The Zou

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Prince PORTRAIT

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

An assortment of some of the area’s most well-known and eclectic talent will join forces this Friday at Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts for a career-spanning tribute to Prince. Since his passing on April 21 of this year, there has been a far-reaching cry across the musical landscape for the iconic multi-instrumental songwriter. A fact no different here in the Valley, as musicians from acts such as The Zou, The Vindys and Jude Benedict and The Last Drop, among many more, will take the stage to express their love, admiration and gratitude for the works of The Purple One.

The event was spear-headed by Kyle O’Donnell and John Anthony, both of whom will be taking part in the performance. O’Donnell said musicians from Youngstown, Warren, and Pittsburgh, as well other parts of Pennsylvania will be taking part, for a diverse representation of the region.

“I actually didn’t even meet some of the guys in the band, who are from PA, until 2 days before our first rehearsal, but I’m excited that they’re willing to bring their talents to Youngstown for a night,” said O’Donnell.

The initial bond that unites these musicians is, of course, the music of Prince. Anthony said that following his death, he decided to analyze himself as a musician and just how important of a role Prince played.

“With the passing of Prince, I felt as a guitar player I always wanted to dive more into his musical vocabulary but always pushed it aside because my focus was always working on different music. Myself and our drummer, Kelvin Newell, had spoke about doing a Prince tribute show for years however we were never able to make a particular date work with our schedules. Once Prince passed, I like everyone else, began to revisit a lot of the music and felt that it was time to really study his guitar playing,” explained Anthony.

There’s no denying the impact Prince made on the musical landscape. Khaled Tabbara of The Zou explained the significance of Prince’s discography and how it influenced the sound of artists to follow.

“Prince’s is one of the greatest artists and performers in the history of modern music. His impact on rock and popular music is unsurpassed. Equal (or greater than in some ways) to the Beatles or Dylan. Even if you think you don’t like Prince, he is probably your favorite artist’s favorite artist. If you like, Beyonce, Beck, Dave Grohl, Justin Timberlake, Stevie Wonder, Rhianna, Trent Reznor, or most things you hear on the radio, you are listening to music made by Prince fans,” said Tabbara.

O’Donnell said that his legacy is on par with that of greats like Michael Jackson.

“Some people might not believe it, but Prince was once talked about in the same breath as musicians such as Michael Jackson. Actually, the story goes that Michael Jackson asked Prince to sing on his song “Bad,” but Prince turned it down. Jackson is responsible for the best selling album of all time, so being considered to be on his level speaks to Prince’s talent,” said O’Donnell.

“He put out 1999, which is a totally cool, electronic synth-pop record, and about a year later, dropped Purple Rain, what many consider one of the greatest rock records ever made,” added Tabbara.

Anthony said that although he discovered Prince slightly later in the game, the impact was felt no less.

“Prince was an artist that I did not discover until high school. My parents did not play him in our house and it wasn’t until his performance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction in 2004 that I found out who he was,” said Anthony.

O’Donnell, Tabbara and Anthony all agree that this tribute will give justice to Prince’s musical and cultural impact and turn casual or non-fans into believers.

“This show will obviously showcase the classics, but it will also showcase some of the lesser known tunes. I bet that we will have some audience members say to themselves, ‘Oh, I know this song,’ but they might never have realized that it was Prince. I think that this will really outline how even the non-fan was impacted by Prince’s music,” said O’Donnell.

“This show is full of musicians from across the musical spectrum; rock guys, pop girls, jazz and classical cats, funk and R&B fans. We all come from different musical influences, but we are all huge Prince fans,” added Tabbara.

All three musicians share an excitement and enthusiasm upon performing with one another, bringing out the best in one another and doing so in such an unconventional fashion.

“Many of the musicians who are playing this group were picked because of their love of his music. These individuals are some of the best musicians in the area who look at taking an artist’s work and playing it at the highest level of musicianship possible,” said Anthony.

“This is perhaps the most interesting part of this gig. I feel like the story behind the story is the band. In the past, myself and John Anthony have done a number of tribute shows with multiple groups of musicians,” added O’Donnell.

“I’ve known a lot of these musicians for a while, but I’m really excited to have a chance to finally play with them. It’s going to be a really dynamite show,” finished Tabbara.

O’Donnell said that although he doesn’t want to reveal too much, this tribute will be one to remember, with plenty of surprises in store.

“Well, I’m not going to give away too much about the set list, but Prince was very unique and eclectic, so the audience will experience a wide range of styles and themes. We will play music from four different decades, so we plan to cater to both the casual fan and the diehard one.

