Zoogma’s Justin Hastings Talks Shop
Sensible Reason sat down with Zoogma’s guitar and synth player Justin Hasting. We talked with Justin about Mint Green, Catskill Chill, CounterPoint and other festivals the band is excited to play being on tour. Justin also give’s some insite about his hopes for the future, the best perks about being on the road, a desire to headline Red Rocks, Miles Davis and more.
SR: As a band with no lyrics, how do you create a mythology with your music that many other jam and electronica acts have?
Justin: That’s a good question. We don’t have lyrics like a lot of other bands in the scene, but we do use a few different things to reach a similar effect. First off, none of us are strong singers, hah. But I think a lot of us prefer the sound of female vocals over most kinds of electronic music, so we just don’t do it, and instead use samples from singers like Ellie Goulding, MC’s and rappers like Three 6 Mafia, Biggy, and others, and write music around the samples to bring it all together to create something new. Even without the samples, our music is all about the energy, really. Some of my favorite rock and electronic music don’t have samples or singing, so you can try and get your point across just through the music and where it takes you or the energy that it gives you.
SR: What do you think sets Zoogma apart from other bands in this scene and how do you intend to set yourselves apart in the future?
Justin: Like you said earlier, a lot of bands do sing and we do not. Our real goal with this band is to blur the lines between a DJ and a rock band, so using samples seems to give us more of a mash-up feel on some songs. We also like to play a lot of heavier rock, and I can’t think of too many other groups in this scene doing that, so I guess that combined with our use of samples is where our niche is starting to form. We have also talked about writing our own lyrics and hiring different singers to sing them on future releases. The possibilities are limitless, really. Our fans are great in that they welcome our new ideas with open arms, so whether it’s dub/rock, house, or prog rock, they will get into it and want to hear more. I think another thing that sets us apart is our desire to rock the f**k out for most of a set. It is simple really, we just want our fans to come and rage as hard as they can and whatever they take from that experience is up to them. End of story, really; no politics. Our future is hard to tell with so many directions we could go with the technology that we use. There are certain things we are all experimenting with, like writing music closer to our roots, but at the same time writing it for the future, so who knows what it will turn out like, but we are all very excited to see what comes in the future.
SR: It’s coming up on festival season. Where will your fans be able to catch you in the summer?
Justin: You can find all of our late summer and fall dates on Zoogma.net, jambase.com, and on our facebook. The festivals we have left are Gnarnia, Stereoterra, Camp Barefoot, Mint Green Music Festival, Catskill Chill, The Werkout, and finishing up at CounterPoint in Atl. We are extremely excited about all of these. This summer has been crazy, some of the highlights have been Beale Street Music Fest, Hangout, Impulse, Electric Forrest, and Camp Bisco. The response from all of these festivals has been huge.
SR: Out of these festivals, which ones are you most excited for and why?
Justin: All of them are exciting for different reasons, really. Gnarnia will be a cool location and lots of our friends are playing, so we will have fun there. Barefoot always rages; Mint Green will be awesome since we have never played in Jersey; Catskill Chill was the bee’s knees last year; our friends the Werks put on a good festival in Ohio and are bringing in some killer acts; and CounterPoint will be the biggest of the second half of the festy season and there are tons of artists on that one that I have never seen, such as Washed Out, M83, Reptar, etc. I’m personally really pumped for that one.
SR: As a band, what is your ultimate goal, or, phrased differently, what would have to happen for you to turn to each other and say “We’ve made it, we have arrived”?
Justin: Well, I think when I can afford things that I can’t right now, then I might say “I have arrived,” haha. But there is no ultimate goal with us. We really just want to keep creating music and see where it takes us. Every year I look back on the previous year and think, “Man, I had no idea I would be right here a year from then.” You know, it works so strangely that I don’t think I could really guess what an ultimate goal would even be. Our everyday goal is to play the best show we can every night and keep things interesting for the crowds, and hopefully they come back and bring more friends to the next one, that is all we can hope for. One day I would love to play at Red Rocks, and if we ever headline a show there, I think I will probably say to myself “I have arrived.”
SR: In that same vein, what’s a more reasonable goal? Where do you see the band in the next few years?
Justin: That’s a tough question. Like I said before, there is no telling really. A lot of what we did and are doing this year are things I didn’t imagine us doing yet at all. Events like the Hangout, Electric Forest, Camp Bisco late night set, opening for Umphrey’s Mcgee at the Tabernacle over NYE weekend, and Jamcruise are things that I wasn’t expecting at all, so you really never know. All we can do is keep making music, expanding our fan base, and working hard on all ends and see where that takes us. We feel extremely fortunate to be able to do this for a living and can only hope it gets bigger with more time and effort.
SR: What are your favorite parts of any tour, in terms of backstage happenings or perks and those types of things?
Justin: I love being out on the road, there are so many cool things that it is hard to nail them all down. Festivals are tons of fun because we get to see our friends, watch them play, and party with them afterwards. Perks are cool too, such as playing the Brooklyn Bowl. When you headline the Bowl you get incredible food (best fried chicken I know of) and bowl right next to the stage, so you’re literally bowling until it’s time to play and then you just walk over to the stage and rage. Things like that are really fun to me. I also really enjoy eating good food from all over the country. I have gotten to experience all kinds of new food that I wouldn’t have bothered with otherwise. I will say, though, that we all love what we do and all the backstage stuff is fun, but when it comes time to play, we get after it; and that’s my favorite part of a show– actually getting to play and not think about anything for 2 hours. There is so much work that goes into every show that the 2 hours you get to play can be very therapeutic, adventurous, and fun. It’s kind of like a Miles Davis quote I read once. Miles’ drummer came up to him at a gig and said “damn Miles, look at all this great food they got for us,” to which Miles replied, “I didn’t come here to eat mf’er…”
SR: Which venue have you played with the best green room and why? What is your favorite venue you have played and why?
Justin: I would say the best green room is in the National in Richmond, VA. There are pool tables, jacuzzis, private bars, tons of couches– it’s really a whole floor of fun things to do backstage, and there aren’t many places like that. The Brooklyn Bowl is one of my favorite places to play because of the reasons mentioned above. I also love hometown shows at the Lyric in Oxford, MS because there is always a point after the show where everyone gets kicked out of the green room because there are so many friends up there partying, hah. Another cool thing was playing in Aspen, CO at the Belly Up and having an oxygen mask/tank upstairs since the air can do strange things to you up there. That’s the only place we have played with an oxygen mask. I always love playing at Terminal West/King Plow in Atlanta, GA too. That place is one of the dopest spots around, it is one of the only venues I know of that reminds me of what the music scene was like when kids would just come to shows because the promoters always brought good music and vibes, so people just come even if they don’t know who’s playing. It is really a welcoming place and we have had some of our biggest club shows there to date.
You can catch Zoogma next on tour at the following festivals and tons of tour dates in between.