Photo: Shauna Miller
Typically, bands start recording music in a basement before progressing to a studio for a second or third release. Pittsburgh's The Zells
(fka Denzell) is taking a different approach. The band's newest EP, No More Heros
, out Oct. 11 via Crafted Sounds
, is a move to the shoegaze-y, lower production quality side, layered with happy imperfections.
"I wouldn’t say that any producers boxed us in," says vocalist/guitarist Jackson Rogers, referring to The Zell's debut album, Failure to Slide
. "If anything, Rowdy Kanarek [who] produced our last album would help us with it sometimes. But we wanted to figure it out ourselves and we did specifically want a more lo-fi sound; we wanted it to sound like we recorded it in a basement."
Photo: Shauna Miller, who did all The Zells photography and artwork
"No More Heros" EP cover
And that's exactly what they did. Frank DiNardo, who provides a mix of vox, guitar, drums, and synth in the band, built a basement recording studio by hand. Over a six-week period, The Zells created No More Heroes
, a six-song EP about 25 minutes in length that was mastered by RJ Gordon of Baked (Exploding in Sound) at Reich Studios.
"[Before], we used every technique we could to make it sound tight," says Rogers. "[This time], we took a lot of the earlier takes and let things ride and fit as they would. Of course, with everything we record, I want to go back and perfect those parts that have mistake notes and stuff, but I kind of like that it's not some super perfect polished album. It has human error that honestly adds to it. It would be subtractive to iron out the mistakes. The little idiosyncrasies make it all the better for me, and I know everyone [else in The Zells] feels that way."
Another change from previous Zells releases is how the members went about writing. The members riffed off of each other collectively, rather than having one person sing single melody vocal lines. No More Heroes
features duet-like parts and harmonies, like in the second track, "Four Chills and Seven Snaps Ago," where the beginning vocals sound almost like a round, one vocalist ending a lyric just as another begins.
Alternative-indie band Stove's 2016 release, Bubblegum Lightning
, had much to do with The Zell's new sonic direction, as did Spanish lo-fi rock band, Hinds.
"[Hinds] does dual vocal parts at all times and we got really into the idea of creating that and transposing that into our specific sound," says Rogers. "Stove does a lot of in-house, lo-fi stuff and that sent us in a certain direction as far as writing tendencies."
The Zells celebrate the release of No More Heroes
, at Howlers Fri., Oct. 11, along with String Machine and Rave Ami.
"This felt more true to ourselves," says Rogers. "It's a step forward in being able to replicate and produce the sound that we hear in our heads."