Holed up in their home studio in Tottenham, North London, Zibra are making brilliant pop music from unusual tools. Like a 21st Century Womble with better hair, frontman Sam Battle specialises in making futuristic musical equipment from discarded junk – freaky homemade synths, keyboard-guitar hybrids, organs made from Furbies, and much more.
Check out singles like “Paris” and “Great White Shark” to get a glimpse of the trio’s sound – and read on as Sam lets us in on Zibra’s unusual universe.
Zibra began when I was jamming demos out in my room in an old people’s home in Broadwater Farm in Tottenham.I uploaded them onto the internet with some short videos – all mysterious and that. I met Russ through a friend who liked my videos, who said he had a friend who liked synths, so we started jamming. I knew Ben for quite a while – we had played together before in other things but he played drums, so he had to take a crash course in bass guitar, which is working out pretty well.
The old people’s home was great. I had the old kitchen which was set back from everywhere else, so I could make noise 24/7. Other creative types lived there – video people and people who dabbled in circuit bending, so it was quite an influential place on me. Sadly it got knocked down a couple of months ago, so I’m now living in a classroom, which is great. Loads of space to ride my bike around when jamming out lyrics.
I don’t see any of the equipment we use as weird, but I kinda get an idea of what is weird when people come round and see what I’ve made the night before – like, “What the hell?”. I’ve been doing it for a long while – anything I buy I have to take apart, even microwaves. I have a boneyard of past creations that did work – like a furry organ which involved 50 Furbies stuck in oscillation and each tuned to a note. I filed for a patent on a guitar that’s also a keyboard. It was pretty interesting, I’ll bring that back one day.
I love old and outdated technology. When I was younger I used to see these dusty, forgotten-about machines, and they were so mysterious – people had forgotten the skills in using them, all stuck with their heads in laptops. I find this mysterious equipment at places like car boot sales, and it automatically gets you some different sounds because you’re not 100% sure how it works. I’m a bit of a hoarder, so the more stuff the better really.
The song that was a real switch-on moment for us was Heartache. Before that it was either guitar music, or dodgy synth jams. That was the first song I managed to mix both aspects of my influences together. Kind of working out how to make both instruments fit together in a sound palette – so if one disappears and is replaced by the other in a loud transition it doesn’t stick out as dumb.
The video to Wasted Days was shot in Rowan’s Bowling Alley, Finsbury Park. The dancers were from all over the shop. We wanted super snazzy guys. The song is about wasting time, really. Written in a time between having a job and playing gigs, spending next to nothing eating beans, and slowly watching your sleep cycle decline into obscurity. Ever been in a cycle where you go to bed two hours later and get up two hours later every day, til you’re going to bed at one in the afternoon and getting up at tea time? Luckily it only takes a few days to get back to normal.
London is good if you want to make music. Luckily, I live somewhere that is a tip so I’m not taking the brunt of rent – which in some places is ridiculous. It’s good to go out to odd exhibitions and things involving anything you want – from weird synth/VHS shows to cosmonaut parties. You don’t get that in Peterborough. But it’s pretty sketchy at the same time though. A couple of nights ago I looked out my window and some guy was waving around a machete chasing a man with a golf club.
Our first album is in the works. Been working a lot on it. Lots more mixing guitars and synths and more high squeaky vocals. It’s going to be good.
Check back soon for Zibra’s video series, exclusive to Red Bull UK. The band tour the UK in March 2016 – for tourdates, visit zibrazibrazibra.com. And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @RedBull_Music.
You can read the full interview Here from Redbull.