To celebrate the release of JL Bryan’s second book in The Songs of Magic Series, Fairy Blues, I sat down with the guitar player for The Assorted Zebras and leading man in this series, Jason. His goblin squatter roommate, Grizlemor, sat in on the interview since you won’t find one without the other these days. Be sure to check out the end for details on how you can enter to win a copy of the first book in this series, Fairy Metal Thunder.
Now on with the interview…
Heather: You play guitar in a band, The Assorted Zebras, that has garnered seemingly overnight success thanks to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and fan word of mouth. You were even mobbed by your fans while you worked at Buddy McSlawburgers. What does it feel like to go from a nobody to having the spotlight on you without warning?
Jason: It was pretty amazing and unexpected. The weirdest part was that a lot of these were kids from my own school, and I’ve never been a popular kind of person. It’s strange when people who were in your kindergarten are looking at you like that, almost like you’re a stranger.
Grizlemor: Are there any snacks here? I thought you got snacks at interviews.
Heather: Um, I might have something in my bag here, let me check… Here’s two packets of Sweet N’ Sour sauce from McDonald’s, some saltines, and a partially smashed Snickers candy bar. Sorry, that’s all I’ve got because I just cleaned my car out.
Grizlemor: Add a stale old French fry from under your car seat, and you’ve got the makings of a great sandwich…
Heather: How did you and your bandmates pick the songs you cover? The songs aren’t what I’d expect musicians of your generation to cover when they want to gain a young audience. Some of the music, like Tom Petty, was even a bit old for me when I was your age.
Jason: Well…part of it is that I really haven’t played guitar that long. I’d only been playing a few months when I found myself in Faerie and, um, stumbled across these magic instruments. So I mostly played songs out of my Guitar for Total Beginners book. That includes a couple songs by Tom Petty. “Learning to Fly” is a very common beginner-level song for someone trying to learn the guitar. Those instructional guides aren’t focused on the latest hits, they usually give you classic songs, and they’re more about what the song can teach you and how challenging it is. I mean, you’re lucky I didn’t play John Denver!
Also, when you’re trying to get gigs, most places want you to play covers of long-established songs. Try telling a bar owner in Marshfield, Wisconsin that you play that one song from Mumford and Sons. They’ll just look at you like you’re an alien speaking Alienese, they’ve never heard of that band. They want you to do stuff like “Brown-Eyed Girl” and “Brick House” every night. We haven’t stooped to that, but if you tell them you can cover “I Love Rock & Roll” by Joan Jett, or some Rolling Stones, they’re a hundred times more likely to book your band.
And then there’s the other thing–classics are all we can really agree on within the band, because everybody has different tastes. If we went for something more modern, Erin would want to cover Pink, while Dred would have us play Trivium or Mastadon, and Mitch would probably insist on some cheesy pop stuff like Britney Spears or Claudia Lafayette, which he claims he only likes “ironically,” but the rest of us aren’t so sure…
Heather: That makes perfect sense, Jason. I never thought of it that way. You have to start somewhere. When I started in band back in grade school, they had us play stuff like “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
Grizlemor: It’s all garbage compared to goblin music, anyway. Ever heard “The Shrieking of the Winter Carcass”? Great party tune.
Heather: I’m sure it is, Grizlemor. But Jason, your band plays original music too, right?
Jason: Yep. Our singer, Erin, writes most of the songs. I think she’s very talented at that, but our record producer doesn’t seem to see it that way…He’s been making us play completely different songs in the studio.
Heather: And this producer is the same one who’s responsible for unleashing the sounds of Claudia Lafayette on the unsuspecting world? Has he tried to mold your band into a specific sound yet, or is it too early to tell us what we can expect out of The Assorted Zebras’ upcoming work with Malarkay records?
Jason: Yeah, his name’s Heath Blank, he’s produced a lot of multi-platinum records. He’s kind of harsh, and we’re not too sure about some of these new songs he’s making us record. We kind of thought we’d be doing our own songs, but I guess he knows what he’s doing…
Heather: The Assorted Zebras played at that big festival a while back, and I heard that the audience was quite tough for all of the bands except for yours. What was that experience like?
Jason: The Spoon and Cherry festival in Minneapolis showcases indie bands from all over the upper Midwest each year. It can be a lot of exposure for bands, so the auditions are really competitive. What happened was that the festival organizers heard our music as it went viral online, and so they kicked off another band to make room for us. We didn’t even audition. So that annoyed all the bands when we just strolled into this gig.
The show itself was great. We really set the place on fire! No, wait, bad choice of words. I don’t know anything about any mysterious fires that might have happened during or after that show.
Sometimes having a smoking set isn’t a bad thing. But anyway, what’s in the future for Jason and The Assorted Zebras? Recording an album? Touring?
Jason: We just signed a pretty amazing deal with a major label! So we’re putting the album together, making a video, getting ready to go on tour. As long as the band doesn’t fight too much among ourselves, or get into conflicts with our producer, or get attacked by fairies and their minions trying to take our instruments away…should be a great year!
Huge thanks to Jason and Grizlemore for stopping by and answering a few questions. I have a feeling that the goblin would be totally happy eating whatever my toddler dropped on the floor at meal times…
Just fill out the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win a copy of the first book in the Songs of Magic series, Fairy Metal Thunder
Contest is open internationally (if winner is outside of the US, they get an e-copy of the book, and if the winner is in the US, they get a paperback copy of the book). One winner will be chose at 11 pm CST, February 15, 2012.
[box type=”shadow”]The Assorted Zebras are a teenage garage band in Wisconsin with no fans and no gigs, until they steal four enchanted instruments from the fairy world.
The new instruments make the band a huge overnight success, but they aren’t exactly ready for fame, fortune, or the supernatural creatures sent by the fairies to track them down.[/box]
JL Bryan is the author of The Paranormals series (Jenny Pox, Tommy Nightmare, Alexander Death) and other books. Fairy Metal Thunder is the first book in his new Songs of Magic series, and Fairy Blues is the second installment. He lives in Atlanta with his wife Christina, his baby son John, and some dogs and cats.