If you’re not entirely familiar with Cali pop punk band Zebrahead’s sound, vocalist/rhythm guitarist Matty Lewis is happy to provide a description.
“We’re like the guys in the movie that always play in the background,” he said.
“If you took a blender and threw in… oh wow, who would you throw in there? Maybe some Green Day, Rage Against The Machine… oh boy, um… NoFX… A Tribe Called Quest – we’ll throw them in there because that’s Ali’s (vocalist Ali Tabatabaee) favourite band – and maybe some Van Halen… then you kinda get an idea of Zebrahead.
“We’re the soundtrack to your next hangover.”
Speaking of hangovers, Lewis said he and the rest of the band was enjoying some down time last week after returning to the US from a whirlwind overseas tour.
“We’ve just been hanging out and partying really, it’s been great,” he laughed.
“It’s Wednesday night here now, we got back on Friday from playing in China and Japan and a couple of big festivals in Europe.”
Lewis said Asia in particular had welcomed the band with open arms, with cultural differences rarely being an issue.
“You know, everyone in the whole world is basically the same,” he said.
“Everyone finds a way to communicate with each other somehow.
“The beer is different in every country too, which is great; there’s always something different to experience no matter where we happen to be!”
Ironically enough, ‘I’m Just Here for the Free Beer’ is a track on the band’s tenth studio album, Call Your Friends.
Lewis said the album took around eight months to write, with only around six and a half weeks in the recording studio with producer Cameron Webb.
Long time guitarist Greg Bergdorf left the band during the album’s production, replaced by Dan Palmer of Death By Stereo – an easy transition, according to Lewis.
“Dan has been a great friend of the band for about five years now,” he said.
“He helped write Get Nice! and actually went to Australia with us once for Soundwave two years ago and did a small tour in Europe, so it was a very seamless and natural transition when he stepped in and I swear to God, the man is a walking party, he is just full of positive energy.”
Lewis said there was no animosity toward Bergdorf, who left the band for personal reasons.
“Oh we all totally respect Greg’s decision,” he said.
“All of us have someone back home when we go on tour, you know, I have a wife myself but we have dogs, not kids, whereas Ben and Ed for example have two kids each.
“Greg lives in Atlanta, which is a five hour flight or so from the rest of us, so writing or rehearsing or anything was always an ordeal so yeah, we understand why he chose to be a family man over the band, it’s cool.”
Choosing the life of a rock star was one Lewis made almost a decade ago when he moved to the west coast to join Zebrahead.
“I joined the band in 2004, so, how good is my math – nine years ago now?” Lewis said.
“I was in a small band in the mid-west at the time, living in a van, booking our own shows, playing as a three-piece and having a great time, partying and just trying to survive.”
He hadn’t quite given up his day job, though.
“I was also working as a substitute teacher… obviously I’m very, very intellectual,” he laughed.
“As you can tell, my math is superb.”
So as a respectable pillar of society, what advice would Lewis give to Miley Cyrus after that VMAs performance?
“Keep doing what you’re doing, you’re of age now, so go ahead and do what you gotta do, and don’t do anything half-assed,” he said.
“Although, it’s pretty safe to say she didn’t do anything half-assed.”
So is there any chance we will see Lewis twerking on Zebrahead’s next tour down under?
“I might leave that to our drummer Ed, he’s the twerker in the group,” he laughed.
“I think if we let him twerk on the tour bus we’d probably run right off the road, he’s a big guy.
“But you ask him next time we’re down there, ask him to show you his twerking skills!”
And when might that be? Maybe a sneaky Soundwave announcement?
“We haven’t confirmed anything for Soundwave or Australia yet, but we would love to come back,” Lewis said.
“We’ve been there twice already, and I tell you what, Bondi Beach was so amazing I actually went swimming there.
“I have never liked to go in the water; I grew up surrounded by corn and dirt, so to go out in the water was kind of a huge deal for me.
Seeing the Sydney Opera House in real life was pretty awesome, too.
I actually went to a place called Outback Steakhouse two nights ago, they’re an Australian-themed restaurant… they serve Foster’s, which seems to be a pretty big joke with you guys.”
Despite a decade touring the world in a successful band, Lewis said he was yet to have any crazy fan experiences.
“I have yet to experience a crazy fan,” he said.
“I think it would be a fun story to tell, so to anyone reading this – please feel free to come out to one of the shows and spice things up a bit!”
> Call Your Friends is out now through 3Wise/Sony Music.