Sanzu


Anytime a band drops their début record, it often proves a nail-biting task. You desperately want to succeed and equally deny any failure. Fortunately for Perth death metal quintet Sanzu, they’re riding high on that euphoric wave of expectation and positive feedback, with the release of their first full-length album, ‘Heavy Over The Home’. Killyourstereo.com took some time out with founding member and guitarist Jarod ‘Century’, to discuss their writing process, geography, serendipitous band formation and the busting of cherries.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to Killyourstereo.com today Jarod.

No worries, it’s a pleasure. It’s also the first time I’ve done something like this, so we’ll see how I go.

Excellent. I’m glad I could bust your cherry for you mate.

[Laughs] God, I love that figure of speech.

It’s great, and very metal, I assure you. Now, the obvious thing to talk about is the release of your début full-length record, ‘Heavy Over The Home’, which comes out this week. What’s the mood like in the Sanzu camp right now? Are you guys excited? Nervous? Apprehensive even?

We’re all extremely excited. I think we’ve had the weight lifted off our shoulders, as we put this record out really fast. Really kind of busted our arses to put this one together quick, so we’re definitely feeling a sense of relief. But I’d say we’re also quite nervous about how it’ll be received and accepted, [to see] if people make a direct comparison to our [Painless] EP, or see if people feel that we’ve taken that next step as a band. Not apprehensive, but definitely excited and nervous, for sure.

That’s awesome dude. I’ve had a copy of the record for the last few weeks and I’ve been giving it a lot of spins lately, and I can honestly say that ‘Heavy Over The Home’ is an absolute beast, so congratulations to you and rest of Sanzu. You should all feel very stoked.

Man, that’s great to hear. You know sometimes the negative things you hear outweigh the positives, because they’re usually said a lot louder. Especially for me, being a particularly sensitive individual. So I’ve definitely got to learn how to [navigate the] internet, and not take things to heart, with all the feedback you know, whether it be positive or negative, and just not listen to the hate.

Exactly dude. Don’t listen to the haters.

[Laughs] I’ll definitely try not to. It’s all a big learning curve you know.

Absolutely. Talking about the band specifically for a moment now. Sanzu is a fairly young band, having only formed in 2013. Could you tell us a little about the formation of the band, where the members came from, and how you met? And I know some of you did time in previous bands too, if you wanted to mention those as well?

I’ll do my best. Sometimes the order of these things gets messed around, and I’ll say something and go, “Wait, did that happen?” [Laughs] I get confused a lot with the details, so maybe one day I’ll have a strange, twisted tale of how it all went down. Who knows?

The initial genesis of the band, was when I used to play in a band called Animistic and ended up parting ways with those guys. I was at home, and really wanted to keep doing music, so I started writing stuff and doing demoes on the computer. I ended up flipping those off to my friend Mikey [Hart], who’s our other guitarist now. I’d already known him for quite some time, and met him through TAFE when we did a music course together. Ben [Stanley] our drummer, I’d also already known for years just as a friend, and I played in one of his bands, Malignant Monster, for a short stint of a year and a bit. I wanted the right man for the job, and Ben’s just an absolute killer drummer, so there’s really no way I thought I could do it without him. And I’m glad we got him, as he wasn’t too keen on playing metal I think, at that point. So he got back to me, and was very happy. Mikey wasn’t doing much, so he was keen also.

From here we had a couple of other guys try out, after we started working on stuff. We had a guy called Geoff [Shumack], who’s the vocalist for a great band called Tusk and they’re still going now. So Geoff was working with us, and time was just kind of catching up with us. The guitarist from Tusk, whose name is Mitch [Swan], he’s a great dude, was also playing bass for us. We had a couple of jams together, but Mitch didn’t have enough time to keep playing with us, so we kind of just parted ways and Geoff was still busy doing stuff with Tusk. And then I stumbled across Zachary [Andrews], who’s our singer now, on Facebook. He commented on some shitty demo I put up, saying he liked a little riff in there. And we just started talking, and it ended up that we had very similar lyrical concepts and he showed me some of the stuff that he’d worked on already. So we kept chatting, played some Battlefield 4 together and bonded over that. He was living in Esperance I think, at the time, so it was kind of impossible for him to be a vocalist for us, but as it turned out he came to Perth and I wanted him to do a guest vocal for the band. We still thought Geoff would be our singer at this point, and then Zach sent me back this guest vocal and it was just incredible. It had this kind of screeching part on it mixed with really low, death metal sort of stuff and I thought, ‘Holy shit, this guy’s amazing.’ It just completely blew me away. So from that point on, things pretty much just fell into place. Zach wanted to move, and Geoff wasn’t working out because of time constraints, so we said goodbye to Geoff and brought Zach on board. He moved his whole life up to come to Perth and sing for the band, and that was really cool.

