The Zoo Wants to Set a Standard for AZ Reggae

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How did you get into playing music? TaSa: I got into music through basically just listening to it in my headphones. My family would say they were going to put me in American Idol, and that's not what I wanted to do. I'd rather just be in a band. It just happened to be around the same time that I was finding my range and Lamb and I started writing songs together.

Lamb: It started when I was eight years old and living in Israel. My brother and mom moved back to America and the one thing my brother left me was his guitar. I started taking lessons and started writing songs. Actually, some of The Zoo songs are from back then.

Juju Stone: My parents were in a local band together called Blue Laws when I was born, so I was brought up to appreciate music. I started playing guitar in a metal band called Steel Clad Fortress. They told me I wasn't good enough to play guitar in their band, but I could be the bass player [laughs]. So I bought a $100 bass on Craigslist and was playing in the metal band. Then, I met Lamb through a few people in that band and started taking bass seriously.

How many of you are from Phoenix? Lamb: TaSa and I both are actually Israeli. We have a lot of Israeli inspiration in our music, and we even sing in Hebrew sometimes. Freshmen year of high school I made it out to Phoenix.

TaSa: I was actually born in California, but yeah most of my family is from Israel. I moved to Arizona when I was six.

Juju Stone: I'm from here.

Let's talk about the music scene in Phoenix. Your likes and dislikes? Juju Stone: The reggae scene is so vibrant in California, but the Arizona scene is cool too. There is appreciation for reggae in Arizona. So, if you're a new band then it's kind of cool to start from a place like Arizona where not so many people know there is a reggae scene. We can build off of that and start our own scene instead of following another. With dislikes, I think it's probably like every place right now where a lot of people are interested in listening to EDM and not live music.

Lamb: There are a lot of great venues around here that are really nice to see shows at, but at the same time there are some high ranked people at those places who do a lot of talking and promises. The first show we played at, the main guy that worked there promised us a show with our favorite reggae band and it never happened. That would be a dislike.

TaSa: Since it's so small in Phoenix right now, it's a good opportunity for a band to come out of nowhere and show Phoenix that they can represent them. Sometimes you don't know who to trust, or how certified some of these promoters are, or if these venues are going to be right for you. It's definitely important to trust people who believe you can become big.

Going further into what you guys were just saying, describe what it's like trying to make a name for yourself in Phoenix? Juju Stone: Playing a lot of local venues is good. We will rarely pass up a show people offer. Even if they are giving us free food. I think the key for us right now is playing a lot of shows, because we have a bunch of material that people like and we need to expose it.

Lamb: I think it's really important for smaller bands to show a lot of pride of where they come from in their songs and talking about your roots. It's important to not neglect that. It's difficult to start out in a place where music isn't as big of a deal, but we are going to try our best and grow into many places and better our odds.

How do you promote yourself to make that happen? TaSa: We individually go out of our way to spread the word to our friends; we hand out flyers around the colleges. Sometimes we will go out on the street and play a set with a hat out for some change.

Juju Stone: We also promote ourselves a lot through social media. We are pretty active on our Facebook. We released our EP, which has gotten positive reviews. Also, we like to hit the college scene and play house parties and spread the word. Making friends with other bands has helped us in the past as well, and we can all share the wealth.

What are some of those local bands that have influenced you? Lamb: We really look up to Katastro, who we are playing with at the Marquee. They started off where we are and they are living in California now and living the dream.

Juju Stone: Fayuca is a band that was produced by some of the same people that produced our EP. We're still in contact and trying to do something with them. They are a good example of someone who started in the Arizona scene and has made it to a national level.

It's definitely important for all these bands to support each other. What do you do to support them and the local scene? Juju Stone: If there is a band we know that calls us up to do a show we will always try to do it. The last one we played with was Headstrum, who also played the Christmas Pudding with us. We're always eager to help each other.

TaSa: Basically going out and seeing other local bands. That's a good way to support the local scene here. Also, networking with other local bands so we can become friends and play shows with them is important.

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When Caleb isn't writing about music for New Times, he turns to cheesy horror movies and Jim Beam to pass the time.
Contact: Caleb Haley