Ed Zealous is More Than Just a Pretty Face

Francis Jones sees if this band is the real deal

Ed Zealous, previously called The Zoo, trade in raucous power-pop, and are a band at pains to do more then merely emulate. They seek to reinvigorate, jettisoning cliché and investing the staid old forms of rock and roll with an infectious sense of adventure.

Their confident floods of sound, striking in form and content have won them many admirers and have seen the band recently confirmed as Dublin support to Razorlight. However, one suspects, that this is only the beginning of things for Mr Ed Zealous Esquire.

But first, we had to ask, what exactly precipitated the name change?

‘The Zoo ran out’, states Andrew (guitars) simply, ‘We were developing our sound. We didn’t know what we were originally. Previously we had been trying different types of music, it was always quite rocky, but we knew there was something more. And then eventually we just realised what we should be. And that was when the name change came about.’

‘Last year there was an intense period of five months where we just got really immersed in the band', adds Paul (drums) ‘All night sessions, just to hone the sound and discover what we wanted from this.’

Asked to describe the Ed Zealous sound the band provide some unusual replies,

Andrew: ‘Heart, rock pop’
Paul: ‘Trashy rock fest’

‘It’s difficult to describe, ya know’, confirms Steve (vox) ‘It’s got a dance vibe, but we’re not a dance rock band. It’s like a lot of great music I like, I wouldn’t call it dance music, but I love to dance to it.’

In keeping with the band ethos, the Ed Zealous sound has been arrived at by a process of adventure, the idea of a pre-determined approach, or end point, is anathema to the band.

‘In terms of our sound, I think that it was something that has gradually evolved’, says Paul ‘We had a couple of songs that acted as stepping stones to where we are now.’

‘It’s like I read this story a while back about the Happy Mondays and Shaun Ryder was just saying how they used to turn up and just play stuff over and over’, elaborates Steve ‘It can be quite unkempt in a way. When we look at the most important steps and the interesting directions that we’ve journeyed in, we’ve taken those as a band in the rehearsal space.

'Just some of the most fucked-up, weird stuff and everyone just goes along with it. Eventually you get a few songs that make it into your set and then the next time you vibe off those songs and keep meandering along that path you’ve created.’

What they seem particularly keen to convey is that music should be borne of a sense of authenticity, an inherent truth. If you don’t have that you don’t have integrity. Something an audience will be quick to realise, as Steve explains,

‘It’s when you know that the artist is trying to be honest and when they’re faking. There are so many faker bands out there and they’re so easy to spot, everybody has heard that riff before, that kind of thing. I think difference and uniqueness is what makes a really good song, unique to that person. I mean if you look at someone like Freddy Mercury, nobody else can really sing his songs.’

Talk of the increased professionalism in music, from the upper echelons down to the very bottom strata, brings conversation around to the resurgence in the local music scene, with bands here exhibiting a greater professionalism than ever before,

‘I think there are a few bands round here that are really good, people are working harder and are just more business savvy’, enthuses Steve, before adding ‘But, basically it’s the same as anywhere. Bands I love, bands I hate and a lot of in-between bands that I just don’t care about. I was talking to a guy about this the other night, and it’s not just here, but everywhere, things seem to be reverting back to the late 70s, where you had bands like Stiff Little Fingers or The Clash, the punk aesthetic, it’s that whole DIY thing and now of course there’s MySpace.’

The increased proliferation of promising and more than competent bands has resulted in an increased sense of competition and with it a greater level of criticism, Ed Zealous have not been exempt,

‘We got our fair share of criticism when we were The Zoo’, confirms Andrew ‘but it’s been generally positive now.’

‘I think with that early criticism at times we were indignant about it and at other times it was, you know, well what can we learn from it’, reasons Paul ‘But, generally the criticism and our own general distaste for what we were doing tended to meet in the middle.’

In large part the criticism the band received centred on their image or, more pertinently, the very fact that they dared have an image, a shrugging Steve suggests that it is something the band were all too aware of,

‘Obviously people are going to look at your appearance, so in a sense it is important to have that right, but at the same time nobody wants to be known as an image band. Again I think it’s about whether or not something is natural, as long as it’s not contrived.’

‘Image can help, but it can also be a big hindrance’, adds Paul ‘We’ve had some pretty negative comments and that was when we weren’t even trying to be anything. It’s annoying when people are talking more about some supposed image than about the music you’re making. If the music, the substance, isn’t there then everything else is inconsequential.’

And what is it that gives substance to Ed Zealous and ensures they are more than just another stylish yet soulless, art-rock contrivance?

‘With music I want to know why someone has written what they’ve written, it’s about being real without being clichéd’, stresses Steve ‘I think we write about similar themes to those that artists have written about down the decades, the age-old questions. We’re never gonna write a song about the war in Iraq, no matter how important something like that is. Simply because we don’t want to be that literal; it’s about coming up with something more intangible and yet ensuring that it still resonates with people’s everyday lives.’

Gigging relentlessly throughout Northern Ireland, the band’s impressionistic soundscapes have been warmly received and, having watched them support The Ordinary Boys, I can provide witness to the coruscating power of Ed Zealous’ live performance. That their talent will bring them success seems inevitable, however, Ed Zealous remain modest in their ambitions,

‘No day job’, laughs Andrew ‘Not to have to struggle with a lot of other things and to be able to concentrate on the band. If we had to keep doing what we’re doing at the minute forever, well we’d look pretty old pretty quickly.’

‘Though I think that ambition works in stages’, offers Steve ‘Obviously everybody wants world domination, but that’s a long way off. So realistically it’s about working to get our album out.’

Talk of failure is quickly dismissed, as Paul adamantly states:

‘We’re all pretty grounded, but at the same time we’re determined that this is going to succeed. We know it’s going to be a lot of hard work, but at the same time we have that self belief and that’s vital, ultimately that’s what will see us through.’