London trio Zibra released their four-track ‘EP2000’ in June 2015, and as statements of intent go this glitch-indie outfit have made their intentions crystal clear. Singles ‘Great White Shark’, ‘Heartache’ and ‘Chlorine’ showcase that Zibra aren’t a band to bore us before getting to the chorus — this is modern pop as it should be, instantly appealing and memorable long after the final notes have faded. It’s uncluttered, a finely distilled delivery of dance-ready beats and bold hooks, underpinned by insistent bass and cresting courtesy of the compelling vocals of former chemistry student — not enough explosions, you see — and taxidermy salesman turned charismatic frontman Sam Battle.
And everything you’ve heard to date is merely setting the scene for future cuts of comparable class: ‘RIP’ sings of tossing aside the obstacles in anyone’s everyday for losing oneself in energy-pulsing music, and to never rest in peace; while ‘Wasted Days’ chases away hungover lethargy with the sweetest rush of synth euphoria, and quite possibly a couple more drinks. The band’s debut album is coming together beautifully, its demos having been laid down in London’s infamous Broadwater Farm Estate, Tottenham.
Also handling electric guitar duties in the 2013-formed three-piece, Battle’s flanked by Russ Harley on synths and Ben Everest on bass. Instant-click arrangements come easy to Battle, who’s always been drawn to artists who craft pop music of the most evergreen appeal, like The Human League and Elvis Costello. Newcomers to their brand of energetic, electrified indie will sense more contemporary parallels, too: previous tourmates Years & Years and Saint Raymond operate in comparably anthemic circles, while always remembering to temper the sky-scraping peaks with palpable emotion. Zibra’s kinetic live performances can be envisioned by anyone hearing their recorded material: put these songs on any stage and they’ll outshine the spotlights.
“I can’t change who I am, or how I write,” Battle says of his creative outlook. “This kind of music, it just comes naturally to me.” So, too, does an inventive streak that stretches beyond composing — Battle has previously dabbled in, and continues to play around with, the invention of his own, unique musical instruments — initially to solve the problem of playing live, solo, and reaching the point where he’s actually filed patents for the results.
“I put together this guitar, that I’d saved for, with a lovely MIDI keyboard on the side of it,” the singer says of one such experiment. “It had taken me ages to save for this guitar, but then I went and drilled holes in it. My dad was pretty pissed off.” He’s since toyed with the construction of a keyboard comprised entirely of Game Boys, and has, over the past few years, been building his “own, 100% handmade, big-ass modular synth”. And Ben’s pretty familiar with organs, as it happens: prior to committing to the band, he was a hospital theatre assistant, juggling his share of livers and kidneys.
It’s the idiosyncrasies at the heart of Zibra, such as their impulse to repurpose archaic technology as fresh means for art, as seen in their VHS-recorded music videos, that stand to set the band apart from its peers. They take something old and make it new, build rather than borrow, and are having too much fun to ever be blue. And they’re certainly not out of step with the here and now, either — as evidenced by their material finding a home on coverage of both Formula 1 and The Champions League, and the band receiving a personal invitation to play at one of Donatella Versace’s private parties.
Taking things further still, Battle’s built interactive Zibra stage lighting, which responds to Tweets from the crowd before it. Zibra have just finished a BBC Introducing Stage Headline set on the Sunday of Glastonbury which went down a storm and are about to embark on a UK Tour with Rat Boy.
Pop music in 2015 is many things to many people, but so long as we’re all dancing, who really cares about the differences between us? Zibra is unifying energy brought to life as vivid music. It’s alive, and life’s not long enough to linger in the shallows. So charge the depths and see where the melodies take you.
Lead singer and guitar
Synths and the pineapple (RIP)
Salisbury, Wilshire (UK)