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The Zooeys - Interviewed

- Mitch West

(From left) Cody Hagen, John Douglas, Cole Yeager, Zooey Rudd Photo Credit: The Zooeys

From Craigslist to stealing hearts, The Zooey's have played a vital role in putting Lincoln's expanding music scene on the map. The band describes itself as a rock and roll group influenced by several well-known bands. The Zooey's lineup consists of Zooey Rudd on lead vocals and guitar, Cole Yeager on drums, John Douglas on bass, and Cody Hagen on guitar. We had the opportunity to have a little Q&A session with The Zooey's before they take the stage for the Spring Fling 2023 show at The Rococo Theatre, here in Lincoln, NE on March, 31st.

Break down the band's history. How did The Zooey's get assembled? Where is everyone from and what do they play?

Cole: "I met Zooey through the Craigslist back pages. I was looking for love and bought a guitar instead and the rest is history ;)"

Cody: "It is all Cole’s fault. Fall of 2018, Cole and I were jamming to some of our

favorite bands while we were in college, and he wanted to buy a short-scale bass. I looked one up on Craigslist and Cole went to buy it. That is how Cole met Zooey. Zooey sold him the bass, and Cole being a compulsive networker offered to play drums for Zooey’s project. They started working together on the first Zooey album, and early that next year I started practicing with them. We performed for about four months as a three-piece, with Zooey on guitar and vocals, myself on bass, and Cole on drums. By late summer 2019, we decided to look for a bass player so that I could perform on my main instrument, and I would take over some guitar parts so Zooey could focus more on singing. We put out an ad for a bass player, and John was quickly integrated into the band. We all come from different backgrounds and upbringings. None of us knew each other before the band existed except Cole and I. Zooey grew up in Idaho and spent time in Chicago before moving to Lincoln. Cole came to Lincoln from the North Bay in California for college. John came from ________, Nebraska, and graduated from Doane University. And I was born and raised here in Lincoln."

Zooey: "Times were hard. Each of us had our troubles--gambling debts have gone unpaid, the bank calling on the farm more and more often--and things had gotten desperate. As unlikely as it sounds, each of us turned to a bank robbery on the same day, and at the same time, we robbed a small time bank upstate. While the teller was putting the code into the vault we got to talking. Life is fleeting, what lasts? Rock and roll are forever. Why don't we turn away from this life of crime? Why not start a band? "

John: "Craigslist is where it’s at! "

How did the Spring Fling show come about?

Zooey: "The Rococo Theatre just reached out to us directly and said they were interested in putting a local show together. We were excited about it because we had never played there before and it's such a cool and historic building. (We have never robbed the Rococo. It is not a bank and we don't do that anyway.) When you tack on the other two bands, Parking Lot Party and Distressed Damsels, who are both spectacular, we were thrilled about it. It's one of my most anticipated shows ever honestly."

Let's talk a bit about musical influences. What artists do you look up to? Who inspires you?

Cody: "I got started in music as a pianist and grew up with mostly classical

music and hymns. I started playing guitar at 13, and I quickly became obsessed with metal and punk. Older friends of mine also introduced me to bands like Coldplay and Muse which became my favorite bands of mine until this day. I produced a lot of EDM while I was in high school and still love playing with synthesizers. By the time I was in college, I was still covering a lot of metal and hardcore bands, but I started to get into shoegaze, dream pop, and synth wave, probably due to my obsession with The 1975’s broad library. My musical influence for the Zooey’s has mostly come from relatively contemporary artists in the alternative space. The bands I pull from the most include Bad Suns, Radiohead, Coldplay, Muse, 1975, My Bloody Valentine, Slow Dive, and The War on Drugs. I like lots of ambient guitar parts, walls of sound coming from the bass and rhythm guitar, and finding fun ways to integrate synth into our garage band style of performing. I would directly compare my style of guitar playing to Johnny Buckland from Coldplay, as the tones and progressions I use can be found throughout Coldplay’s early discography."

Cole: "As a drummer, some of my biggest influences would be Zac Farro and Aaron" Gillespie. "Zac and Aaron's playing has been hugely influential to me and how I think about playing drums. They're both just super tight players that can hit insanely hard and if you've ever seen Underoath or Paramore live you'd know how fun they are to watch!"

John: "I like to listen to as much variety as possible when I can. As for artists I admire Red Hot Chili Peppers, anything Chris Cornell, Rihanna, Adele, Chris Stapleton, Kendrick Lamar, Beatles, Nirvana, Lizzo, and more."

Rumor has it you guys dig Ivanna Cone. How did this get to be a group love? What are some of your favorite ice cream favorites?

Cole: "Ehhh... I don't know I'm not a big ice cream guy"

John: "Ice cream is life. 402 Creamery might have an edge over me ;) I like trying the weirdest things on the menu."

Zooey: "I feel like I am probably mostly forcing the ice cream thing on the others, ha. I don't drink and I don't rob banks so sugar is how I feel my feelings. People sleep on Lincoln as an ice cream town though. Between Lincoln and Omaha, there is so much good ice cream. That's the first thing I pitch to friends and family when I want them to come visit."

(Left)John Douglas (Top) Cole Yeager (Right) Zooey Rudd (Bottom) Cody Hagen Photo Credit: Cade Suing

How did you guys find your sound? What music styles make up your sound and what would you classify The Zooeys as?

Cole: "We got our sound from playing together in the basement of a trap house for 6 solid years or so. I think the musty air in the basement addled our brains enough to create our unique and critically acclaimed Zooey's sound."

