The Pier recently caught up with Zach Bellas from Washington DC’s GroundScore while out supporting Clutch on their current US Tour. Here’s what he had to say about The District, the new album and what’s brewing for the rest of 2011
The Pier: Who would you say has motivated your style of music the most?
GroundScore: (Zach Bellas) Growing up in the DC area, I believe we were all exposed to a great deal of the DC punk and hardcore bands of the late 80’s and early 90’s. So bands like Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Fugazi, Clutch, Jawbox etc. Would eventually open me up to a lot of other punk rock bands like The Dead Kennedy’s, Operation Ivy, The Misfits, Crass, NOFX, Bad Religion. At the same time a love for old school reggae and dub was blossoming for me. Bob Marley, The Wailing Souls, Steel Pulse, King Tubby, Scientist, Buju Banton, UB40 to name a few started to get heavy rotation in my walkman. We definitely place a great deal of importance on mirroring the dynamic elements that mixing punk and reggae creates.
The Pier: How is the scene in D.C. where you hail from? Was it difficult gaining attention at all?
GroundScore: DC has a great music scene. It’s not a very cohesive scene, which is cool because there are a ton of talented artists making all kinds of different music but there isn’t a particular unifying style that people can get behind and say ‘That’s DC’. It wasn’t too hard gaining attention in DC. We just kept playing shows around different venues in The District and in the suburbs in Maryland and Virginia, promoting like hell and people caught on pretty quick. Honestly though, it was a lot easier to get respect in other cities than in Washington.
The Pier: Listening to this album knowing that you are a 3-piece band caught me off guard completely. Do you guys tour with any extra musicians or are you three the only performers on stage?
GroundScore: On the first record we made it a point to make songs that we could reproduce live and we kept that attitude for this album but definitely opened up to adding extra instrumentation. We felt like a lot of these songs deserved an added element that would take them from a cool groove to a great song.
A lot of people are surprised that we are a three piece, even when they see us live and I think it’s just the way we arrange the songs gives every instrument a lot of space which may make it seem like a larger band is playing. We don’t tour with any other musicians officially but we are a band that formed out of jamming endlessly so we always like to get some of the other performers we tour with to get up and jam out for a song or two.
The Pier: Any big plans for the summer? Maybe a tour of some sort?
GroundScore: We are currently on the last few dates of the first US run we do with Clutch this summer. We will go back out with them in July and cover most of the Mid-West. After that we are working out a tour starting in late August with a few bands from Baltimore and are looking to come out West in the Fall or Winter. We will definitely be out on the road for the better part of the next year or so.
The Pier: So we heard a rumor that Junior Marvin from the Wailers crashed the ‘Speed Kills’ release party?
GroundScore: He did. That guy is amazing. He’s one of the most tasteful guitar players of all time and an unbelievably nice and friendly person. I actually got introduced to him through our van mechanic and ended up meeting him at a gig he was playing in Arlington, VA. He wanted to take a million pictures with everyone and then he called me up in the middle of his set and handed me his guitar! That was insane. It was one of those moments that doesn’t fully sink in until you’ve told fifty people about it. He came to our release show and I made him get up and play and he killed it.
The Pier: I’ve been wondering this since I first listened to your album Speed Kills. What is the meaning behind the ten minute song and drum session titled EROCSCHTULC? It is one of my favorites and I don’t even know the meaning!
GroundScore: The song basically deals with self-doubt issues in a way. Kind of contemplates the meaning of our actions and whether they are pure and natural or contrived. The title, however, is what you get when you allow two drummers to name a song. Hahaha. JP from Clutch actually came up with it. It spells ‘Clutch Score’ backwards. I waited six months for them to come up with that.
The Pier: What three groups would you want to tour the nation with? Any groups who have helped you along the road?
GroundScore: Clutch, Lionize and Pasadena have all been unrealistically cool to us along the way. Everything from great advice about who to work with on the road or in the studio to taking us out on tours or making introductions to people that we need to know. We would tour with those guys anywhere.
Zach Bellas went on to tell The Pier that there was no way they could have made either of their releases without producer J. Robbins. They recorded up in Baltimore and described it as a cool city with cool venues & the vibe has a dark psychedelic thing going on that adds to the element of their recording.