A certain small subset of Charlottesvillians are bound to droll uncontrollably when they hear about the Richmond indie rock group Zetamale, and most of their increased saliva production will no doubt be due to the band’s lineup. When I say small subset, I mean about 10 individuals or so– mostly young men– who can be relied on to know exactly what the next big thing will be and where to find it (and can equally be relied on to drop their interest in the band when they start making it big).
For the rest of us, my description of Zetamale will most likely not produce sweaty palms and pangs of anticipation for their Tokyo Rose show, but it might be something you’d want to check out if you like well-written, quieter-than-normal rock songs.
To get it out of the way first, let’s trace Zetamale’s lineage. Daron Hollowell, on guitar and vocals, once co-frontman for the hardcore group Four Hundred Years, currently flaps around with the Richmond emo/indie group Bats & Mice.
Ash Bruce on drums shares Hollowell’s path to stardom. Cornbread Compton on piano, organ, and synth, is the drummer for the Richmond act, Engine Down (local superstars). Justin Bailey, on second guitar, also rocks with Mazarin and Submerge, and Nick Wurz on bass metamorphosizes from time to time with Gregor Samsa.
Now for those of you to whom the above paragraphs read like hieroglyphics, let me give you a little dissection of Zetamale’s sound. All the songs on their five-track demo (the group is a young one, on their first small tour) are, in the scheme of rock music, quiet. Acoustic guitar and Hollowell’s voice are the constants on each song; usually they start things off before the other instruments kick into the mix.
If you were to put the aforementioned vocals on a scale of clarity, a bell and Tom Waits serving as the measuring bookends, Hollowell would definitely be close to the ringing end. Synth and lead guitar, which is mostly not distorted (and if it is, it’s buried in the mix) help flesh out Hollowell’s foundation, while the drums and bass are some of the tightest I’ve heard in a while.
Hollowell’s songs are simple pop ditties; strong Beatle-esque melodies can be found throughout their demo, with the common post-Weezer time signature making up a fair portion of their tracks. Usually the close confines of Tokyo Rose make any band with an amp greater than a hundred watts (most bands, that is) seem to be producing near eardrum shattering sounds.
Zetamale, with their laid back tunes and emphasis on the lower end of the emotional spectrum, might be the audible relief some of us have been waiting for.
Zetamale with Broken Hips perform at Tokyo Rose October 22. $5, 10pm.