Cody: "When we started as a three-piece, I’d describe our sound as similar to

garage bands like The Black Keys or The Strokes. Zooey plays a very blues-influenced style of guitar, and when I was the bassist, I was playing like I was Mark Hoppus from Blink 182. Since we added John, we have had a fuller sound with two guitarists providing noticeably unique flavors of playing. As we build up our songs, they often start by sounding “garage band-esque” or bluesy, but we quickly start finding ways of blending heaviness from punk/hardcore, swing, and groove from hip-hop, ambiance from 2000s alternative, and catchy riffs from indie pop bands. I’d label the result as broadly alternative, though we are constantly trying to break genre expectations and blend in aspects that people won’t see coming."

As for songwriting, what has been your process?

Cole: "Normally Zooey brings us a song and we each kinda jam with it until we're all happy with our parts. I think I usually end up noodling around on drums to set the rhythm before the other parts are done, and then I continue to tweak what I'm doing as I hear the other guys coming up with their parts."

Zooey: "It's like that Michelangelo quote you see around sometimes about seeing the angel in the marble and setting it free. I don't think I've ever felt like I wrote a song. I've always felt like I've discovered them, and when I find them their bones are already ancient and weathered. I also don't believe that songs should be about Any One Thing, I think every song should be about everything. Every song has a universe it lives within and it should look as many directions within that universe as it can."

Cody: "Typically Zooey or I bring a riff or a skeleton of a song and show it to the

rest of the guys. We start jamming around the riff or composing along to the skeleton structure of the song. Once we have found a foundation for the composition, I will usually take it into my studio and start screwing around with synths, weird guitar parts, piano, and orchestral elements."

What music have you been listening to lately and what local bands do you dig?

Cole: "Lately I've been listening to a lot of EDM lately since Skrillex just released his new albums. They bang pretty hard so I highly recommend checking them out."

Cody: "I want to shout out The Credentials, one of the first bands we performed

with here in Lincoln, and who we have been friends with ever since. Those guys know how to rock out. I’d say comparing them to Nirvana is not unreasonable. Their songs have that quintessential grunge tone and their rhythm section adds a lot of flair and groove to the more straightforward elements of their sound. They’ve got two great albums out already (the growth from album to album is inspiring), and I believe they’re starting work on a third album."

Cody: "I have been listening to a lot of metal bands lately: Deftones, Thornhill,

Northlane, Periphery. You can always catch me bumping a 1975 tune as well. Their last album and the tour were incredible and inspiring. I’ve been diving back into Radiohead and learning more about their writing style. The Weeknd is often in my mix too. After Hours is an album that just doesn’t miss."

Zooey: "I really can't believe how much talent there is in Nebraska. In addition to the two other bands on this bill, who are rad, I love Bad Self Portraits, Garst, Peachie, Uh Oh, and Saving Fiona, I'm forgetting a bunch but they know who they are. I feel like I see new good bands here all the time."

John: "Practicing covers: Radiohead, War on Drugs, Fleet Foxes, Culture Abuse. Fleetwood Mac, country, podcasts. Local bands: all the bands we’ve played with! The Fey, The Creds, Peachie, etc. "

What is your approach to performing live?

Cole: "Ever seen that clip of Bill O'Reilly where he screams "WE'LL DO IT LIVE!!!"? That's my approach to all of our shows."

John: "Leave it all out there."

Cody: "I’d say we have two main approaches. At smaller venues, we often lean

into the garage band sound. We strip back some texture elements and focus on rocking out. When we are playing larger shows with more support, we try to make our performance sound closer to our recorded sound. We bring in backing tracks for some of the more unexpected instrumentation you can hear in our recordings. Our shoegaze elements show up with large ambient synths and tons of reverb. Expect to hear a large and dynamic sound at the Spring Fling."

For those attending a Zooey's show for the first time, what can they expect?

Zooey: "Like the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, except no John Lennon in the crowd, RIP."

Cole: "Expect to feel a whole range of emotions: Happy, Excited, Angsty, and Sad."

John: "Energy"

You guys were kids not that long ago just starting to learn how to rock. For the kid putting a band together for the first time what are some pieces of advice you have/words of wisdom?

Cole: "PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE. And practice to a metronome/click track while you're at it. It sounds boring and it is extremely monotonous at times but trust me you will thank me for it later. When you get on stage, you shouldn't need to think about what you're going to play, you should be able to just grip it and rip it. Being on stage is where you get to add the flare and have fun, but that gets infinitely harder to do if you don't know your material cold."

Cody: "Find musicians you vibe with and start playing and writing with them.

Learn the basics of as many instruments as you can. Learn how to make a band sound good with whatever instrumentation you and your friends have. Working with other musicians is the quickest way to improve your instrument and learn collaboration. Practice your instrument as much as possible, work with others as much as possible, and bring an open mind. Also, study the basics of audio engineering so that you can start tracking your band and developing a recorded style of music."

Zooey: "Be humble, and always listen. Be authentic always and if your authenticity is basic and lame, then dig deeper or read a book or something."

John: "Just do it. Collaborate, dedicate time, and take chances."

Tickets are still available for Spring Fling 2023 on March 31st at The Rococo Theatre. Doors are open at 6:00pm with showtime at 7:00pm. If you didn't snag your tickets before the show, you can purchase them day of at the door. This is an all ages show and The Rococo will have a clear bag policy.

*Updated 4.30.23*


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