The first time I heard Zulu Pearls they made me nervous, even as they made me bop around the club. Their music had a bit in common with Franz Ferdinand or Interpol or another one of those skittish, nervous post-punk bands with scratchy guitars and smart speak-singing vocals, even if it was more tuneful and less funky than those groups. But the last time I saw them, their new songs emphasized the melodic elements even more, slowing down the riffs and cranking up the bass on some parts, even adding some semi-reggae rhythms to songs (but not in a cheesy way at all, more like the best bits of the Police or Elvis Costello). This new relaxed style fits well with the personality of the guys from the band I’d hung out with, whose easy rapport and insane imaginations fuel each-other to weirder and weirder jokes even as their creative relationships mesh and diverge onstage and in practice. I decided to sit down with the guys in their basement to see if we could recreate the kind of smoky free-form nonsense discussion (like a Circle roundtable from That 70s Show) that their soulful and classic newer music would be the perfect soundtrack for, and to drink a lot of Jagermeister at the same time. That means there is absolutely no content in this interview whatsoever, just a lot of buzzed wackiness. Consider yourself warned, and lucky.
BYT: Why don’t you go around and introduce yourselves?
Alex: Alex Nixon.
Zach: Oh shit, you gave them your government name, are you crazy?
Nick: Um, Rex! Anderson.
BYT: Oh, come on.
Ian: AKA Action X, aka Panda Bear, aka Ruler of the Streets.
Zach: (flicks lighter)
Ian: I play the drums.
BYT: OK so we’ll start with a pretty standard hypothetical: If you had to be in a pop-punk cover band, whose would it be?
BYT: Whoa you were so ready with that.
Nick: That was my answer too!
Zach: Like how pop-punk? Like skating? Like are you wearing pins? Can I say Rancid?
BYT: I’ll accept that.
Nick: I’d say Rancid too.
BYT: Fuck, you can’t both say Rancid.
Zach: Get your own brand son, I had to calculate that shit for like a minute!
Nick: What’s a pop-punk band? I really don’t know. I never knew that stuff.
Ian: I would say Hi-Standard because they are Japanese and that’s cool.
BYT: Answering my own question, I would be in a Weezer cover band.
Zach: You slimy fuck. That’s not pop-punk. You fucked us on that one.
BYT: Now for a really quick Who Would Win In A Fight question.
Ian: Fuck yeah.
Zach: Alex would. Oh snap quit looking at me, son. He just looked me in the eye!
BYT: Who wins: A man with a knife or a man with a bat? Assume they are equally skilled at martial arts and their respective weaponry.
Ian: Bat. Someone could stab me like ten times, if I had a bat I would just keep on going. You’ve got reach, and you’ve got determination.
BYT: Does anyone want to say knife?
Zach: Fuck no. We were just talking about this today. We all have random weapons in our bedrooms.
Nick: I couldn’t believe it. I don’t have anything.
BYT: Like what?
Zach: Like a pole from a lamp that broke, or like…a mini-baseball bat.
Alex: Something with some weight!
Ian: I got two glocks, and a stun gun.
Zach: Microphone stand…
Ian: Samurai sword…
Zach: Anyway we decided we didn’t want to stab anybody. That would be fucked. I’d much rather kill somebody by accident by slamming their face with a blunt object.
Ian: Two words: Ham. Mer.
Alex: No, but… I don’t want to kill anybody!
BYT: That’s fair. Big ups for peace. Anyway here’s an everyday situation. Why would IHOP stop serving milkshakes? What the fuck is wrong with those bammas? I just wanted a shake with my breakfast, you know? Am I crazy?
Nick: Why are you asking us?
Zach: Are you serious? You can’t just drop that on somebody like that!
Ian: Next question.
Nick: That’s such a personal thing.
BYT: Did you guys have some kind of run-in with IHOP?
Ian: On election day IHOP was serving three free pancakes if you voted.
Ian: True or false?
BYT: Were they substandard?
Alex: No. They were great. And I expected them to come late. They were delicious, and the service was good. But the waiter, he asked us who we voted for.
BYT: Seems unethical.
Nick: And then he heard Obama and he was like chanting O-BA-MA! TIME FOR CHANGE! TIME FOR CHANGE!
Alex: He goes: He’s a good looking guy right? So good looking!
BYT: That would make me change my vote, I think. Not sure in which direction. Here’s a question from a fan: What is your favorite chord?
[Long Silence] [Sighing]
Zach: French fries, hamburgers, let’s do this shit! I don’t know, like, F? It seems popular.
BYT: Alex, do guitars or pianos make better chords, I wonder?
Zach: Nah, tell the man it’s when you do the power chord on the bass!
Alex: I just spend hours down here playing the D and the E on the G string.
BYT: Every bass player has secrets like that. Here’s another music question: If you had to pick one, would you rather have sex with Sinbad the comedian…
Nick: That’s not a music question!
BYT: Let me finish. In front of a stadium full of people at the superbowl…
Zach: Yeah it is… that shit makes noise.
BYT: Or would you wear a Colonel Sanders outfit everyday for the rest of your life and you couldn’t wash it?
Ian: I’d kill myself.
BYT: You can kill yourself after making the decision. But you must pick.
Zach: I’ll take any of the ones you said… when I thought you meant we were fucking something.
Ian: We’re keeping it real tonight.
Nick: You’d have sex with Sinbad?
Zach: Who is that?
Ian: That dude who made all those movies that were not good…
Zach: AKA that dude with my heart in his pocket?
Nick: I’d rather be Colonel Sanders.
Alex: Any chicken? Any chicken involved?
Alex: I bet I get free chicken sometime somehow from somebody.
Nick: Zach has a chicken problem; he eats it twice a day.
