- Courtesy of Shawn Brackbill
- Real horrorshow: Zombi's Steve Moore and A.E. Paterra
Some words that describe the instrumental keyboards-and-drums duo Zombi might include: eerie, progressive, nightmarish, cinematic, virtuosic. You could also trot out the oft-cited comparisons to Italian prog-soundtrack band Goblin and John Carpenter's film scores. But over the last couple of years, one way to describe the acclaimed Pittsburgh- and New York-based band is: scarce.
Although both members agree that, early on, they'd oversaturated the local market by playing too often, the last time Zombi played a hometown show was in the spring of 2007, opening for Trans Am at CMU. But don't take it personally: As keyboard wizard Steve Moore notes, "It's been two years since we played a show, period."
"Officially, the last show we played was in Osaka, Japan, November of 2007," clarifies drummer A.E. Paterra. "After playing Japan, you are completely spoiled due to the high level of hospitality. It makes you cringe at the thought of playing anywhere else!"
The main reason Zombi's been on leave for so long, though, is simple burnout. Supporting two releases on Relapse Records -- 2004's Cosmos and 2006's Surface to Air -- meant hitting the road nonstop for three years, gradually tiring of playing music they'd written long before. "Plus we weren't making any money at all!" notes Moore. Whether they'd even complete another album was up in the air. "I think we simply needed a good amount of time to step back, work on some other things and assess the state of the band," says Paterra.
Nonetheless, they soon embarked on recording Spirit Animal, which came out on Relapse earlier this year. With no pressure from the label to tour, it became obvious that Zombi was going to be a studio project for awhile, so they expanded their sound, adding extensive, searing guitar passages and bass to the new material -- music the duo would not be able to replicate live.
"When we wrote that album, we had this half-baked idea that we were going to acquire a bass player and a guitarist," says Moore. "We just figured, 'Let's keep writing, even past the point of what we can play.'"
The time off the road also allowed Paterra and Moore to expand their creative endeavors outside of Zombi. Moore, who relocated to New York three years back, has recorded film scores and solo music as Lovelock. He also does remix work for "other fledgling artists" as well as major label productions. A compilation by electro band Chromeo, out next month on K7 records, will feature a Lovelock track, and Mexican Summer will release a 7-inch at the end of October.
"Because the music I'm making is a niche market, I like to plant as many seeds as possible -- because most of them probably aren't going to grow!" says Moore. "When I get stuck doing just one thing, I get burned out. I can work on pop music, math rock, soundtracks -- it keeps all of it more interesting."
Paterra, for his part, has recorded a solo album under the name Majeure, Timespan, due also in October on the Temporary Residence label. He's also collaborated with the Modey Lemon's Jason Kirker and others in a new group, OHMU, and signed on as drummer and producer with the ever-popular Gil Mantera's Party Dream. But even with all that, "I wouldn't say [Zombi's] been on the backburner," says Paterra. "I think we've just been slow cooking in the oven."
The kitchen timer must have gone off, because this week, Pittsburghers have two chances to see the band: at the Sprout Fund's Hothouse party on Sat., Aug. 29, and a regular show at the Rex Theatre the next day. "When [music coordinator] Ed Bucholtz asked us to play Hothouse, I wasn't sure if Steve would want to come out of retirement, so to speak," says Paterra. "But having a chance to play in your hometown is always a romantic idea for a band that hasn't played in so long."
For these shows, Zombi doesn't plan on performing music from Spirit Animal, due to the personnel constraints, except for the lone synthesizer-only track. Instead, they'll draw on older material, as well as some brand-new compositions written for the stripped-down duo sound.
With a little luck, Zombi hopes to have another album out by the end of next year, most likely on Relapse. "We just confirmed two shows in late December in Philadelphia and New York," adds Paterra. "I think our only goals for next year touring-wise would be to play Europe again, and try to hop on to some festivals. Once this band plays Bonnaroo, we will retire for good."
Zombi at the Sprout Fund's Hothouse benefit, with The Harlan Twins, Philadelphyinz, Humanaut and Sam McUmber. 9 p.m.-midnight Sat., Aug. 29. Bakery Square, Larimer. $50 ($60 at the door/$25 with college ID). www.hothouse.sproutfund.org
Zombi with German Shepherd and Shambolish. 8 p.m. Sun., Aug. 30. Rex Theatre, 1602 E. Carson St., South Side. $8. 21 and over. 412-381-6811 or www.rextheatre.com