“Performance wise, we’re going to have a pretty good balance of group playing and solo jams. We have a huge amount of talent in the band and we want to showcase that as much as possible,” O’Donnell said.

“Like many of the other tribute shows that we have done, it’s always exciting to see the people who come to these shows because typically you see the excitement and nostalgia that a lot of this music is going to bring them,” added Anthony.

Lastly, O’Donnell commented that all of the greats to come before and after Prince, the timeless music will continue to inspire and intrigue generations to come.

“I think that Prince’s lasting influence was already being felt, even before his death. When you think about artists like Prince, David Bowie, Elton John, etc., it’s easy to go straight to the crazy outfits and the odd behavior. Beneath all of that, they are all incredible musicians who are very proficient at their craft. Moving forward, I think that future generations will have more awareness of who Prince was, the level of talent that he possessed, and just how prolific of a career he had,” O’Donnell said.

The Tribute will take place at Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts in downtown Youngstown on Friday, June 10. Here is the complete lineup of musicians involved:

Vocals: Khaled Tabbara – Youngstown, OH (Band leader for The Zou)

Guitar: John Anthony – Youngstown, OH (Guitarist for The Vindys)

Keyboard: Doug Finley – Pittsburgh, PA (Guitarist for Jude Benedict and The Last Drop)

Bass: Dave Traugh – Kiski Area, PA (Bassist for Jude Benedict and The Last Drop)

Drums: Kelvin Newell – Warren, OH

Backing Vocals: Katianne Timko – Youngstown, OH (K808)

Aux. Percussion: Jon Pincek – Pittsburgh, PA

Trumpet 1: Tim Tuite – Youngstown, OH

Trumpet 2: Kyle O’Donnell – Youngstown, OH

Trombone 1: Brian Mayle – Youngstown, OH

Trombone 2: Sean Durkin – Youngstown, OH

Saxophones: Stephen Harvey – Rochester, PA

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

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Artist: K808

Album: Runaways

Release Date: 12/12/15

Rating: 9.5/10

Youth. Reckless abandon. Free spirit. The best days of your life…

This is exactly the summation of Runaways,’ the second release from art-pop singer/songwriter/producer K808. A soundtrack to the days of young adulthood; on the cusp of life but not having everything figured out, and not necessarily being concerned with it either. Runaways is a perfect example of a coming-of-age tale of young millennial love; a fun and upbeat banger with a deep complexity and sharp wit beneath the bubbly surface.

K808, formerly know as the indie-pop songstress Katianne Timko, has undergone quite the transformation over the last two years. After making quite a name for herself on the regional Indie scene, Timko took a huge risk. Rather than continuing on her already successful musical course, she completely reinvented her image and her art, fully becoming and embracing K808, a forward-thinking “pop” artist, with emphasis on the artist.

For her new EP, Runaways, K808 took on the role as songwriter, composer and producer, to impressive results. The production quality is top notch, with beats and hooks for days. Each of the six tracks all loaded with superb club-ready bangers, commanding dance floor dominance. The EP is bright and fun, with a sense of both self-awareness and artistic wit of veteran songwriter, which is exactly who K808 is. Her new sound does not feel like a gimmick or a cash-in, but a very interesting artistic risk, one of which contains a heavy dose of heart and soul.

Runaways kicks off with the slamming “Young + Hungry.” The track’s lines “Play me like vinyl babe, I want you like an autograph, I want to run away and you’re the one who makes me laugh,” and “My heart is beating still, we’re millennials and we’re never satisfied. We’re young and we’re hungry and we’re having the time of our lives,” perfectly sum up what the EP and K808 are representing.

“The Dark Side,” featuring rapper GRIZZLY, was the first single released some months back. The Track boasts yet another banger, with strong songwriting from both K808 and GRIZZLY for an interesting crossover appeal. “Pool House” is a fun track and perhaps the poppiest number, not far from modern Katy Perry or Taylor Swift. From there, the complexity begins to rise with one of the EP’s sharpest tracks, “Sleeping With the Enemy.” K808 sings ” I like my love delusional,” is the post-hook of the song, indicating the true naivety and complications of young love in an ever-evolving society.

Closing tracks, “Valentine (Ready, Set, Go)” and “H20” offer more huge hooks and powerful words from a young woman who is quickly coming into her own, but still has the youthful abandon on her side.

All in all, Runaways marks a very pivotal point for K808, both as a musician and songwriter. She has stepped out from behind the shadow of her acoustic guitar and ventured into an entire new world of musical discovery. Her knack for a song melody, huge hook, and superb production techniques are impossible to ignore. Key tracks include “Young + Hungry” and “Sleeping With the Enemy.”

