Our Spotlight Series continues with a new exclusive stream and interview from an up-and-coming New Jersey band appropriately titled, Changes. Having seen a slew of member alterations and a constantly evolving style that incorporates several niches of rock and metal ranging from sludge to metallic hardcore, Changes unleash their latest EP Lost at Sea, in its entirety, exclusively for Blow The Scene readers today. We touch base with founding member and singer Shawn Zappo, as he goes in-depth describing the band’s history, upcoming shows, surfing the NJ coast, and brings us up to speed on the band’s plans for 2012. We’ve included several links for further investigation and be sure to check the full stream of Lost At Sea below the interview.
Without further ado, let’s hear from Shawn.
Joshua BTS: Greetings! Thank you for taking time to answer a few questions for Blow The Scene readers around the World! Let’s begin by having you introduce yourself and declare your onstage weapon of choice with NJ’s rock-induced hardcore outfit, Changes.
My name is Shawn Zappo and my weapon of choice is the vocal chords. Master of ceremonies, if you will, for the slow grind to the halt of the industrial age.
Joshua BTS: Changes recently dropped a new EP, Lost at Sea, and you have three of the tracks streaming for free on Bandcamp. Give us the skinny on the record? When, where, and whom did you record with?
Shawn Zappo: We recorded four songs with Steve Di Maggio at Eight Son Studios in Jackson, NJ over a weekend this past January. I have known Steve for some time now as we played in a band Charge together for about 5 years. He was getting his new studio up and running and had offered us a chance to come in and lay down some of the new songs we were working on. We recorded two new songs and we recorded two songs off our earlier split EP with Old Wounds from June 2011. We felt that these four songs together were a good representation of the band’s sound to date and they were songs we were keeping in the live set. The process was pretty fast and Steve was basically going for a pretty stripped-down, rock-feel for the recording. Not much overdubbing at all, there are the two regular guitar tracks then maybe one extra track. Drums were all to tape. Most of the vocals were a straight run through from start to end with some little additions here and there to make some parts stand out more. So it has a pretty lively feel to it.
Shawn Zappo: Well we have three tracks streaming on bandcamp now. We are going to do our online release of all four songs here today on Blowthescene.com. Then we have a few things in the works in terms of physical releases. I do a small label Grand Architect of the Universe. We had released our demo and the Changes/Old Wounds split on that label. We plan on doing a cassette release and possibly a CD release on Grand Architect. As far as vinyl we are doing a Euro release on Spook Records. It will be a split 12” with my friend Art’s band from Poland called Moral Breach. Art also plays in Sun for Miles and Thaw. He arranged the whole thing and basically we are just wrapping up the art work for that now. It’s going to be a very limited run of records and we will have them available over the summer when we are out playing. Then we are talking to some people about a vinyl release here in the states. But any announcement on that release would be premature at the moment.
We are working on a full length now and this EP is a lead in to that. We have decided not to re-use any of these songs for the LP so the Lost at Sea Ep is a standalone release. The LP will be all new songs. We have already started writing for that LP and the songs are certainly a big progression from anything we done before including this new EP. So we are just trying to keep progressing and tweaking the sound a bit with each recording.
Joshua BTS: Take us back to formative stages of the band. How did you all come to start making music together?
Shawn Zappo: Well I had done a band called Overstand for a little over a year. The band was pretty short lived but we got some things done in a short period of time. We released 2 7”s and a 10 song CD but it was apparent that the band wasn’t functioning on the level I had hoped for so we called it quits early on before things went real sour. After the demise of Overstand I wanted to get a band together as fast as I could, as I didn’t want much down time between bands. I met Mike who is Changes lead guitar player and primary song writer while surfing in Asbury. At the time I was also working a few days a week at a local surf shop that was right in front of the break we surfed. So between surfing and hanging in the shop, we got to talking about music and we had many similar musical influences. Eventually we got to jamming at a Yoga Studio/Juice Bar I was helping set up downtown. Jon from Overstand was on drums and his friend Matt was playing bass. Nothing really great came from those sessions but it got the ball rolling for what would become Changes. While searching for members Mike had written most of the songs for the demo with the help of Jon who also plays guitar. Then we had our friend Tyler come on board to play bass. Then after our first show we had Dustin come on to fill out the sound on second guitar. That was the original line up that we worked with for the first year of the band.
Moving forward we wanted to do a little more with the band in terms of playing, small tours and writing, so it came time for some people to move on and focus on other things. Tyler had left before the Lost at Sea recording sessions so Mike played all the bass parts on the EP. Soon after we finished those recordings it was apparent Jon and Dustin weren’t really on the same page as Mike and I in regards to the band. It wasn’t a negative thing just a natural part of the growth process. So Jon and Dustin also chose to move on and now we have a new line up. We have just been working on getting the set super tight and writing the new material. We aren’t going to make any official announcement on the new line up at this time. The plan is to just come back in June and start playing live as much as possible.
Shawn Zappo: Well we are taking the energy, driving power and ethics of Hardcore and mixing that with other music we really dig, namely heavy blues based rock. Everyone shares a lot of the same musical influences then there are other influences that are unique to each member. We try to bring these in tastefully and in a cohesive manner. I think it makes for something that is a bit unique in the world of Hardcore and I hope it will also make us stand out in the long haul as we get better at what we are doing. But at the end of the day it’s about making the music we want to and making music we would want to hear.