Zach: I don’t want to talk about that, let’s move on. What’s the next question?
BYT: Cloth tote bags for dudes. Great idea? Or greatest idea?
Nick: How old are you?
BYT: That’s kind of rude.
Zach: Wait a second, this just got venomous. Get em dog! Get em Nick, just tell em what’s what.
Nick: How old do you have to be to like tote bags? Because I don’t like them yet.
Zach: That’s right, motherfucker!
Ian: They make me almost as angry as when I see a dude with a rattail.
BYT: Wow, that was my next question actually.
Ian: I’m psychic.
Zach: Get outta here David Blaine.
Zach: Why not?
Nick: There you go.
Ian: High ponytail? Or low? To the side?
Zach: To the summit!
BYT: How about low?
Ian: Fuck that.
Zach: Straight to Mordor.
BYT: But high up?
Ian: Hell yeah. The high one says, “Hey. Maybe I am free later, what’s up?”
BYT: What does the low one say?
Ian: I need to go home and go calculus homework.
Alex: If they only would take it, and wrap it all the way around.
Zach: If they only knew.
Ian: One of my good friends has a really long ponytail and I have to keep myself in check from making fun of it.
BYT: You should tell him.
Ian: I do, when he lets that shit down he looks like Fabio.
Nick: Seriously, that’s really weird. I mean, that takes a long time to grow, you’re sitting there for like three years, it takes a lot of patience.
Zach: That’s a characteristic I like in a guy though…
Nick: Just being like: I’m gonna work on this man!
Zach: He’s not going to give up—on us. Hell no!
BYT: That’s a trait you like in a man, never giving up? On a hairstyle, on a decade…
Zach: Anything! Don’t quit. Don’t be a quitter, you know that’s wrong.
BYT: If hash browns had a voice, how would they sound?
Ian: Like Issac Hayes. Or wait, hold on…
Zach: We might have to stay up until they’re available at McDonalds.
Ian: Let me think…
BYT: I love McDonald’s hash browns, oh man.
Ian: They might sound like Jack Nicholson? And not smarmy, mean Jack Nicholson. Laid back.
Zach: They could be your dad.
Ian: Yeah. What’s up Dad? Nothing much.
Nick: I don’t know, every lifeless thing, every inanimate object, if I picture it speaking, consistently has a Brooklyn accent. “Hey whatta ya doin’? What are yoo dooin?” Like that.
Ian: “I’m golden and crispy. Fuggin’ eat me!”
Nick: “Quit wastin’ time!”
Ian: “Hot off Canal Street!”
Alex: They’d have a South Park voice.
BYT: That is correct. Congratulations. Okay here’s technical question. In movies…
Zach: Oh shit yeah I love Sleepless in Seattle.
Ian: Love Actually? I watch it once a week! During the holidays, don’t even get me started…
BYT: We’re talking about Sliding Doors?
Nick: That is a great movie.
Ian: Fucking great movie.
BYT: Anyway, in movies: Computer graphics or puppets?
Alex: Yeah, like for special effects?
Zach: You guys are perving out on me.
Ian: How would Jurassic Park have looked with Muppets?
Ian: The Matrix. With Muppets.
Nick: There are no animals in that…what?
BYT: I don’t understand.
Ian: Cloverfield. Muppets.
Alex: The CG in the Matrix is terrible. Keanu Reeves jumps in the air and gets smaller. He like shrinks in the air, what the fuck?
BYT: Ian what exactly are you getting at?
Zach: No fucking puppets! Wait what are you guys talking about? I just hear “puppets” and I think: NO.
BYT: Without knowing which presidents were fat, which presidents’ names make them sound really fat?
Ian: Ben Franklin is like Rick Ross.
Nick: Grover Cleveland. Or Taft, yeah.
Zach: Who was the one who died in the tub?
BYT: That might actually be Taft.
Zach: Nerd alert!
Alex: Jimmy Carter?
Nick: But he sounds like a local fat guy.
BYT: What makes him local?
Nick: Like… Jimmy Carter was in my gym class…that guy is huge.
Ian: Local fat guy, no explanation needed.
BYT: Sorry, the answer we were looking for was Martin Van Buren. Last question, is getting a lapdance cheating if you don’t get a boner?
Ian: Hell no it’s not cheating.
Nick: Yes. What? Why would you do that if you’re happy with your woman?
Ian: Shit happens. A lapdance might happen. The first lapdance I got it was a little weird, but after that, it was cool.
Alex: Some would argue, not me, that even if you do get a boner, it’s still not cheating.
Zach: That’s controversial.
Ian: It’s human nature.
Nick: I’m not saying it would be cheating, but I am saying it would be offensive to the girl you’re with.
Zach: I just think the worst thing about the strip club is when the girl you’re with is like, “I could fucking work here!” and goes up on stage and says “They said I could work here and I could make one hundred bucks a night!” and you’re like “What?” and she’s putting herself on in this crazy way and you’re like man I thought we were just hanging out on a Wednesday celebrating her friends twenty-second birthday and it’s so boring and you’re like what the FUCK I paid twenty dollars for this.
BYT: Did you take her to Outback?
Zach: She was driving all crazy with her feet, like it’s Girl’s Night, listening to this fucking techno loud as shit running red lights going “I’m just following that fucking spotlight!” and we ended up at the strip club. And then, that’s it man. I paid twenty dollars and she got cocky as fuck.
BYT: Well that’s pretty much the best answer we’re going to get so let’s call it a night. Sorry about the craziness of this interview…
Ian: I ain’t apologizing for shit.
Zulu Pearls ain’t apologizing for shit this Friday, opening for Travis Morrison at the Black Cat. Get there early and witness the quickness.