Wales has always been a country full of great local talent, but the majority of these bands come from the South. This has resulted in me being a little sceptical about the music scene in North Wales, so it really was refreshing to stumble across an interesting little article about four-piece Conwy based band Zebedy, in my local paper a few years back. Consisting of guitarists Jonny and Ben, bassist Dave and drummer Tom, they play a fantastic blend of rock and metal with a progressive edge.
Knowing I’d discovered something great, I eagerly anticipated their debut album Exist, which I duly pre-ordered with the plans to catch them live in the near future.
Unfortunately, it was over a year before I was able to see them for the first time, when I caught them in Llandudno at the end of 2012 – where I discovered that their live show was at just as high a standard as their recorded material was. It was an engaging and entertaining show with all the members having fun and joking with the crowd and they played a set full of fantastic material (both old and new) and I left with a good feeling about what 2013 would bring for them.
Having just released their stunning new album Marionette (which was recently reviewed on the site here), I caught up with them before their show at The North in Rhyl to have a quick chat with them.
For the readers of Soundscape who may not know about you, could you tell us a bit about Zebedy and how it all started?
Tom (drums/vocals): Me and Jonny were both in local bands, and I found out that he wanted to do a side project doing his “wank music”. He needed a backing band so I got really into that, then years down the line it turned into this! So we started adding lyrics to the music and then we turned into a three-piece and finally a four piece with Ben joining, which is what we are today.
I used to love the Magic Roundabout as a little kid. Did you take your name from the character Zebedee or did it come from elsewhere?
Whole band: NO!
Jonny (guitar/vocals): It’s spelt completely differently!
So where did your name come from then?
Jonny: I don’t know…I just sort of came up with it and went “oh, Zebedy! That’ll do.”
Who would you say your main influences are?
Dave (bass/vocals): Radiohead and Muse.
Tom: Reuben and Fightstar.
Ben (guitar/vocals): Killswitch Engage and Fightstar.
Jonny: Dream Theater and Reuben.
Tom (to Jonny): I thought you were going to say yourself then!
Jonny (jokingly): And me! Well, actually you could say I influence myself!
If you could play a show anywhere, where would it be and why?
Ben: Are we meant to say in Rhyl, tonight?
(whole band laughs)
Jonny: I think I would have to say the main stage at Download. As boring as an answer that is, that’s what it would be.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Jonny: The new album.
Dave: Yeah, definitely the new album. It’s an album that we’re all really pleased with and we all wrote it, as opposed to all the other music we’ve done!
Jonny: We wrote it knowing it was going to be an album, that’s the thing.
What is your favourite song to play live?
Jonny: You Can’t Fake It is probably mine at the moment. But we all know what Ben’s is!
Tom: Shall we say it?
(whole band says Glass Cage in unison)
Tom: I think my favourite is Stitches.
Not counting the wrong introduction being played at your recent gig in Pentre, have there ever been any mishaps onstage?
Tom: Ask Dave.
Jonny: Yeah, ask him!
Dave: Well. Very frequently I have strings breaking and I’m pretty sure I now hold the world record for quickest string change! And then yesterday, my amp blew up for about the sixth or seventh time, so I had to change the amp mid-song!
Could you tell me a little about the idea behind Marionette? It almost feels like a continuous track – which is meant in the best possible sense, not that all the songs sound the same!
Tom: That’s the whole point of it, really. Basically, the first few songs that were wrote had the same kind of theme and the whole theme is about control – dealing with it and breaking out of it. We overlapped a few tracks and then thought it would be a good idea to link them together. The last four or five tracks are a lot more closely linked, whereas other ones like Histories aren’t. But it is at the same time.
Jonny: They’re all linked in the theme of control. It’s about people overcoming obstacles, or realising that they’re happy as they are. It’s all just therapy, really – it’s the opposite of slitting wrists! Well, it’s like slitting wrists but then stitching them back together.
If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be and why?
Tom: Steven Wilson from Porcupine Tree.
Jonny: Steven Wilson is a really good answer. Either him, or Karnivool.
Dave: Reuben, with their sort of style, would be awesome.
What are your thoughts on the North Walian music scene?
Jonny: …What scene?
Dave: There’s a massive issue because there’s hardly any venues round here.
Jonny: There’s quite a few good bands out there, but the problem is that there’s too many “not good” bands out there, so they’re getting in the way of the good bands being able to play at venues and get paid for it.
I find that. There’s tonnes of great bands in South Wales, but round here – excusing you, of course! – there just doesn’t seem to be as many.
Jonny: Thanks! And yeah. The thing is that there’s a scene everywhere else, but in North Wales there’s just no scene at all! So everyone does their own thing and it’s normally friends that come out to the shows.
Dave: There was a bit of a scene about five years ago of various forms of metal and what-not. That seemed to be the only scene that was going at the time but then it just disappeared. And now there’s hardly any venues compared to what there used to be. Everywhere’s shutting down, which means that nobody’s got anywhere proper to play. I mean, we’re playing here tonight. We’ve played at Rascals in Bangor, there’s also Crosskeys in Llandudno and then what else is there?
Tom: The Parade?
Jonny: The Parade has closed!
Dave: You can almost count on one hand the venues left.
Jonny: They’re not really venues though, are they? They’re pubs.
Tom: Yeah, they’re all basically pubs that’ll put on a band just to make a bit of extra money.
Jonny: Pentre’s one of my favourite ones to go to. It is a pub, but it is a venue at the same time in the back. Just think, if you got a big band in there then you could actually fill that place.
Definitely. That’s something for them maybe to consider. And my final question, what are your hopes for the future?
Jonny: That’s a difficult question. I mean being successful…I count that as people coming along to your shows and singing your songs back to you, so in a way we have made it, as far as I’m concerned, but getting signed isn’t necessarily in the bigger picture if that makes sense? But we’d love to get out there and just keep our music original.
Dave: Yeah, putting it in a different way, things I like the idea of is our songs meaning something to someone. And that sounds a bit gay, but I think it’s nice when people can take it and have it as something that means something to them!
Jonny: Yeah, it’s great when they can take it! What David, the bassist of Zebedy, has basically said is that as long as they can take it, then it’s all good! In the future people that can have it can take it from Dave!
Tom: And enjoy it!
Jonny: Basically what he’s trying to say is that getting us on a slot doesn’t really mean us bringing a lot of people, but people might go “that band were a bit good at what they do!” Even if they don’t necessarily like us but they can see we put the work in, so that has to mean something.