Zozobra Birds of Prey

Zozobra Birds of Prey
Having relocated to the pseudo-glitz of L.A., former Boston indie label Hydra Head still holds onto the musical interests of Cave In alumni Stephen Brodsky (Stove Bredsky), Adam McGrath (Clouds) and Caleb Scofield (Zozobra). Each musician has gone on his separate path, far from the shimmering prog pop of their pioneering group. Only Scofield, however, still has the bloodlust for heavy metal, and as Zozobra, he successfully uses his monstrous bass as a large-bore shotgun, like on the cover of Ted Nugent’s "Weekend Warriors.” "Treacherous” has a colossal Tool heft, while "Heavy with Shadows” dips into Cave In’s psychedelic bag o’ tricks with echoing guitars. "Heartless Enemy,” "In Jetstreams,” and especially "Sharks That Circle” spotlight Scofield’s clean vocals prominently in the mix, though they’re only harmonies. After two minutes of guitar washes, Scofield ploughs his way through another growl-fest in "Laser Eyes.” Though his acid-gargling vocals are one-dimensional and without much variance, Scofield makes up for his shortcomings with his destructo axe. And with Isis drummer Aaron Harris providing the deafening beats, Bird of Prey finds Zozobra hell bent on hearing loss.

"Emanate” starts heavy right out of the gate, which sets the tone for the album. Was this go-for-the-throat vibe intentional, as if you had something to prove?
I’m not sure I felt like I had something to prove, per se, but I knew going into it that I definitely wanted this record to be more relentless than Harmonic Tremors. "Emanate” felt like an obvious choice as an opener. Aaron and I would joke when listening back to it that it sounded like getting repeatedly punched in the face.

Your clean singing shines through behind the growls in a few tracks. Why cover it up so much?
I still don’t feel very comfortable singing. I wanted the melodic vocals to sit in the background more for this record, almost like an additional instrument instead of the main focus. It leaves me with more options in a live setting. I heard some live recordings of shows we did last year and decided that nobody should have to listen to my foul attempts at singing. Stick with what you know, I guess.

The noise track, "Big Needles,” is in the middle of the album to provide a pause for a breath?
I think so, to take a little break. I would like to do more stuff like that in the future, a little less conventional in terms of structure and sound.

Why the switch from Santos Montano to Aaron Harris this time around?
Aaron and I had been trying to do a record together for years now. It’s been impossible with him fooling around with that little side project of his. He had a good chunk of time off from touring and it seemed like the only window we would have. The idea behind Zozobra is to sort of always have a revolving cast of characters. I want it to serve as a format for me to get a chance to play with different musicians that I may be friends with or just a fan of. Santos will make his return; he’s just gathering power.

What does Harris add that’s new to the mix, other than his thunderous beats?
Beyond his playing he also recorded this record. I think he has a natural approach to the recording process and I was constantly impressed with his abilities and the sounds he was able to get with such minimal gear. I have the tendency to have this "it’s good enough” attitude when it comes to recording. Aaron is very much the opposite and I think the record really benefited from his push for perfection when it came to takes and making sure all the instruments were locking up real well.

Did he contribute to any songwriting?
I gave him demos with programmed drums and he pretty much deleted the drum tracks and did his own thing over. The song structures remained the same but we were always bouncing different ideas off each other during vocal tracking and overdubs. Unfortunately we just didn’t have the time to meet up and write songs. We’ve still never actually played any of this material together.

Where do you stand with Cave In? Any chance of a reunion, since everyone is doing it?
If Cave In were to play live again I’m not sure it would be a reunion. I think it would be more of a return from an extended hiatus. If it did happen I know for a fact we would have at least three new songs to play.

Obviously Zozobra is the heaviest of the post-Cave In bands. What do you think of the quality of their output, especially the new stuff?
I would normally take this opportunity to make a sarcastic joke about those guys but I won’t. I have to be honest and say that both Clouds and Steve [Brodsky] have just put out some of the worst shit I think I’ve heard in a long time. I wish those guys would stop fucking around with that nerdy fucking stoner party rock, 16-bit-sounding bullshit and just get Cave In back together.

Any plans for touring this year?
I would like to try and do something. Maybe in the fall, nothing is set in stone. It’s hard not having an actual band that can get together and practice and go on tour but I hope I can work something out. (Hydra Head)