By GUY D’ASTOLFO
Born in a dream and based on the life of an artist, the new album from The Zou is not exactly an exercise in definitive answers and concrete facts.
In fact, the album, dubbed “The Zou Kills, Part 1” is still something of a mystery to Khaled Tabbara — and he’s the guy who wrote it.
Although it now takes the physical form of a plastic CD, the songs are still so fresh in Tabbara’s mind that they are morphing, changing and developing.
So even after interviewing him two or three times, writing a story about “Kills” is also going to be a little ethereal.
But it’s all part of the mixed bag of reasons why The Zou has been one of Youngstown’s most popular bands — as well as one of its most interesting and creative — for the past five years.
In a nutshell, “Kills” is something of a concept album that delves into issues of personal, mostly romantic, relationships.
It is also the first of two parts. The second part, which is 90 percent complete, will be released in five or six months.
The first video from the new album is for the song “Soon! OK?” It features a choreographed dance line of hobos and can be viewed on YouTube.
Tabbara talked about the new album in a series of interviews. Here are excerpts:
Q. What is the concept or theme of “The Zou Kills, Part 1”?
A. All of the songs reflect the fact that, after you have a couple of serious relationships under your belt, (you know that)there is only one of two ways that it will turn out. It’s a kill or be killed mentality. You have to worry about not taking that fear of the relationship ending into the relationship. But it’s always there.
Q. (In an earlier interview, Tabbara had this to say about the album’s title and its concept):
A. I literally had a dream that the album was out and that it was called “The Zou Kills.” I even dreamed what the cover looked like (which basically has been recreated for the CD). It’s about the experiences of a (phase) in the life of an artist, what he might experience at this point in his growth. ... It’s pretty darn autobiographical. I know what it’s about, but once it’s written. it doesn’t matter. ... I can’t put it into the box of my own life. Listeners will see it through their own experiences. But if, say, I wrote about a certain feeling (and a listener can relate to that feeling), then I did my job right.
Q. Although the new album has the same pop sensibility The Zou has always demonstrated, I detect a flavoring of ’70s-style rock.
A. This album has certainly been influenced by a lot of late ’60’s and ’70s rock operas like The Who’s “Tommy” ... and certainly the “Jesus Christ Superstar” album. We also have found influences in early video-game music from Koji Kondo, ’80s Peter Gabriel, soul music, Tom Waits ... a lot of weird combos. But I think that’s when you get the best stuff, when you mix genres.
Q. There is also a pervading darkness here.
A. We always seem to lean on the dark side, which is weird because most people that meet me would probably say I’m a pretty upbeat person. The whole band is a group of pretty positive folks. But I think that one of the reasons why is because I kind of deal with the problems of life through the music we make. And besides, can you really trust someone who only listens to positive music?