Interview: Zebrahead’s Matty Lewis

Posted on December 15, 2011


During their recent UK tour, Zebrahead guitarist and vocalist Matty Lewis spoke to Alistair McGeorge about life on the road, new album Get Nice, the festival season and much more.

-How is it being back in the UK?

I’ll be honest with you – it didn’t start raining until we got back in the UK. It’s true! We’re having such a great time. We were in Glasgow yesterday, it snowed. The guys are from California – I’m from the Mid West, we have snow there – but the guys were freaking out. The shows have been great, the kids are awesome as always. It’s been great.

-How do the crowds over here compare to back in the States, if there’s any difference?

There’s not a bigger difference, but the main difference between crowds here and in the States, is that fans here latch onto the band. They’re more…eclectic in what they listen to. In the States…

-It’s more of a clique?

Yeah. I like this…these are the two bands, and that’s it. I can’t like this. What was really cool, was I saw a girl at the show with a Justin Bieber wristband. Whatever, say what you will – it’s really awesome that she as a fan can like two completely different bands, and still come to the show and have a great time. I think it’s awesome.

-To a much lesser extent, you came over here a couple of years ago with Bowling For Soup, MC Lars and The Leftovers – that’s quite a diverse mix.

Absolutely. I think that’s what’s great about here, and also Europe – and Asia too. It’s pretty bad-ass.

-You’ve come over here with, like I said, Bowling For Soup, and bands like Less Than Jake. Is there a different mentality with a support show? I mean, besides just a shorter set.

Yeah. The shorter set…it’s great, to an extent. I like headline show, cos you get a proper soundcheck. SOmetimes you don’t always get one as direct support, and if you do it’s short. It’s always great to have a good soundcheck, so you sound your best. And you get more beer. That, and more liquor, that’s for sure!

-I spoke to Suburban Legends last month, and they named Zebrahead as a band they’d like to tour with. Is there anyone you want to hit the road with?

I would like to tour with Blink, of course – who wouldn’t? I dunno, we’ve toured with so many bands! I, personally, would love to tour with Van Halen. Other than that…we’ve toured with almost everybody, give or take. A Sum 41 tour would be great. I think we’d work well with those guys. We’d share their alcohol.

-Do you think the band’s diversity in its influences helps with the range of tours you get?

Well, I’ll be honest. The main thing about touring, you see a lot of bands touring together – it’s because they become friends. You wanna be on tour with people that you like, because you have to be on the road with them. Army of Freshmen – we’re friends with them, and of course Bowling For Soup and Less Than Jake. That really helps a lot.

 -As you’ve been on the road as long as you have, has it got easier over the years?

Well, I’ve aquired more things to make it more like home. Once I get in the bus, I zone out. I watch movies, I read books. I try to make my little room upstairs like home. It’s got a little easier. I don’t have kids myself, but three of the guys do, and they always say it’s kinda tough. They also say, at the same time, Greg our guitarist was saying…he has a baby, just turned one in November. He says now, it’s refreshing to get away from changing diapers. It’s easy for me now.

-Do you have a preference between being on the road and in the studio?

It’s tough. Every band says that when they’re on the road, they want to be back in the studio, and when they’re in the studio they want to be on the road. It’s kinda true. I love playing shows, I love the whole live thing. I love being in the studio. So…I dunno. I guess that’s why more than 6 weeks tour is too long for us. By the last day, you’re like “Shit…just get me home”.

-Do you keep the writing and touring processes separate, to avoid the cliches of writing songs about being on the road?

Right. If you can write on the road, more power to you! We can’t, cos we drink so much! I have yet to do it. I might come up with an idea here and there that, maybe, a couple of months down the road we’ll revisit. We always have a voice recorded for little ideas, not full songs.

-The second time I saw you guys was last year’s Leeds Festival. How do you like the festival season?

I love the festival season! You get to see a lot of cool bands, and the crowds are awesome. I prefer club shows, myself, cos I like how there’s no barrier, kids go crazy.

-The intimacy of it all?

Yeah. Festivals are also awesome. It’s just apples and oranges, you know what I mean? You can’t say one is better than the other, cos…I dunno. You don’t play as long on festivals, which I don’t like. The whole atmosphere is pretty cool. 

-Moving onto Get Nice – were you pleased with how the record turned out?

Absolutely. For this record, we recorded it in our studio, which was great! We could spill beer, eat chips, whatever – be there long hours of the night, if we wanted to. For me, it was tough to delete some songs cos we couldn’t have 30 songs on the record. It was tough for me to cut some of the songs out, which is great, I think.

-Definitely better to have more than enough. What did recording in your own studio bring to it? Did you produce it yourselves?

No, no, we had our friend Jason Freese, who did our Panty Raid record. He plays in Green Day, he’s amazing. He brought all his stuff that he needed, we have stuff as well. He lives a couple of blocks away from the guys, so we’re all good friends. It was really cool, cos that’s where we rehearse. It was like recording in your own home. It was awesome.

-How have you found the fan-reaction to the album?

It’s been pretty good. We’ve got roughly five new songs from the record for this tour. Kids know the words, and they sing along and have a good time.

-Are there any worries when you’re putting together a setlist, with a new album?

Yes. It’s so tough cos…setlists are kinda like a meal, maybe? You can’t just go ahead and start with your main course, and then have nothing left. It’s gotta be a good mix, and you can’t just kill the kids with the fastest songs, eight in a row. It’s like incredients…like a concoction. A recipe, that’s what I’m trying to say.

-Are you getting tired of playing any tracks at this point?

[Laughs]You know, there’s always songs for us personally, cos we’re played them so much. I’m the newer of the guys, but I’m sure there’s songs they’re sick of playing. Well, they’re not sick of playing. It’s more like…we can play it in our sleep. That’s why we like playing the new songs – it’s a challenge, it’s new for us. We haven’t played them as much. I wouldn’t say there’s one particularly song yet.

-You mentioned Panty Raid – how did the whole idea for that come together?

We wanted to put out a cover record, and we didn’t just want it to be a bunch of covers. We thought it’d be funny to have all girl songs, popular girl-songs at the time. We didn’t wanna change it…like, how bands change it from the girl’s perspective?

-Switching the lyrics round.

Yeah, we said fuck it, let’s keep it! It’s a covers record, whatever. It came out like that.

-Could you see yourselves doing another covers record in the future, if you had the time?

Eh, maybe. We would much rather do a live record, maybe something else. We’re definitely going to do another original record first.

-Are there any plans for that yet, or are you waiting until next year?

Yeah, we’re early for it now. We’ll start the early stages next year – just thinking about it, getting those ideas progressively getting there. Probably not until after next summer.

-Rounding off, what do you have planned after this tour, looking ahead to next year?

Christmas at home, then New Years at home. January’s going to be Japan, February is Australia, then Germany for a tour. Maybe April and June, some festivals, the whole summer of festivals. Maybe something in the States.