So yeah, we have that Southern sludge feel that may remind people at times of bands like Down, COC, EyeHateGod or Crowbar. But we also have that heavy dark blues based feel of bands like Sabbath, Pentagram or The Obsessed from time to time as well. There are also moments of chaos that people have said remind them of anything from 108 to Deadguy. Really we aren’t out to emulate any one else’s sound, as there would be no need for that in my opinion. We are taking the wide range of influences we have and trying to bring them together in a way that is tasteful and makes us happy. Hopefully along the way people will dig what we are doing.
As far as the writing process- Mike writes most of the initial foundation for the songs on guitar then everyone participates in the process from there. I write all the lyrics and many times Mike and I will work together on vocal patterns, delivery, etc. That was the process we used with the original line up and that is what we have been doing with the new line up. It seems to be working well for us so we are sticking with that approach for now.
Joshua BTS: Is there a story behind the band name?
Shawn Zappo: I will admit I was listening to a lot of Bowie when we were throwing band names around and this is the one that stuck. But on a deeper level I think the name is a reference to the times we are living in, as well as, the nature of life itself. Personally, I think we are living in a critical point in human history where change is going to be necessary for survival as we move forward. It appears the industrial age, the age of fossil fuels as our chief source of energy is dying a slow and painful death and the symptoms of this are manifesting on numerous levels all over the planet. The state of the world is shifting on every level, be it the economic situation, politics, social issues, on a personal level. One every level shit is changing, I think it would be hard to deny that fact. Maybe some aren’t feeling the squeeze so to speak yet but its there. Bottom line is things are coming to a head. I’m not going to go on a rant here, so the name just seemed to make sense for us on many levels.
Joshua BTS: What is in store for Changes as we head into 2012? Tour plans in the works?
Shawn Zappo: Well the plan is first to start playing live with the new line up in June here in New Jersey. Then we are going to do some weekend warrior style “Tours” in the North East for the rest Summer and early Fall. We hope to be recording the LP in October and we would like to release it in December. We also would like to get out to the West Coast for Spring 2013- from the Northwest all the way down to Southern California. But we will see how it all plays out. We are certainly a goal-oriented band, at the same time, I try not to project too far into the future and focus on the immediate plan. I feel the rest will fall in line.
Shawn Zappo: Well the regular day-to-day is work, helping raise my 7 year old son, and surfing. I am a chef at Kaya’s Kitchen in Belmar NJ. It’s an all Vegan/Veg restaurant with an enormous menu; I would say easily one of the best Vegan restaurants on the East Coast. My long time friend Omer is the owner and visionary behind Kaya’s so it is pretty much a family atmosphere there. It falls in line with who I am as a person and that has always been important to me in the way of what work I am performing. In addition to Kaya’s- the summer is approaching which means I’m gearing up for my surf lessons. I do surf instruction all summer long and then I will be ending the summer with a surf/yoga related trip to Nicaragua. Otherwise, I spend my free time with my son, I surf whenever there is swell, and I try to keep up on skating as much as my body will allow. I started booking shows again as well down here in New Jersey. I also have some other creative projects related to the hardcore community that will be coming to fruition in the near future. That’s pretty much my life at the moment.
Joshua BTS: Any bands out there that are really exciting you guys right now?
Shawn Zappo: Well bands we have been playing with or I have seen locally that have really impressed me are Torchbearer, Quiet Arcs, Wet Witch, Cop Problem, The Sun The Moon The Stars, Less Life…there are a lot of bands so I don’t want to rattle off a long list here. New Jersey alone has a lot of great bands. Many that will be playing this summers RTF fest in Warren, NJ this July. I would suggest anyone who can come out for that-do it!
Stuff that I have been jamming in the home stereo. Earth, Pelican, The Cult, Wino, Clutch, Goatsnake. The Melvins and a bunch more. Those mentioned have been on heavy rotation as of late.
Joshua BTS: What would you say are some of the challenges of up-and-and-coming bands today in the current music environment? Do you see the plethora of free music a positive thing or just necessary at this point?
Shawn Zappo: The music sound scape feels really over saturated many times. So I think just getting your music heard can be a real challenge. There is so much out there, how do you get people to take the time to listen to what you are doing? I think overall playing and really laying it down live is the key. If you can’t put it on in the live setting them it’s almost like everything else is worthless. As the state of music and the way people experience it changes I think playing live is the most important way to share and engage people with your music. As far as free music it’s good and bad. Bad cause there is a ton of crap out there. It’s good because especially in the early stages of a band you can have your music out there for people to hear and with hopes that they will come see you play. I think the positives outweigh any negatives. I’m not going to lie, there are things about the way I came to know music as a kid I miss, but the times are different and you gotta learn to go with the flow. Having your music available for free overall will only help your band.
Joshua BTS: Where is the best place for fans to keep up with the band online?
Joshua BTS: Thank you kindly for taking a few moments with Blow The Scene readers from around the world, as we look forward to keeping up with your future endeavors. Any final thoughts?
Shawn Zappo: First I would like to thank you for the interview. Otherwise look for us coming through your town/city in the North East this summer. Thanks for taking the time to read this and check the music, all the support is appreciated. Peace.
Interview by Joshua T. Cohen
All Photos by Anne Spina of Anne Spina Photography
Changes – Exclusive Full Ep Stream of Lost at Sea