We also played without a bass player for some time and people were always asking about it. So the guitarist from Malignant Monster, another guy called Jarrod [Curley], came up to us after one of our shows and said, “Hey, I’ve got your bass player.” And we said, “What do you mean?” And he points to his wife Fatima [Curley], and says, “Fatima’s a bass player.” And it was such a great idea, you know, we hadn’t even thought about it and just didn’t realise. Ben had known that she played bass, but it just never occurred to him. But we’re very happy that Jarrod put the idea out there, and after a few practice sessions, it just made sense. That’s pretty much how we got to together. A weird mix and match of … [Dramatic pause] … Man, that guy is really mowing his lawn… [Laughs] Yeah sorry, just a weird mix and match of events coming together, to make individuals available for the purpose.

It’s cool to see how things like that seem to fall into place. And I guess this links back to the record in a way, because ‘Heavy Over The Home’ is really kind of a melting pot of all the different aspects of modern metal. You’ve got lots of grooves, technical guitar work, interwoven melodies and the whole thing is unashamedly heavy as well. So pulling this all apart, where did this sound come from for the band? And where do you draw your biggest musical inspirations?

Originally, I put together maybe three or four songs, which were more tracks we ended up using for the EP and some that didn’t make the cut. And I think that because I wrote some stuff by myself, we already had the sound established pretty much immediately. In Animistic, we were a kind of eight-string, down-tuned, Meshuggah-esque type band, and that was all really fun. But after that, I really wanted to do something different, something that was a new intellectual property and hadn’t really been done. So I just jammed a whole bunch of stuff that I really liked. I mean I listen to heaps of different stuff, not just metal. But when I do listen to metal, I like everything. And I wanted to do that in a vehicle that understood, and keep it in a more death metal vein. We all bring our own influences to the table. Mikey for example, is a massive, massive Morbid Angel fan. Myself, I’m definitely the Gojira & Devin Townsend guy, and I love that stuff. It’s hard to explain, but sometimes stuff just happens and just ‘is’. I think the title track from our album, that one didn’t come from any particular space, it was more of just a vomiting out of ideas. We never really tried to have a specific sound.

That’s cool. I think when you start jamming in a room of other people, you’ll inevitably start bleeding influences onto each other and sampling each other’s tastes, so that makes perfect sense. The other big hook for me was a visual one with your album artwork, which is just incredible. It really matches the mood and themes of the record and makes for quite a good pairing. Looking through the press material and the band’s Facebook page, I believe it’s your vocalist Zach behind the concept, right?

That’s correct. Aside from our logo, Zach has done everything art-wise for the band and it’s been amazing having him do it. He can really couple the music with his ideas or vice versa. He’s a great artist, and I love his style, use of colour and the concepts that come with them. It really stands out, and you can’t just look at it twice. People should definitely check him out at Studio Formless, to see more of his work. I feel so lucky that he can sing so well for us and also do that level of art. Being able to trust someone in house, to do the art and get it perfect, is awesome.

Now when I was trawling through the band’s Facebook page, I happened upon an older post where the band discussed the concept and themes explored on ‘Heavy Over The Home’ and analysed each track. I found that very interesting, and going back to that melting pot analogy from before,  the themes on this record are very diverse, covering topics like existentialism, gross materialism, human selfishness, climate change and rampant neglect of the environment.

The concept of the ‘cosmic tantrum’ is something that we mentioned about the actual artwork we used and the main figure on the cover. Looking at the artwork, you can see it. There’s so much going on there. So to have all our concepts mixed in with this music at the same time, is kind of opposed to the more streamlined approach we had on the Painless EP. I think the concept explains itself, but what’s good is that someone can look at it, and not necessarily read into it what we do. I mean it’ll just make sense, and you can take away what you want from it. If people want to look at our lyrics, and at all these different elements of being, and elements of life and how they move forward and backward, then they can. It all adds up and makes experiences that we can then write music about.

Absolutely dude. Listening to the record the first few times through, I just kind of took it in at that superficial level and still found it really enjoyable. But as I went back, and listened to the lyrics more intently, and read about where the songs originated from, you start to peel back those layers and make each listen that much richer. 

