FLABmag: I know you met in Boston but how did you guys meet? When did you decide to start a band and why did you decide to move to Austin as opposed to L.A. or New York City?
Shmu (drums, keyboards, vocals): We were forced among each other aka we were involuntarily put together as room mates which turned out to be musical fate. In terms of deciding when we were a band, it was a gradual progression, we just started jamming as a two piece and we didn’t even write songs until we set a week aside to do so, which was maybe 8 or 9 months into our primary jam era. The move felt pretty organic to me, I felt like I was hearing “Austin” from many different angles and by the time I had to make a decision of where my life was going to go next, I’d already been to New York a numerous amount of times, and knew in my heart that it wasn’t the place for me to live. L.A. is so huge, it makes me feel like I can get forgotten or not appreciated so easily as an artist, whereas with Austin, there’s such a supportive and thriving music community; it just seemed way more appealing, besides the fact that rent is cheap, more space, much more livable overall.
Zac Traeger (keyboards, vocals): The summer after I graduated high school I heard my roommate in Boston was going to be Sam Chown and the college sent me his contact info. I tried calling but a confused asian woman answered the phone. This really set me up for a strange surprise to see a Canadian Jew get to the dorm room first and claim the only single bunk. This was a three person room and our other roommate only stayed one day before going back to Vermont. Sam and I became close friends soon after. About a year after hanging out we began to rent practice space time and just set up and play for 3 hours straight. These improvised sessions were the very beginnings of Zorch. We didn’t really write much material in Boston, but played together a lot. There was a year break after Boston that I moved back to Wisconsin and Sam came to visit at the end of the summer. I booked us a show (Phat Camp 2) with a ton of other bands and within the 9 days of Sam’s visit we wrote a cd, recorded it, and performed a show. Those songs are deep in the vault at this point.
Austin was just good vibes all around when we visited. It seemed like a city with a huge potential for growth. Also, everyone was very friendly in the grocery store, which is my general gauge for how nice the people of a given city are. I think we were both very sick of snow and cold environments.
FLABmag: A quick Google search reveals that there was a band from the UK called Zorch (and a brand & product development group as well. Their tagline is “Have you been Zorched?” Possibly steal that…) Were you influenced by either of these groups? If not, how did you come up with the name?
S: As much as I love the British Zorch, Zorch came from the bowels of my soul. I now know the existence of the British Zorch because the internet always mixes both of our bands up, its pretty hilarious that some people actually think we’re 55 year old British men. To keep a long story short, Zorch is the nickname I gave Zac in college. So we are Zorch, but Zac as an individual is Zorch, as well.
Z: We are cool with all Zorches. We didn’t know about all the other Zorches till after we started the band. The 70s Zorch actually contacted us saying they were fans of our music. This was a huge relief, and within a few email interactions the idea of making a concept album arose. We seriously plan on going to England at some point and playing music with those guys. They rule, and I’m so glad we can coexist as friend Zorches and hopefully at some point epic mega combined alternate universe Zorch, spanning generations across time! yeah.
FLABmag: I love your logo on your website. Are either of you designers/illustrators? Did you create it yourself(selves)?
S: We did it with Laurel Barickman of RECSPEC.
Z: We both dabble in the art world. We’re very hands on with everything involving art. We screen all our own shirts and every one is different. Also we hand make every cd case, and have been known to create a friendship bracelet or two in our time.
FLABmag: What inspires you to make such colorful music? Who are your influences? (standard question but totally warranted)
S: That’s the only way I want to make music, I want the listener to see and feel multiple colors after seeing/hearing us live. I especially want to cover every and all of the colors of the spectrum in our catalogue of material. There are so many people that inspire me to make colorful music! Zach Hill, HEALTH, Battles, Zs, Animal Collective, the list goes on and on…
Z: Yeah, we both are very color oriented in the writing process and sometimes approach an improvisation or writing session with the idea of hashing out particular colors that we are feeling at the time. Sam nailed the influences in the short list. Its pretty epic as far as music we listen to and pull from. I teach piano for a living and have a deep love for composition so Im always pulling from that world.
