Zipper Club is an emerging alternative rock band hailing from Los Angeles, formed by Mason James of Cerebral Balzy and former solo indie artist Lissy Trulie. They have yet to release a debut album, which was produced by James Iha of The Smashing Pumpkins. Their lead single “Going the Distance” has begun to get traction on satellite radio, and has propelled the stages of music festivals around the country. Hear what they — along with drummer Damar Davis — had to say when I chatted with them at Shaky Knees Festival.
You just wrapped up tours with The Sounds and Tears for Fears, the latter being your first tour as a group. What were those experiences like?
Mason: They’re amazing bands. And then Curt (Smith) came out with us at Coachella. Those guys are our dudes. We just vibed out with them. It’s so rad to just be amongst rock n’ roll gods. It’s so awesome to just watch their live show, and it’s just hit after hit. Their catalog is amazing.
Lissy: It’s so nice and, like, humble.
Mason: They’re actually like proper nice. So nice dude.
How did those relationships forge?
Mason: I think proximity and being like-minded individuals. In the sense that you play music for a living and always being out on the road, you have a lot of similarities. It’s like, my back hurts. You end up vibing out on the weirdest shit. But then it ends up being cool. A lot of cool stuff comes from it.
Damar: I still talk to Jamie, their drummer (Tears for Fears). He’s super good and always their if you have any questions. Any questions about gear and stuff like that, so definitely built a long lasting relationship from that tour.
How important is it to establish relationships like these, especially with a legendary band like Tears For Fears, so early in your career?
Mason: That’s the first thing we learned. Be nice. Otherwise you’re going to have a long road ahead. Friends can take you a lot further than enemies. Some people are dicks…but just walk away. But we’ve been really fortunate. We have toured with any dicks. So with that, yeah, The Sounds. They just rock. She’s such a performer. We were having beers and chilling with her so after the show every night. It was a really cool family tour vibe.
You don’t always see such relationships like that between opening acts and headliners out on the road. Sometimes they don’t even know each other before the first show of the tour.
Mason: Yeah, I think we get lucky because we come from the more indie, hitting the road for years, kind of background. So, it’s different than the young pups nowadays. The record label’s little guys.
You’ve been playing together for about a year or so now as Zipper Club. Do you notice any differences between cities, like west coast versus east coast?
Mason: Of course.
Lissy: Oh god, yeah. I live in New York, they live in L.A. Yeah. The south is really much friendlier.
Mason: Every city has their ups and downs. L.A’s got the better weather.
I guess what I’m trying to ask is, do you notice a better reception or notice more knowledge of the music anywhere?
Lissy: It’s pretty equal, really.
Mason: I guess it’s a show by show basis.
Lissy: Every city has really different vibes, but all good vibes.
We’re still waiting for your debut album to drop, which was produced by James Iha of The Smashing Pumpkins.
Mason: Yeah, he’s our dude.
You’ve previously stated that he was the only guy you wanted to work on the album. How true is that? You considered nobody else?
Mason: James is the f**king dude. He brings things into a production that you just can’t. There’s a reason why Smashing Pumpkins did what they did. He has a mastery of not only guitar, but music.
Going back to those important relationships. How did this one curate?
Mason: Yeah, so I’ve been working with him for years from previous projects. It’s, like, all good things. They have to be organic. If it just feels forced then it doesn’t work.
Lissy: James was actually my next door neighbor for 10 years.
Wait, what? Did you know that the whole time?
Lissy: Oh yeah, yeah. I hung out with him.
Mason: So yeah. It’s this weird full circle kind of thing. James was the perfect fit. We worked in the studio for months. Just chilled and worked on music.
Tell me, in your own words, who is Zipper Club? And why should I get to your next show?
Lissy: For one, if you like good music.
Mason: We’re three unique individuals brought together over a love for music. And therefore, we bring a lot of different genres and a lot of different influences, but when it comes together it’s uniquely Zipper Club, and that’s the cool thing about it. So take it or leave it, but we’re really happy doing what we’re doing.
Lissy: And we’re really happy to play for you, so hopefully you’re really happy to see us. It’s like a cool exchange.
Mason: I think you do it long enough and you realize having people show up to a concert means a lot, whether it’s 20 people or four or five hundred or 4,000, we’ll still give it the same effort.
You all have pretty long backgrounds in music prior to forming Zipper Club, so I’ll expect three different answers here. Five years ago what were you doing, and five years from now what will you be doing?
Damar: Oh man…. five years ago I was playing a completely different genre of music and was not happy. And five years from now it’d be cool to have a platinum record with Zipper Club. And that’s what’d make me happy. I’m speaking that into existence.
What was that genre you weren’t happy playing?
Damar: We don’t need to go there.
Lissy: Whoa. Do I even know that?
Damar: We don’t need to talk about it.
Lissy: Five years ago, I was releasing a solo record, and well, that was cool. Five years from now, I just want to be able to have longevity in my career. I want to be doing this. If I could keep making a living playing music, I’d be pretty happy.
Mason: Five years ago, maybe between five and seven, I was in Atlanta. We were playing a show in this warehouse. And at that time we were sleeping in the places we were playing. I remember it because, well, I didn’t think Atlanta got cold, but somehow there was this weird global warming frost that came through Atlanta. It was the coldest night of my life. I slept next to a puddle of beer and woke up in the morning and the beer was frozen. I was like, “Oh okay, the cold was legit.” So hopefully five years from now, I’m not sleeping in a warehouse and we are playing music for people who are genuinely into it. That’s what it’s all about.
Lissy: I’d like to play Saturday Night Live.
You’ve probably been to Atlanta several times over the course of your careers. What is your go to spot? What do you have to do if you only have a night in the city?
Mason: I like barbeque. So I’m going to go get some good barbeque. I usually follow recommendations cause I’m not well guided enough. I haven’t got any yet, but I’m going to go get some bomb barbeque.
Lissy: Good food is always the go-to.
Damar: Probably just food and hanging out with friends. I have a lot who live out here. I love to eat so if there’s good food I’m there.
Lissy: Could you tell we’re hungry?
Mason: Yeah, I’m probably going to go find some good festival food, go immerse myself.
Any sets you’re looking forward to seeing this weekend?
A unanimous, LCD Soundsystem.