I feel it’s an important thing. I often tell people, when they see my lyrics written down, you know, that I do write very metaphorically. But at the same time, I want lyrics that can just be ‘read’. I don’t want them to be all abstract and make no sense, and have each line as some metaphoric symbol. Even if you don’t know what the lyrics are, or they don’t mean shit to you, it should still be enjoyable just as a song and be a cool bit of writing. We like to emphasise that our lyrics are probably a little bit more personal than some other bands, but they’re also a big part of how our songs feel and how they sound. Enjoying it both ways is definitely the best outcome.

As one of the principal founding members of Sanzu, do you feel slightly protective of the band’s direction, and would you say that you exert any conscious control over where the band goes musically?

[Laughs] I’d say of course. I mean, without putting a foot wrong, if there’s something I really want, I’ll definitely argue my case for it. But at the end of the day, we’re a team – so we do things as a team, and nobody speaks louder than anybody else. We figure things out and we make compromises, you know, as all the best teams do. By the end of it, we always agree.

Well said Jarod. I think it shows in your music that there’s a certain level of freedom or exploration in development when it comes to your song writing? Would you agree?

Absolutely. I would hate for it to be any other way. I’d hate to get home from a jam and go, ‘Man, I know Mikey really hated playing that part.’ I would hate to not bring that up as a group and discuss it at some point. I really like to have an open forum when it comes to our music, because we have to perform it. And if you hate what you’re doing, it’s going to wear you down. So we’re all happy to make compromises. In the jam room, we’ve all made suggestions on what we think is the right thing to do, and I think that’s a really good thing.

Now for the inevitable question: how do you find being a metal band in Perth plays out, when you’re slightly isolated from the East Coast touring circuit? It seems that in almost every interview I read with a band from Perth, it’s always brought up, like your city is some distant, faraway region of planet.

[Laughs] Right, well we’ve been asked this before. And we all kind of agreed on a point here, which is that: yeah, Perth is faraway, but how easy is it to get places these days? I mean it’s really no skin off anyone’s teeth. I guess we’re isolated by the fact that it costs more money, and you have to spend more to get here, which can make it harder. Aside from that, if you’re willing, you can get to places and do shows and achieve all those goals. So, I don’t think having Perth geographically further than other cities, makes that much difference at all. Yeah we miss out on some things sometimes, but you know, we still get a lot of stuff too. I didn’t choose to be here, so I’m cool with it and it’s just how things are.

As far being in a metal band in Perth, things are fantastic. I think that isolation thing plays into it quite a bit, so we all really stick together. There’s a lot of good brotherhood & sisterhood, between bands and other musicians. Nobody walks around like they’re better than anyone else. And we have a really strong scene here, albeit smaller, which is very cool. It’s a bit harder to tour maybe, but we know other bands have done it and aren’t complaining. So we just save up that extra cash and go do it. That’s my outlook on it. Maybe it was a lot harder back when we didn’t have Facebook and social media. But with stuff like that, you can advertise in places you’ve never been before and you can get in contact with bands you’ve never heard of before. So I think isolation doesn’t have impact it might once have. Music is a global thing now.

Definitely dude. I think it’s a slowly eroding mindset and something which the Internet has managed to overcome very quickly, and really equalled the playing field for a lot of different bands in all places.

100% agree.

So finally, we’re nearing the end of 2015, where everyone starts rounding up their record hauls for the year and making lists. So what are some of your favourite records from 2015? Both locally and internationally? What have you been getting in to this year?

Well, I’m not always up on modern, current music. Especially releases for this year. I haven’t listened to the new Nile [album], or any of the stuff people have been talking about. I’m kind of stuck discovering things from last year. For me, a hip hop guy called Yelawolf put out an album called ‘Love Story’, which I absolutely love. Another one I’ve really been hammering is YOB’s record from last year, ‘Clearing The Path To Ascend’. If you like any doom-y sorta stuff, it’s fantastic. Not really this year, but it’s kind of close. I saw YOB and met Mike [Scheidt] not too long ago. I really don’t keep track, I’m too busy playing Bloodborne on Playstation and doing the band. I’m just going to say those two, even though one’s from last year and the other one’s not metal.

That’s completely fine Jarod, there are no rules.

We’ve definitely had our heads buried getting this record out, so the album I listened to the most this year was probably ours. I’m going to go home now, find what I listened to on Spotify, and go, ‘Oh, that and that and that.’

[Laughs] Understandably so, all good. We’ll wrap it up there. Thanks again for speaking with Killyourstereo.com. Have fun on tour and take it easy.

Thanks man. Thank you very much.

‘Heavy Over The Home’ is out now and available through Sanzu’s Bandcamp page.

Read our review here.

SANZU TOUR

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