FLABmag: Besides netting some buzz, what were the other highlights at SXSW this year?
S: We played a dirty kitchen in a college Co-op, that was insane. We played a show with puppets, that was crazy fun. We did a few shows where we gave people dodgeballs and they threw dodgebals at each other while we were playing music. The first time we tried that was when we opened for Dan Deacon in Denton, the weekend before SXSW, and that failed miserably, but I think people still had fun at that show. Art Disaster was great, we did a Vs. set with Best Fwends, our official showcase even exceeded my expectations.
Z: Yeah, ditto. That kitchen was really gross, but there was 80 to 100 people packed in it at one point. We turned off all the lights, brought out the lasers and shit got crazy. The second dodgeball game attempt was at a house party with around 100-150 people and that turned out excellent. Dust was in the air, people were catching a few in the face, it was the best. Having Peelander-Z and Trail of Dead approach us after a show and give us ridiculous compliments was also a huge treat.
FLABmag: Since you live in Austin already were you sort of over it to begin with or was it something you were looking forward to this year?
S: I saw this year as a way to really bust my ass and work as hard as possible, so whether or not I was over it didn’t really matter.
Z: I definitely was looking forward to it. I’m always into opportunities to work as hard as possible and have it directly reflect upon the success you achieve. It can sometimes be tricky as a band in that manner. I think the unofficial side of sxsw really supports the incentive to do as much or as little as possible. Things seem to be slowly shifting toward the annihilation of unofficial or free things during sxsw and I really hope Austin and the festival don’t go down that road. Its a very beautiful concept the way its set up right now. We saw so many people we knew, started a hippie commune in our back yard, made many new friends and played everywhere possible. Its great.
FLABmag: Have you played anywhere outside of Texas, I mean besides Boston – assuming you played gigs in Boston?
S: We’ve only played Boston once, which was on tour, way after we went to school and started jamming. We’ve toured midwest, south and northeastern US as well as northeastern Canada. We’re planning on touring west coast pretty soon.
Z: We tour as much as possible and plan on continuing to do so.
FLABmag: Were you Zorch back in Boston or did that identity reveal itself once you moved to Austin?
S: Zac was Zorch first, but naming our band Zorch was definitely an organic choice, and that was decided upon in Boston.
Z: I would mark the “identity revealing moment” as our first show in Austin. Technicalities. I was Zorch in boston, and we made improv mixtapes under the moniker Zorch. We played as Zorch in Wisconsin, but as a band I’d mark Austin as our home base.
FLABmag: What is your general impression of Texas?
S: Depends on the city, each city has its own vibe. But overall, I really like the rugged quality of Texas.
Z: I love Texas, both the good and the bad.
As an aside I’ve been to Texas a number of times – mostly Austin and Dallas. I was told that Austin is a haven for rational people living in Texas. Assuming you’ve been to a few cities in Texas (besides Houston) is this assessment correct?
S: I don’t want to trash talk cities outside of Austin, but I will say Austin has my favorite vibe, as well as highest amount of rationality per capita.
Z: I don’t know about that Sam, Texas has a lot of hamlets or places with population:2. What if both those people are accountants or mathematicians. hmmm… what about that.
S: Touche. I’ve never been to Marfa but I hear amazing teengs.
FLABmag: What are your immediate plans for touring because we’d love to have you come to California!
S: You might see us in Cali sooner than you think!
Z: Yeah, rumor has it. Be our friend on the internet and we’ll let you know before all the non-internet people.
Bonus Question: what’s the most exciting/dirtiest/weird thing you’ve done wearing the costumes you have on in your press photo?
S: Me riding Zac like he was a wild animal, creating chaos in the dog park.
Z: Yeah, that picture was in fact taken in a dog park. It seemed like a good idea. We went there on a sunday afternoon and it was packed. We both striped down to our underwear and put on the costumes in the middle of the park. Immediately we created such chaos. There were many threats of dog attacks and lots of confused dog owners. For the record we are surf and turf in that picture.
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