Zebrahead was formed in 1996 in Orange County, California, a place that is famous for spawning many bands that were a part of the post-punk/ska explosion of the 1990’s, although Zebrahead found themselves leaning more toward hip-hop than the local trend of ska-punk upon their formation. Their first EP Yellow was released in May 1998 on indie label Dr. Dream and their full-length debut Waste of Mind was released on Columbia shortly thereafter. Throughout the years, the band has shared gigs with bands like Less Than Jake, Green Day, Kottonmouth Kings, 311, Reel Big Fish, and Goldfinger. The band’s current line up consists of Matty Lewis on rhythm guitar and vocals, Ali Tabatabaee on vocals/rapping, Ben Osmundson on bass, Ed Udhus on drums, and Dan Palmer on lead guitar.
Just after the NAMM, (National Association of Music Merchants) trade show in Anaheim, California, Palmer updated us on what the band has been up to. As far as Palmer’s NAMM experience he had this to say, “I go almost every year, but this year I was alright. I just wasn’t in the mood for after parties, ya know?” Despite awesome events like the Schecter Guitar party featuring Body Count and Silver Tomb (with Johnny Kelly of Danzig and Type o Negative) Palmer decided to keep it mellow: “Yeah I saw they were playing and yeah Body Count is fun, but with a few days being there, I just didn’t want to sit through a loud set, ya know?” Palmer was more excited to discuss the release of the band’s thirteenth studio album Brain Invaders, which was out March 6th in Japan on the Avex Group label, and March 8th Worldwide on the MFZB Record label. The Japanese version featuring a bonus 15th track entitled Follow Me (Japanese Short Version).
On January 9, 2019, the band announced that Brain Invaders would be released in March and released the music video for the album’s first single, All My Friends Are Nobodies. Palmer explains, All My Friends Are Nobodies was one of the first songs we wrote for this album. “It has a great message that you should be there for the people you care about, even though you might not be in the best place yourself.” The music video features a faceless woman in a cage drinking champagne, throwing money around and basically freaking out. As far as the artistic direction of this video Palmer elaborates, “We wanted to do something different than the typical band standing there playing type of video. We have done those in the past, and they are ok, but we just decided to try something a little different.” The video was done by Daniel Lindner who has worked with the band in the past.
The band have also just released a video for We’re Not Alright. This video also does not feature the band, but instead a television filled with static and images of famine and war. With a video this dark and lyrics like “So this is war/ We are the wasted/ We can’t ignore/We gotta face it” one might think this is a depressing song, but the tempo and music is surprisingly upbeat. This video was also done by Daniel Lindner with help from Thomas Barg.
As far as the writing process and fan expectations for the new record, Palmer explicates: “We’ve been writing this for a longtime, we’ve been writing for like up to 5 years. We would think, ‘oh this is a cool song,’ then like, ‘ok let’s rewrite it, make it better, and let’s rewrite it again and make it better.’ So, some of the ideas have been around for a long time, we just kinda like been writing and rewriting and just kinda hammering down the song writing. As far as fan expectations we just kinda didn’t want to worry about that too much. We did think ‘ok let’s make some of the heavy stuff heavier and the mellow stuff more mellow.’ Because you have to make it more interesting than the run of the mill type of song.” The albums track listing includes songs like When Both Sides Suck, We’re All Winners. Palmer explains, “We are not really a political band, but that song was our attempt at addressing everything that is going on these days. The title pretty much tells it like it is.”
As far as the album artwork, it is straightforward with the band’s name in big white letters surrounding an image of a flying saucer in a striking red and blue. The saucer is sucking up a large human brain. Palmer explains, “Yeah we have a friend who did it for us. We like the way it came out, we honestly tried like twenty different album covers, and that one seemed to be the one we liked the most.” As far as who the Brain Invaders are exactly Palmer describes, “I don’t know if they’re really anybody, but it’s kinda like a take off lyrically and with our art work too. Brain invaders is kinda like you know, us and the music. Maybe some of the songs are thought provoking and invading your brain with a couple of different ideas.”
Interestingly, the new album was produced by Paul Miner who Palmer also worked with in the band Death by Stereo. Miner left Death by Stereo in early 2005 and began producing other bands such as Avenue of Escape, Suburban Crisis, New Found Glory, H2O, Atreyu, Thrice, The Casualties, Underminded and Acid Rain. Palmer is also the current guitarist in Death by Stereo. The two bands are currently on tour together, meaning Palmer is pulling double duty every night. As far as working with both bands, Palmer said this: “Yeah it can be hard to divide my time between both bands. Definitely at times it can lead to conflicts. But actually It’s a good thing. We are all friends we are doing Australia together, so I get to play. I will be on stage for like four hours with both bands.”
Brain invaders is the first Zebrahead album to be self-released other than Japan, which makes for more pressure on the band. This is one reason why the release of Brain Invaders was delayed a bit. “Yeah we finished recording it like, I think we finished recording it in March of last year, so it’s been over a year since it’s been recorded. We were trying to figure what label to go with, and all that stuff took time. We got a different label in Japan, and we talked to a few labels there, before that. We talked to a bunch of labels around the world and then we said ‘fuck it, let’s put it out ourselves and put it out on the label in Japan.’ So we are self releasing it outside of Japan. It’s way more difficult this way. It’s like we have to do everything you know, get distributors, we gotta figure everything out you know? But in a way its been kind of easier because we can fully control where we want to spend our marketing dollars, you know what I mean? Like on our last label, we were on Root Record, who I love, but we would be like ‘hey we need more publicity in Germany” and they were like ‘no we are trying to push the album in France.’ Now we have our own publicist just for Germany and we have a lot more presence there.”
As far as where fans can get the album: “Right now you can order it through our website Zebrahead.com, and get it directly through us that way, as well as merch. Also, it’s gonna have major distribution so, as far in L.A., it will probably be at places like Amoeba Records and wherever else you buy records like Fingerprints in Long Beach, places like that, small independent record stores.” It always nice to know that a few record stores still remain, although they are dying in the United States. Palmer tells us that record stores are still popular in other parts of the world: “It’s ridiculous that they are all closing. You know, we flew to Japan to do a promo tour and Tower Records is still a thing there. It’s like such a cool thing to like cruise a record store and look at records. It’s like a blast from the past. There are still some places it is still thriving, lucky enough, thankfully enough.”
Currently the band won Las Vegas radio station X107.5 New Music Beatdown with Pauly Kover. The station plays new songs back-to-back and then the audience votes and the winner moves on to the next night against another new song Zebrahead All My Friends Are Nobodies won with 81% of the vote. The band is also currently on a world wide tour with their friends in Death by Stereo.
Upcoming tour dates