Play that 'thunky music, white boys
Zipthunk is a rock band with an overdeveloped sense of fun, drama, guitar crunch and post-adolescent angst.
By JOSHUA TANZER
Zipthunk is finished. The way the band members figure it, the WB network
just relegated their best song, "Felicity" (hear it on RealAudio or MP3), to permanent obscurity by
canceling the show that inspired it.
"That is, until it becomes retro," notes drummer Fred Berman, and
the band is on track again.
|Steve Larner (guitar, vocals)|
Fred Berman (drums, vocals)
Jeff Gurner (bass, vocals).
Related links: Official site
| AUDIO |
Zipthunk plays seriously silly songs with playfully ironic lyrics,
crunchy guitars and vocals that fall somewhere between They Might Be
Giants and Daffy Duck. The band's sense of storytelling and character is
probably no accident all three members came out of theater
training, two at Hofstra and one at NYU. They have equal affection for Stephen Sondheim and Rush.
So how does a band get named Zipthunk?
Well, that's a long story without a clear answer but they
have fun telling it. It goes back to a slightly magical summer day when they were playing for tips on the N and R platform at 14th and Broadway.
"There was this really hot day and one guy gave us a joint," Berman
recalled fondly. "And one guy gave us this melon. We had no way to cut it
open and we were sitting there trying to figure out how to open it when
this lady comes up to us with a knife and cuts it for us."
"Someone asked us what our name was, and I said, 'Zipthunk,' " he
adds, although that does little to explain the origin of the word.
"Its sort of a private joke that we had in college," he offers. "It's
"No it isn't," says guitarist Steve Larner, helpfully.
So the mysteriously monikered band gradually came together about
four years ago with a different drummer (the band has a song about his
less-than-amicable departure) and with Berman on guitar. "And [Steve] said,
'Fred, why dont you play drums? '"
"No," adds Gurner, "it was more like, 'Fred, you suck on guitar.' "|
For all their self-deprecation, the trio is a polished unit with
material that could probably rule the airwaves if it weren't a little too
smart and didn't contain approximately one gratuitous F- or S-word
per song. Besides "Felicity" a funny song about a girl who identifies a little too closely with her favorite TV character, and a radio-ready hit if you took out one little
"fuck you" near the end there's "Any Other Day" (RealAudio, MP3),
a perky rocker that pokes fun at the band's own Pixies fixation, and "Daddy Dad" (RealAudio, MP3) about a young party animal who thinks he's on top of the world because he has a few dollars and an ID that says he's old enough to drink.
Here's what I got.
I got my pot.
And I've got my hands
On some stripper in Atlanta.
Just look at me.
Im twenty (pause) three.
Is this really me
With this stripper in Atlanta?
The wordplay and the picture that the song paints of its
wide-eyed young character's confused excitement about sitting in a bar with a
drink and a naked girl are clever enough, but the little pause between
"twenty" and "three" is an ingenious touch he's clearly making an effort to remember what it says on his driver's license.
What many of these songs seem to have in common is early-20s angst the intoxicating but slightly confused few years of quasi-freedom between the time the teenager leaves the house and the time he actually has to be a grownup. Some guys will spend these magical years doing beer bongs in the frat-house basement and cruising for chicks in bikinis on spring break, and others will spend it wondering how to be a boyfriend instead of a best friend and how young is too young for therapy.
Like the band itself, the song "Sodom" perfectly walks this line between cock rock and loser rock. Even as it celebrates all the debauchery you'd expect to find in a place called Sodom, it gives you the sense that the singer is probably missing out on the sinful ecstasies that everyone else seems to be enjoying. "I did not bed her," he admits, "but I did amuse her."
So having not learned their lesson as starving actors and starving musicians, what new heights of futility could be on the horizon for Zipthunk?
"We all got degrees in acting, and we were having so much success
at that that we decided to do something harder," jokes Gurner with a sense
of mock triumph. "We're going to get into poetry and painting next."
|APRIL 10, 2002|
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