."
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