Travis Bos on Song Of Zarathustra reunion: "Is this just going to be silly?"
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The Twin Cities punk scene holds Song Of Zarathustra particularly dear for a band that wasn't born here. Formed in Sioux City, Iowa in 1997, the group initially lasted a year before the members went their separate ways—only to all move to Minneapolis on their own and eventually reform. SOZ made a name for itself playing fast, screeching hardcore alternately backed by a drum machine and a live drummer. Following several lineup changes, two full-lengths (one featuring Lifter Puller/ The Hold Steady guitarist Tad Kubler), and a relentless touring schedule, the band called it a night. Since their 2003 split, members have gone on to form local favorites The Cardinal Sin and Chariots. Given that kind of pedigree, the announcement of a Feb. 27 reunion show at the Triple Rock perked the attention of any punk fan with working ears and a pulse. Vocalist and keyboard-smasher Travis Bos has been busy lately—reuniting Chariots back in December and putting the final touches on his new band Chibalo's upcoming album—but The A.V. Club pinned him down long enough to figure out what prompted the reunion and what the future might hold.
The A.V. Club: Why now? This reunion could've happened any time in the past seven years and it would have been a big deal.
Travis Bos: I think enough time has passed where everyone is lighthearted about it. It really was, honestly, [guitarist Trever "TJ" McInnis] contacted me on Facebook. He lives in Rhode Island, he's married, he's got a kid, he owns a tattoo shop, so he's really busy.
AVC: How has the response been from people outside of the local scene?
TB: There was a guy from California who wanted to do a kind of cassette-magazine overview of Song. ... There's been a genuine interest, which is really neat. People from Iowa, all around the Midwest, are kind of getting into the show. It's pretty neat to hear feedback, you know? I thought it would be well past that point. I didn't think it'd be relevant.
AVC: A lot of hardcore bands, when they reunite, come across as dated or cheesy. Are you worried about that at all?
TB: Certainly, yeah, that was something I was worried about. A little bit with Chariots, but especially with Song because at that period of time there were a lot more abrasive, scream-ier bands. There was just an issue if anything would be relevant. Just like, "Should we just book a small show? Is anyone really going to care? Is this just going to be silly?" I don't think it'll be too cheesy because there's still a bunch of people that never got to see us when we were around. I think, if anything, they'd at least like to enjoy hearing it once live.
AVC: You're all doing different things now. Is it weird to return to hardcore?
TB: Yeah, it is. At that time—especially coming from Iowa in the late '90s—it was more like we came from a small town. You have that idea that you just want to kick as much ass as possible, literally. You want to work twice as hard as the next band, you want to write a song that's twice as interesting or lively. Going back and playing them now is definitely going to be interesting because it's been so long. I still really enjoy abrasive music and I still buy a lot of abrasive music to this day, something that you'd go and see live just for the sheer volume.
AVC: Assuming the show goes well, will you look into doing more?
TB: If people are open, we've been e-mailing back and forth over the past couple of months, and people seem really open to it. If the time is right and people are open to it, we'll do another show or two. We're keeping it so open now that there are no rules. We've already broken up twice. ... After that last show, I didn't think it would ever happen again. I think we kept pretty levelheaded over the years and all the time we were in the band. We're still three dudes from Iowa. We take pride in coming from the Midwest. That's why this show is in Minneapolis. There's so much this city has done for us without us even expecting it by any means. Like, the clubs have done nothing but treat us amazing, and Radio K has always, always been amazing to us. I remember even when the first album came out, I called and asked if I should drop off a CD and they were like, "We have it, it's in rotation." That's my first experience with distribution. You know, little things like that, we experienced them here first, and it was awesome and it made us feel great. It gave us even more ambition to write more and to go on tour, spread the word about other Twin Cities bands.
AVC: Ultimately, it's about what you guys want more than what your fans want, so what would you like to get out of this show?
TB: We knew that we wanted to do it right, more of the classic lineup—Jamie [Munsen], TJ, Mark [Jorgensen], and me. So, as far as what we would get out of it, it had to be done correct, and if it was going to be this thing where, like, Mark wouldn't play drums, it wouldn't have been done. It is a bury-the-hatchet sort of thing too. I know that just because bands break up and people fall out of touch doesn't mean we're like huge enemies or something like that. It's nice to be able to go back in a kind of a light-hearted way from our perspective now. What we're going to get out of it is if we were able to go back then and curate it and make everything perfect. It's just remembering why you wanted to play music in the first place. You want to have fun, you genuinely love music. There's nothing calculated about it, we just really want it.