Zozobra | Interview with Caleb Scofield

Five years on from their second full-length effort “Bird of Prey”, Boston’s Zozobra led by Cave In bassist Caleb Scofield are set to return with their heaviest and most stripped-down effort to date. The aptly titled “Savage Masters” features six tracks in fifteen minutes and sees the band ditching the more proggy and sludgy elements of their sound in favour of a more frontal and burly approach. We caught up with Scofield to find out more about this new release and this recent transition towards a heavier sonority.

“Savage Masters” comprise some of the most aggressive and stripped-down music the band has ever made, what pushed you to write a heavier and more direct record?

I think we were just looking to set this recording apart from previous releases. Having three people in a room together resulted in a much faster paced writing process and I think as a result a faster paced sound. Before now it has been me alone in a room with a four track. Having Adam and JR to collaborate with was very exciting and I feel like it's transparent in this group of songs. 

Did your involvement on Old Mans Gloom latest effort “NO”, which leans towards a more experimental approach to composition had any effect on this new direction for Zozobra? Like you had you to do something that was going the opposite side?

To some extent, yes. The OMG stuff is a big commitment to listen to from start to finish but that's always kind of been the idea behind that band. I personally don't have the attention span to make it through an entire gloom record but I commend someone who does. I wanted the Zozobra record to be more to the point. Leave the listener wanting more instead of feeling like they wish they could have the last hour and a half of their life back.

Have these songs been around a while in earlier demos, or are these all newly made specifically for Zozobra?

These songs were written specifically for this EP. I have been trying to avoid making demos of songs and letting them lay around for to long. I've been guilty of that in the past and it tends to take the excitement out of things. Each song was written in a practice or two and then we would just move on to the next, no reason to keep editing and trying different arrangements or ideas. I'm done with that method of songwriting.

Judging by some the titles like “The Cruelest Cut”, “Venom Hell” and “A Chorus of War” it seems that you’re putting a lot of bad stuff out? Am I right or it’s just a coincidence?

I was in a very negative place for a while. I feel a lot better now.

This new effort also sounds incredibly powerful. How much of “Savage Masters” was recorded live and what can you tells us about the whole recording process?

It was all recorded live at Translator audio in Brooklyn by our good friend Andrew Schneider. We went down for a few days, slept on the floor, woke up and recorded music. It was a blast. Translator was destroyed shortly after by hurricane sandy. It was a great time but it is bitter sweet knowing what a loss our friends have experienced. They put their heart and soul into that place.

For the recordings of this new effort you call out to your band mates in Cave In, guitarist Adam McGrath and drummer J.R. Conners. When exactly did they get involved with Zozobra and have you written any of these songs collectively?

The three of us had still been getting together once a week to play. Mike had approached me a while back about doing an EP for Brutal Panda. I figured the timing and logistics would work out great so long as I could get Adam and JR to get on board. After some arm twisting they committed to the idea and we began writing the songs. I think this was in the spring of 2012.

How do you view Zozobra compared to your other projects? What were you hoping to achieve when you first started the band?

At the time I just wanted to see if I was capable of writing and releasing a record. Now it's more about just getting together with friends, playing loud and having a good time. I don't have any expectations when it comes to music any more regardless of what band it is. It's just more about having a shared experience with people that are important to me.

You have been playing in bands for more than 15 years now, is there anything you've learned over this time that you personally value in life or music?

At this point almost all my closest friends are people that I know because of music. These are all people that I have learned from and grown with and have helped me become the person I am now, for better or worse.
I have also had the opportunity to see a lot of the world because I play in bands. That is an opportunity I don't think I would have ever had otherwise and will always be grateful for.

Zozobra is about to hit the road together with Kowloon Walled City, what can fans of the band expect from this tour?

Savagery beyond comprehension. Total sonic annihilation. Middle aged guys begging promoters to give them gas money. 

"Savage Masters" is set for release on April 2nd via Brutal Panda Records and can be pre-ordered on vinyl here.