Zebra Hunt Phasing Into the Sunset

Zebra Hunt, Unlikely Friends & Seacats at the Sunset Tavern, Seattle | 2 June 2017

Over the last five years it seems like many of my favorite Seattle bands have either broken up or left town. A few new ones have come up to replace them, but it seems like we’re in a slight lean period compared to the previous bounties we’ve experienced. Friday night at the Sunset in Ballard three Seattle bands provided some much needed rain on the parched fields of the Seattle music scene. Zebra Hunt, keepers of the Seattle pop flame, were celebrating their second album seeing the light of day courtesy of Spanish record label Tenorio Cotobade.

If you haven’t heard, Zebra Hunt are Seattle’s answer to the classic Flying Nun jangle of the 80’s and the current day jangling explosion of bands from Australia. If you’re old and dig the Clean and the Chills or young and love the Twerps and Chook Race, then Zebra Hunt will fit nicely into your wheelhouse. Having employed Jack Endino to record it, their sophomore effort improves on sound quality and sees no let up in song quality.

Focusing mostly on the new record the band played a great set for the home crowd and provided after show cupcakes decorated with their album cover. Since the last record Zebra Hunt have added a fourth member to the band to help flesh out their sound. The additional guitar and keyboard combined with their already stellar rhythm section increases the impact of the Zebra Hunt experience.

Singer and songwriter Robert Mercer writes about ordinary life but supplies an element of mystery to to his songs by being economical with the details. He is of the Raymond Carver school of writing. You get stories of house hunting, evening walks, listening to records in the kitchen and Foxhill Drive in 2005 with clues to what happened but no answers. I Wont’ Blame You house hunting backdrop sounds partly inspired by Courtney Barnett’s Depreston which was inspired by Paul Kelly’s To Her Door, which was inspired by Carver’s short stories. The lineage is impeccable.  With the release of In Phases, the band now have a larger trove of treasures to pull from for their live shows with a virtual guarantee never to disappoint.

Unlikely Friends were coerced out of their sabbatical to provide support. A BOAT and Math and Physics Club team-up, the group features the um, unlikely combination of both band’s singers, except on this night D. Crane had lost his voice . Probably due to the previous weekend’s BOAT reunion show or some rogue virus, the voiceless Crane  replaced his voice with a message he wrote on a series of notebook pages that littered the stage. The band was in triage mode with Charles Bert of MAPC taking over most of the vocals but letting the drummer Chris have some leads as well. They persevered and kept their sense of humor about them. Look for a second album and hopefully more shows from these underdogs when they’re restored to full power sometime in the not too distant future.

Opening the night were Seacats. Formerly of Kelso-Longview, but now apparently based in Seattle. The two singles I have of theirs give the impression that their a silly, happy-go-lucky sort of band, but as I walked in it was in the middle of their heavy stuff. I think it was their nuclear bomb song. Then they switched singers and pulled off a sublime psych-pop number and I was thoroughly confused. I wasn’t sure what to make of it all, but at least it was interesting!

Zebra Hunt Go To Spain

zebrahunt

Seattle’s kiwi loving popsters Zebra Hunt return from the ashes of the crash and burn of their former label with a brand new record. Luckily the Spanish upstart label Tenorio Cotobade has bellied up to the Zebra Hunt bar for another round of killer pop. So all you have to do is scour the internet for a buy link to put this pretty thing into your hands. And why would you want to pay exorbitant overseas shipping for a piece of plastic you ask? Because when you hear the A-side Only Way Out with its rubbery guitar lead and catchy chorus you will be helplessly reaching for your credit card. B-side Get Along is a rawer bar room romp that sees these big game hunters going for the jugular with a single shot.

Zebra Hunt are two for two in the record game. Could an album to solidify their unsung greatness be in the offing in the not too distant future? I’ll take that, or more singles like this one to feed the hungry pop beast inside me.

stream: Zebra Hunt – Only Way Out (order the 7-inch from Tenorio Cotobade)

Hallelujah All the Way Home

The first time I listened to Half Right by Zebra Hunt I kept thinking that there was no way that the song could not be that good. It started out with guitar jangle reminiscent of the Verlaines, I thought OK this sounds cool, but kept expecting it to go downhill from there (at heart I’m a pessimist). Next the singer starts to sing “I’m only half right with you” sounding like he’s related to both Graeme Downes and David Kilgour. At this point any lingering pessimism has flown out the window and I am now a super fan of Zebra Hunt. The next song The Only Way Out has me seriously considering cashing in my kid’s college fund to start a record label with the sole purpose of putting Zebra Hunt records. Thankfully the glassy pacific feel of the final song of the EP The City Sighs  allows me to momentarily come to my senses enough to realize that maybe starting a record label may not be in my best financial interest.

Seattle continues to produce some of the best (and unsung) bands this year and Zebra Hunt add to this city’s pop arsenal. The Zebra Hunt EP is available for free download from their bandcamp page and you can catch them live opening for Eternal Summers and Bleeding Rainbow September 8, at the Sunset Tavern in Ballard.

stream/download: Zebra Hunt

Proper!

I had no idea the Proper Ornaments had a new five song EP out until reading about it over at the Austin Town Hall blog. Their 7″ from last year was good, but this new EP is pretty near brilliant. The band who take their name from a Free Design song share a member in James Hoare with Veronica Falls. Veronica Falls have an affection for the jangly side of the seminal Flying Nun label from New Zealand Flying Nun label. Proper Ornaments do too, but tend toward the more psychedelic side of things. The Bats come to mind, as does the moodier side of the Chills and even some non-New Zealand blood in the stylish pop of the Eric Mathews/Richard Davies collaboration Cardinal. The songs have an elegant translucent quality that floats them into your conscious quickly but they have long-acting mechanisms that keep them in your system. Since hearing this EP, I seem to go into withdrawal if I don’t play it every half hour. I think I may be addicted.

The record is available from No Pain In Pop.

stream: The Proper Ornaments – Who Thought

 

[vimeo 32797176]

Clean Surfers


Surf Friends are from Auckland, New Zealand. I don’t know how they met, but based on their name and their sound I would guess it was over some conversation that they struck up about fellow New Zealanders the Clean at some point break while waiting for the next set to come in. They’ve put out a slew of singles on Power Tool Records down south and now they have decided to put out a long player which they’re calling Confusion. It rolls with some Krautrock grooves, jangles in a few places and Velvet Underground riffs abound. Derivative you ask?  Yes, but it looks to all the right places.

mp3: Surf Friends – You’re On My Mind

Stream and/or buy a download of the album at Bandcamp.
Buy a hard copy of the album from Power Tool Records.