The path to Zeus’ Classic Zeus was a long and often difficult one. By early summer 2013, the songwriting trio of Neil Quin, Mike O’Brien, and Carlin Nicholson, with drummer Rob Drake, had toured their acclaimed sophomore release Busting Visions (2012) all the way to a crossroads; relationships frayed and the future of the band uncertain. As Quin sings on the pensive “One Line Written In”, about the estrangement of life on tour: “Hundreds of nights on the dark lonely road / Has hardened me and tampered with my soul”
Instead of dissolution, the band embraced exhaustion, returning to its East Toronto studio to begin on the follow- up to Busting Visions. Whereas divergent paths had begun to pull Zeus apart both musically and personally, mutual respect and hunger for exploration brought them back together. Months of musical and technical experimentation, redefining the limitations of their Ill Eagle Studios, yielded new songs and sounds that reflect the broadening perspective of “classic” Zeus, with stronger unity and more definite form than ever before.
Ghettoblaster spoke with Mike O’Brien about the record, which dropped via Arts & Crafts today. This is what he said.
When did you begin writing the material for your new album? ?
The material spans a large stretch of time. Most of it was written during the time spent touring our previous record Busting Visions, but a song like “First One In” was written and recorded before our first album was released five years ago. We pulled from over 30 songs to select the 11 that make up Classic Zeus.
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing?
The last song on the album “Throw It On The Fire” went through a pretty long journey to end up where it did. We recorded a totally different version with a different title and alternate lyrics and brought it right up to the mixing stage before deciding to re-record it with a completely different approach. The final version took very little time to record and mix, but the song itself took a long time in the cooker.
Why was it so troublesome?
?Partially because the lyrical content spoke so directly about our collective experiences as a band, I think we all took it more to heart. We all had to be equally comfortable with what was being said and how it was being said.
Which of the songs on the record is most different from your original concept for the song?? ?
The previously mentioned “Throw It On The Fire.”
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record? ?
Yes. Our Ill Eagle Studio is home to a small tight-knit community of friends and musicians so we inevitably end up including those people on recordings.
Who produced the record?
The three songwriters Mike, Neil and Carlin served as a production team. We all throw in our two cents and try our best to arrive at something we’re all happy with, although that can be challenging at times.
What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?
?Well, that’s how we’ve always approached making music… It’s sort of a ‘best idea wins’ scenario. When something’s working, you don’t have to ask, you can just tell by the vibe in the room or the grins on faces.
Is there an overarching concept behind your new album that ties the record together?
?Not one that we intentionally set out for, but I think due to the fact that we had all been through similar experiences as a touring band, there are common themes in all of our songs.
Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?
Yes! “Miss My Friends” seems to get people moving. “You Could Have A Lover” also works really well live and “First One In” as well.
(Visit the band here: http://www.themusicofzeus.com/.)