Hailing from California, ZEBRAHEAD are known for being a less than serious punk pop band, with a flare of ska. This year represents the band’s twentieth anniversary of the formation of ZEBRAHEAD, and their third time playing Slam Dunk. Prior to their performance in Birmingham Ali Tabatabaee (vocals) and Matty Lewis (vocals/guitar) sat down for an interview to discuss the band, their touring rules, and their current Slam Dunk performances.
Hey, how are you guys?
How does it feel to be playing Slam Dunk?
Ali: This is our third time and yesterday was the first show in Leeds, the weather was beautiful, the fans were awesome, we had a great time.
This is your third time playing the festival, have there been any significant differences from previous years?
Ali: Matty’s a little bit taller.
Matty: A little bit. Ali’s started eating the hot dogs in the arena, I told him not to…
Ali: But they’re delicious. So that’s new.
Matty: Everything else is kinda same old, same old.
Has the festival changed?
Ali: It’s got a lot bigger. The fans have always been pretty good. We were talking about this just the other day, it’s a punk rock festival for punk rock fans. Other festivals will have us, and maybe another punk band and then different kinds of music. But this is dedicated to punk music so it’s a cool experience and the fans are awesome.
How do you prepare for a festival? Are there any good luck rituals you go through?
Ali holds up a bottle of Glenfiddich*
Ali: This is our single malt! Yeah no, we stretch a lot, meditate together, we do group yoga, steam baths to get the pores open. We find ham on the bus and eat it.
Matty: Salami baby.
Ali: Salami. Coke. Coca cola! For the record, can I just say, I don’t do any kind of drugs.
Matty: So here’s the thing, I have to tell you this story. So last night, we were hanging out, and this guys goes “hey can you do a Snapchat for me?” And I’m like yeah, and I’m an idiot and forgot it’s only like ten seconds so I started doing this bit like ‘Man, I’ve had so much coke’ and I was gonna say Coca Cola but it ended and he was like thanks man! I just said I did a lot of coke on somebody’s Snapchat so I’m waiting for that to come back and bite me in the ass.
What’s the strangest thing to happen on stage?
Matty: I have a really good one.
Ali: Go ahead.
Matty: We were playing this show once, and there was this little girl in front stage, like right in front of me, and she had this horrified look on her face every time I looked at her. She was just staring at me horrified. So I turned around to get water and, I was wearing like boxers and the zipper was down and my wiener was hanging out for everyone to see! I felt like so bad, I thought she was just like a mean person but it all made sense. I was like naked in front of her.
Ali: I can’t beat that! Alright, so it might have been the same girl, probably not, but I remember kicking a beach ball, I was gonna kick it over, but it hit a girl right square in the face. So that was cool. She deserved it.
Matty: I don’t think that was bad, I think that was kinda cool.
Ali: Yeah that was cool. Shame it wasn’t the mean girl that laughed at Ali.
Matty: She didn’t laugh! At no point did I say she was laughing. I said she was horrified by the size!
Ali: Yeah like, what is that? It looks like a gummy worm!
Matty: Why is it green?
What’s your favourite part of playing festivals?
Ali: The interviews!
Matty: Yeah the interviews.
Ali: See what we did there.
What’s your least favourite? And you can’t say interviews again.
Ali: Oh. For me, it’s when you’re trying to sleep and they do sound check at like ten in the morning.
Matty: It’s really loud…
Ali: And the bus is parked right next to the stage…
Matty: It happened today and it wakes you up and then you get to see some cool bands.
What are the most fun songs to play live?
Ali: We do an AVRIL LAVIGNE cover.
Matty: We haven’t played that in a while.
Ali: That’s true.
Any chance you’ll play it today? Because you should…
Ali: I know
Matty: Great, nice job. Our boss says no.
Boss: I’ve printed the setlist already.
Ali: The setlist is printed, bam, it’s done!
Matty: All of our songs we try to make fun, I don’t think we have a really serious song
Ali: No, we don’t. We’re not that band.
How has touring changed in the twenty years you’ve been together?
Ali: Well, we started in a little van down by the river, and then we moved to an RV down by the river.
That sounds really idyllic, I feel like it might not have been though…
Ali: No, it’s still not idyllic!
Matty: I think the thing for me is, I learn when somebody’s in a bad mood and I kinda stay out of their hair whereas when we started toured I’d have been like ‘hey dude! Hey dude! Wanna go’ so there’s that.
Ali: When you’re with people 24/7 for a month at a time in the same small space you have to learn how to deal, so like ‘okay, I’m not gonna talk to this guy for a couple of hours’ or you can just be a dick and be like ‘ahahahahaha, I stole your salami and coca cola.’ But you can’t steal people’s food from the fridge.
Matty: Yeah, that’s a no no.
Ali: People get very upset.
Matty: And once the curtains are closed on a bunk, you never open them.
Ali: Never put your hand in.
Matty: These are the things you learn.
The unwritten rules of the tour bus…
Who, dead or alive, would you love the chance to play to?
Ali: To? Ohh, I would like to play to Matty.
Matty: I was gonna say Mila Kunis because I want her to fall in love with me. I figure, if we play a show and I give her a look…
Ali: And your wieners not hanging out.
Matty: Then she’ll fall in love with me.
Ali: She’s married and has a kid with Ashton Kutcher.
Ali: Sorry man. I just don’t want him to have all of these high hopes. Milla Jovovich though, I think she might be single.
Matty: I don’t just want any Mila!
Ali: Oh. Alright. Mila Cyrus, she’s totally available. Is that how you pronounce it? Mila?
Matty: And Honnah Montonanah. This is what happens.
Ali: If you hang out with us long enough, you regret it.
What prompted your album The Early Years – Revisited opposed to an album with new material?
Ali: We actually had a lot of fans request to hear Matty’s voice on some of the older songs, and Dan (guitar) was also in the band now, so we thought it would be a good idea to rerecord some of the songs from our early years. But we do have a new album as well so we kinda did them at the same time.
Matty: It was fun.
Ali: It was fun.
What’s your opinion on ticket/merch prices?
Ali: We try to keep our ticket prices low, I think we do, I hope so.
Matty: For festivals and stuff we really don’t have much say on it, like whoever’s headlining, if they have a lot of pull then maybe they could say something, but we go with whatever they make the prices. Our mentality has always been, especially merch goes, we want more kids to be able to have our swag than a couple of kids so we tend to do our merch stuff pretty cheap. Like when we were kids going to punk shows it was always a good cool thing being able to afford a t-shirt from your favourite band and that’s stuck with us.
Ali: We try to keep it as low as we can. We can’t lose money but we’re not trying to get rich off the t-shirts. Except Matty. Matty is.
Matty: I don’t see a dime from it.
Ali: Matty, tell her how much you spent on your VAN HALEN hoodie.
Matty: I love VAN HALEN, I spent seventy-five dollars for a hoodie. Why? Because I was there at the show.
Ali: I guess it depends on the people, if it’s worth it to you.
Matty: And I buy all the records, I don’t steal them. I love having the records. Love it. I’m gonna go back and buy the vinyls but then I’ll need to go and buy a record player.
Ali: See how it works? Now you’re broke.
Matty: God! Good thing I’m not married!
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