Localized – Cornered By Zombies, Settle Down and Gunner
September’s Localized brings to the stage two of the hardest-working heavy acts in the valley today: Cornered by Zombies, a thrash metal two-piece that is erupting onto the scene, and Settle Down, the latest hard rock collaboration of veteran musicians you may already know and love. On Sept. 14, Urban Lounge (21+) hosts these two badass bands and openers Gunner, who will tear up the stage. For a mere five bones at the door, you can’t afford to miss it.
Settle Down is sort of a bastard child of a band—a thing created by dudes who love music so much, one band just isn’t enough to quiet their creative muses. An endeavor like this takes a special kind of trust between bandmates, both as friends and as musicians, which is rare and wonderful to watch. Most musicians can’t juggle a single band with work, family, school and all of the other demands of life. The boys in Settle Down give a hearty “fuck that” to such complications: They all work multiple jobs and contribute to at least one other band, if not more, including I Am the Ocean, reggae band Slow Ride, pop-rock Antics and bluesy Twist the Bulb. Vocalist Dreu Hudson says, “We don’t fuck around.”
Hudson highlights an interesting perspective on their music, considering the band more or less started as a joke. “Our friend, Bacon, took some acid and decided he wanted to learn how to play drums, so Jeremy and I started this band to teach him, and it kind of turned into something real,” says guitarist Eric Rose. The percussion student Bacon left the band—which, Rose says, is “a whole other story”—and the group tapped on the shoulder of drummer Taylor Orton to replace him on this new, major trajectory. Orton and Rose have played together since their high school days, and he and Hudson also play together in I Am The Ocean, creating a unique and comfortable foundation for this new outfit. Together with bassist Jeremy Conder and second vocalist Alex Johnson, Settle Down came together, writing what Rose describes as pop-influenced heavy rock. “We just try to create music that is appealing to us— groovy, but something more,” he says. They try to tap into the same vein feeding bands such as Torche and Deftones—acts that are undeniably heavy, yet appealing to folks who don’t normally enjoy the darkness of thicker genres.
Unlike each member’s other bands, Settle Down boasts two vocalists—a sight that usually signals one vocalist doing the heavy lifting while the other offers the clean sweetness … but that’s not the case here. Instead, Hudson says he and Johnson only aim to make the best sound they can, with no formula or back-and-forth road map. The vocals are harsh, but not your typical death growl—it’s more like the desperate, lung-burning howl of Touché Amoré. They accent and strengthen each other and the overall atmosphere of the track, almost chanting over the melodies underneath. “I’m a little more of a passenger. Alex Johnson is the lyrical driver here, and I just come in and add my flavor to it. He’s really image-driven and dark, and I just try to get dark with him. We both do all kinds of stuff vocally. Everything we do is super organic,” says Hudson.
At least a decade of playing together has bred a unique relationship between these musicians. After all, not many bands can claim to almost never practice and come out with a polished and enjoyable sound at the other end. Yet, this is the field Settle Down is playing on. “[When] we get together, we just try to kick ass as much as possible. We write and record—we don’t practice,” says Rose. This devil-may-care method of music-making is unusual, to be sure, but the guys have trust in one another. Especially strong is the intuition between high school buddies Rose and Orton. “Eric and I have been jamming forever. Anything that’s coming up from him, I can already feel it,” says Orton. As a full group, they are supportive of the music at large, and check any needless vanity at the door—nothing is held back, and the music is built with open minds and mutual respect, or, as Hudson puts it: “No egos, just tall boys.”
The comfortable vibe woven throughout has certainly translated into some real-world successes since the decision to turn the band into a serious project. In a year’s time, they’ve not only played a smattering of smaller gigs throughout the valley and Provo, but they were also a part of both Crucial Fest and Doom and Gloom Fest this year, two of the biggest festival-style showcases for heavier music in Utah. Settle Down see the local metal scene being in somewhat of a downturn at the present moment, but have lost no love for the bands or fans still keeping the faith. “I wish kids responded more the way they used to, like five years ago, but the people that appreciate it will always be there,” says Rose.
A big first year is only getting bigger with the band’s first release, a split 7” with Sure Sign Of The Nail, booked tentatively to coincide with their Sept. 8 show at Burt’s Tiki Lounge alongside Yob and Norska. While they have no concrete plans for a tour, the band has already recorded enough material to fill three more records, which means the Salt Lake Valley is going to get a lot more sweet tunes in the near future.
