When I was in high school, my buddy had found this band that he would put on repeat throughout our weekend shenanigans. Eventually, he played them so much I got hooked on them too. ZOX, as they were called, provided slick and addictive tunes; see Thirsty and A Little More Time, to get us though the mundane high school world. Since these guys have been on hiatus for a while, I decided it would be worth it to check in and see if they were up for sharing some of their musical insights. Luckily, drummer John Zox answered my request and unveiled some of his musical wisdom.
ZOX became a real ambitious endeavor while opening for some musical legends. “The idea of being in a touring band was not on my radar until an experience late in my senior year of college, as senioritis was kicking in and the light at the end of the proverbial academic tunnel was beginning to glow brighter. In the span of two weeks in the spring, we were invited to open for Guster at UNH and Dispatch at Providence College, each show in front of 2000 people. When we sold out of our 100 CDs (yes, CDs) at each show, I remember thinking, ‘hey, this could actually be something.’” For those of you who don’t know, Guster is one of my favorite bands of all time. I am actually reviewing their Central Park show next week. To open for such epic bands as Guster and Dispatch must have really been something.
John told us about his most pleased work in Zox. “It’s always a great sense of accomplishment when an album gets completed, perhaps even a bit more so than playing a successful show. Shows are fun, but they are fleeting, … representative of only a singular raucous moment in time. Albums, on the other hand, last an eternity, and represent a body of creative work that might date back years. In that light, the second album, “The Wait,” is probably my proudest accomplishment — our first professional recording, with honed, radio-ready songs, that everyone was saying would lead to a record deal. (It did!)”
Their ideal performance was simple and sweet. “Being in a band that started out as a extracurricular hobby, I remember early on my performance dreams were simple: to play the big venues in my hometown. When we finally played Lupo’s, in Providence, RI, opening for our friends Badfish (Sublime tribute), it felt perfect: huge sold-out hometown crowd, big sound system, free beer, gigantic stage…we made it! We even did an encore (a MAJOR no-no if you’re an opening band) and got yelled at by the stage manager. Sublime times, indeed. Ironically, the most difficult performance was also at Lupo’s in Providence. Imagine this: New Year’s Eve, middle act [and] opening for Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The show was sold out, so none of our fans had gotten a chance to buy tix, and most people in the audience didn’t know there’d even be a middle act. Further, the Bosstones fans hadn’t seen them in 10 years — it was their big reunion show. In short, no one wants to see us play, and the audience got a bit unruly — one even threw a bottle onstage. I think we cut the set short and exited stage right, tails between our legs.” Glad they survived in one piece!
John provided his understanding on the music scene both past and present. “It’s a tough biz, that’s for sure, and much tougher than when we started 10 years ago. I remember in 2003 we’d play a show in front of 50 people and sell 50 CDs at $10 a pop, easily covering our room and board for the night. Fast-forward to 2009, and I remember playing in front of 2,000 people, and selling at most 1 CD. Times changed pretty quickly. Besides the changing economics of the biz, I do think that the basics of the art form are the same: hone your craft, find your voice, and play out as much as possible. If you have a unique voice, it’ll resonate with people, and rise to the top.” It is possible to find success in this business. All it requires is hard work and dedication as John mentioned.
The band has since explored and has ventured into new realms with each individual seeking his own path. “It’s been over 5 years since ZOX stopped writing, recording, and touring. The members have gone on to careers in law, design, music and management. For example, a few years ago, I channeled my creativity into plate ware design of all things, patenting a concept and growing it into a small cottage industry: www.holdaplate.com. Interestingly, product design is very similar to songwriting/arranging…but that’s a discussion for an entirely different interview altogether.”
John has plenty of artists who help keep him inspired as he progresses in his career. “Everyday I seek out and am inspired by new things, people and places. With Spotify, for example, I could listen to 10 albums in a day while at work, and one nugget of a song in that mix could become my favorite for the next year. (Last night, for example, I found these songs called Manhattan by Gallant and another called Spain by Blonde Redhead… both which I really liked). Life is too short to ‘not’ be receptive to these sorts of daily discoveries. I’m also doing a lot of work in SoHo (NYC) lately, and the fashion I see in the store windows is amazing. Inspiration can come from any medium, of course.”
“Musically, the band, unfortunately, has no plans to record anytime soon. We’ll probably do a reunion show sometime in the next few years, and if I had my druthers, finally have some of our old tour video footage edited into a documentary. Secretly I also sort of want to join a wedding band — just ‘cuz it’d be sort of fun to play covers all night long to an inebriated dancing crowd.” I will make a deal with you John, at my wedding someday; we could make that a reality. Take a listen folks and I think you will share my sentiment.