Squirrel Nut Zippers
A multifarious mélange of gypsy jazz and 1930’s swing, the infamous Squirrel Nut Zippers return with a reincarnation of their signature sound in the new live album, ‘Lost At Sea’. A delightful departure from the main-stream music machine, the Squirrel Nut Zippers continue to channel the big band Rat Pack era with an unorthodox and offbeat Vaudeville twist.
Exclusive Magazine caught up with percussionist Chris Phillips to discuss the new album, ‘Lost At Sea’ and what to expect from the Squirrel Nut Zippers in 2010.
Your music has it’s eclectic roots in punk-rock, blues and jazz, among others. Who were your musical influences growing up and how many still factor into your music today? "To tell the truth, the biggest musical (and fashion!) influence on the Zippers was ‘The Muppet Show’. I think you would agree that we bear a striking resemblance to those lovable, fluffy, somewhat confused individuals."
You guys are just finishing up with your first album since 2000. What can fans expect from the new live album, 'Lost At Sea'? How has your sound grown in the past nine years? "We have decided to go straight up the middle with a new techno album! Taco, meets Einsturzende Neubauten. No seriously, I can tell you we are feeling a bit more rural, and a bit more intimate. So take that how you will. If the world is ready to try on a new suit, I predict the album will be a Grammy Winner."
After a brief hiatus, you’re back on tour with some upcoming shows. What can fans expect from a Squirrel Nut Zippers live set and where can they see you play? "Like I said earlier, just think of ‘The Muppet Show’, but add some beer bottles and joints littering the stage. We are hoping to do some shows in Texas and overseas. Can you believe that routing? Booking agents are so clueless sometimes!"
We have to know, where exactly did the band’s name, Squirrel Nut Zippers, originate? Is there an interesting story behind it? "It’s from an actual piece of candy originating in Cambridge. Apparently a drunkard got himself stuck in a tree and yelled out "I’m a Nut Zipper". Then, the Squirrel Brand Company took that from the police blotter and were off to the races. It just goes to show good things always come from drinking way too much."
You’ve performed everywhere from Sesame Street to Bill Clinton’s ’96 Inaugural Ball to opening for Tony Bennett at the Radio City Music Hall. Of all the odd and assorted places you’ve appeared, what has been the most memorable? "Probably when we were locked in the garage of the chancellor of UNC, in Chapel Hill. We played for hours and hours while they had us locked in. They couldn't get the door open. It was for his daughters wedding, so everyone just kind of Rhumba'd and boogied with their ear to the garage door. Of course, it just so happens that we were locked in with all of the wine. I remember coming out and looking around at my bandmates, who's lips had turned deep purple from the wine. They
were stumbling too, so they of course took on a sort of Zombie
appearance. Very, very scary I tell you!"
You’re offering free downloads of the new single “Memphis Exorcism” for fans who join the mailing list at snzippers.com. Before we sign up, give us three good reasons why “Memphis Exorcism” is an awesome song and a good indication of what to expect from the new album "Hey, that's not my problem. I tell you what, why don’t you tell me three
reasons why its awesome buddy? Okay, okay, it’s awesome because:
1. We are the best band in the world
2. It is the bestest, hottest, most sexified song in the world
3. We have huge gold chains and my bass drum is twelve feet tall!"
How easy or hard is it to create a new, vibrant, wanted-by-the-public sound that both builds on and surpasses the musical wonderments and accomplishments that preceded it within the industry? "It’s purely impossible. That’s why we have ventured into avant garde music for refrigerators. You know, appliances are really much more agreeable than "two feeters". They have needs too. I sing sweet and low to my dishwasher every night before supper. My dishes always come out spotless. I suppose though, answering the question earnestly, you just have to follow your instinct and hope the public likes the smell of your trousers."
You just opened up for Tom Jones at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Illinois on July 11th. So we have to ask, how were you able to control yourself long enough to play a live set knowing that this Sex Bomb was waiting just off stage? "I definitely threw my underwear at him, but he didn't seem to respect the mans underwear thing. Seriously, there were huge old lady panties floating on stage like parachutes. It was totally amazing. Great, great performer and a smokin' band. He is the BEST!"
Squirrel Nut Zippers was part of the Swing Revival in the late 1990’s. In a world of saccharine sweet pop ballads, did you ever think your music would be as well received as it has been? "It was down right freakish to hear our music on the radio in a sea of grunge and pop. It sounded like someone showed up with a garage sale to a fine auction. I mean, we used a maximum of four microphones, and there were probably chickens running around when we recorded. I could almost smell the chicken poop when I heard our stuff on the noise box. But I was very proud driving around my piece of sh*t brown car and blasting our music. I was like Fred Sanford as town mayor."
If asked to record one for charity, what '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today and why? "Of course, Taco, “Puttin’ on the Ritz”. I would send it to the writer in
Chicago who once compared us to a bad version of Taco doing “Puttin’ on
the Ritz”. I would throw the CD in his face and say, "Eat this bitch!
We are a bad version of Taco doing “Puttin’ on the Ritz” that sold more
records than your momma!”. You never can win with some people I guess.
I also think the band could do a smoking version of "Don’t Stop
Believing" by Journey."
Lastly, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine loves Penguins, do you? "Well, I watch Penguins of Madagascar habitually. I love "Private". Or is that what you mean? Maybe "Penguin" is some new weird sexual thing you writers do. I know you guys are very very weird. Perhaps you flap your arms and sit on an egg while call girls rub oil all over your beak? Shucks, I don’t know. I do like the cute little animals, even if they can't fly!"
For more information about the new album ‘Lost At Sea’ and for your free download of the new single “Memphis Exorcism”, visit the Squirrel Nut Zippers on the web!
Interviewed by: Erin M. Stranyak
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