Cornered By Zombies
Drummer Jason Denney sums up the lifeblood of his band, Cornered By Zombies, in that single sentence. He and guitarist Basil Eisenman work two jobs each, including shifts at the Blue Plate Diner and Coffee Garden, respectively. On top of that, the two help run a small, self-made T-shirt business, The Paper Street Shirt Company, from Denney’s basement, and hold two lengthy jam sessions a week. As busy as they are, the music is never neglected. After a prolific year playing shows in the Salt Lake area, rather than feeling the burnout approaching, both dudes are salivating at the chance to expand outside of Utah on a tour run. “It’s not out of the realm of ideas—everything just takes forever,” says Eisenman. Luckily, patience is a virtue Cornered by Zombies has in spades.
The band is a two-piece, instrumental outfit—a rare happening in any genre, but especially in metal. Before they’d coined their apocalyptic band name, they were three dudes jamming and writing simply for the love of the music. “We all knew each other from the same small town, growing up in Moab,” says Eisenman. “We all bought and sold equipment to each other and played together, so we were really good friends.” Denney was already up in Salt Lake jamming when Eisenman made his way up from Moab and found himself inbetween projects—or as he calls it, “band single.” Eisenman found his old friends, Denney and ex-guitarist Derek Nielsen, and joined their jam sessions, adding a more traditional Maiden- and Metallica-inspired thrash to the band’s sound. When Nielsen joined the Air Force, Denney and Eisenman decided to continue on without him and focus on building a musically acrobatic, two-piece act.
Instrumental bands aren’t totally uncommon in metal, though they do tend to have a more atmospheric, ethereal vibe along the lines of Pelican. But Eisenman and Denney wanted to bring that philosophy to their thrash-based sound. “I’ve been listening to metal forever. One constant is the deep, grating “Cookie Monster” growl, and people either love or hate that. So, we wanted to try the music without someone screaming at the audience the whole time. Now I don’t have to wait for a breakdown to rip out a cool riff—I can just do it whenever I want. The biggest compliment we get is, ‘I hate metal, and that was awesome,’” says Eisenman. Adding a vocalist now, both agree, would be a tricky endeavor. Their speedy song structures leave little room for vocals in any case: Denney says, some days, it’s hard for them to even play their own tracks, despite their decades of experience. “We probably couldn’t sing or scream anyway, even if we wanted to.”
As far as adding members to the Cornered By Zombies family, neither member is against the idea outright, but they are definitely not looking for anyone. “I think if we added someone now, everyone would bitch that we were better as a two-piece, and it’s not exactly easy material to teach someone,” says Eisenman. Another bonus to their small group is how much easier it is for them to jump the sometimes-band-ending hurdles of band-member drama and finding practice time. Cornered By Zombies have “never argued about anything,” and having only two members to set up for shows—both well versed in the art of drumkit arrangement—makes for a speedy transition both on and off the stage. “Only two of us need to show up, only two of us need to set up, and we can Tetris all of our equipment into one 4-Runner. It’s much easier,” says Denney. The same ease holds true for practice, which takes place at Denney’s home, meaning Eisenman only needs to head over to commence jamming. “There’s no waiting for a third or fourth guy to show up. I just go to Jason’s house, and he’s there, so we get in a lot more practice time,” says Eisenman.
The perfection of their sound and live act has helped the band have a successful year. They’ve been playing at venues all over the valley, and were a part of Crucial Fest, playing at Kilby Court, and the Doom and Gloom Fest, hosted at Burt’s Tiki Lounge. They were also the openers when stoner rock lords Red Fang dropped by Bar Deluxe on June 13, and made huge fans out of the band, who wore Cornered By Zombies shirts during their set that night. Overall, the future is looking very bright for the dynamic duo, who have also planned the release of a 2” analog EP in the near future. “We were actually recording our album a year ago with a producer friend of ours, but there were some technical problems with the board mid-production, so he had to revamp it. It will be [released] relatively soon—we just don’t have a date for it yet,” says Eisenman.
Despite the hectic demands of both members’ schedules, they are ambitious, and want very much to tour outside of Utah. It will take planning and work, but they are optimistic for a 2013 run. “We’re definitely going to be the post-apocalyptic tour band,” says Eisenman. “I’ll just switch from a guitar to a rifle.”