And Runaways is a rare and beautiful occasion where an artist goes pop without selling out, but marking an even bigger and bolder statement. As a songwriter, K808 is continually expanding her horizons. Whether its love songs, or heartbreak, or a fun-in-the-sun track like “Pool House,” her approach is one of maturity and experience, with a strong artistic sense behind all of it. Runaways is artistic evolution, and it’s exciting to see what direction K808 will take next.

Runaways will be available on iTunes on Dec. 18.

Artist of the Year: Chelsea Wolfe

Album of the Year: Chelsea Wolfe – Abyss

Song of the Year: Faith No More – Superhero

Music Video of the Year: David Bowie – Blackstar

Rock Act of the Year: Tame Impala

Alternative Act of the Year: Bjork

Rap/Hip-Hop Act of the Year: Kendrick Lamar

Punk Act of the Year: Teenage Bottlerocket

Metal Act of the Year: Deafheaven

Best Collaboration: New Order/Iggy Pop – Stray Dog

Best Live Act: Queen Kwong

Best Local/Regional Live Act: ALBUM

Best Album (Local/Regional Act): TIE: Kitchen Knife ConspiracySeven Deadly Sins and The ZouKills, Part 2

Comeback of the Year: New Order

Best New Artist: Black Wing

Lifetime Achievement: Bjork

By Rick Polo and Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Editor-in-Chief and Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)

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Artist: The Zou

Album: Love Kills Part Two

Release Date: 8/22/15

Rating: 9.7/10

Two long years have passed since The Zou released Kills Part One. The album was a real emotional rollercoaster of well-crafted pop love songs, dragged through barbed wire of sonic experimentation; a notable trademark of the band. The album literally left fans hanging on the edge of their seats, waiting for the follow-up. Now, with the release of Kills Part Two, fans can finally breathe as the Northeast Ohio Indie Rock staples have unleashed the masterpiece that was years in the making.

After a slew of lineup changes and delays, Zou mastermind Khaled Tabbara has teamed up with a plethora of noteworthy musicians to craft what could easily be his finest effort to date. Featuring the talents of Bernadette Lim, Katianne Timko, Billy LaGuardia and Tabbara’s brother Rached to name a few, the eclectic sound each musician brings to the table only adds more color to canvas. Producer Pete Drivere lends his signature polished-yet-somehow-gritty-rock-and-roll sound, for a record that transcends nearly every era of rock, yet still sounds vitally fresh.

Kicking off Kills Part Two is the simply-titled “Love.” A Baroque Pop tune with vocal harmonies reminiscent of Rubber Soul-era Beatles or Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys. The opening track is airy and tense, perfecting leading into “Drop A Dime,” a Ben Gibbard-esque sounding number, that could fall somewhere between his work with either Death Cab For Cutie or The Postal Service.

“I Was A Tyrant” follows with a more Americana-meets-Baroque Pop vibe, and painful lyrics hinting at a one-sided relationship. From there, the hard-rocking “Ooglie Booglie” takes flight, giving a post-punk angst, both sonically and lyrically, not unlike that of The Pixies or perhaps some of Black Francis’ solo endeavors. The track features a standout riff that takes the record off into a whole other direction before taking another left turn with the following tracks.

The Katianne Timko-produced “Holy Moses” can best be described as “holy drums!” The electronic drums pound underneath a well-crafted pop song. The modern, but certainly not gimmicky, production feels more like The Zou taking a sonic step forward rather than a trendy cash grab.

Finally, Kills Part Two concludes with the Doo-Wop vocal harmonies of “Mon Dieu” (an early acoustic version performed on The Raw Alternative can be viewed here) and the climatic rocker, “Gun Moll.” With a collage of sound that evokes Animal Collective, “Gun Moll” featuring soaring guitars and some of the album’s most intense lyrics, leaving the listener again, at the edge of their seat craving more.

All in all, Kills Part Two features, some of, if not the finest music The Zou has produced to date! Standout tracks include “Ooglie Booglie,” “Holy Moses,” “I Was A Tyrant” and “Gun Moll.” With various nods to his influences, Tabbara takes his band to new heights, while still retaining enough of the classic sound fans have come to know and love. Lyrically, the album examines all the various angles of love and the multiple feelings it can provoke, much in the way of Paul McCartney, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James or even Martin Gore. Sonically, Love Kills Part Two is widely spread, much in the way of Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper’s or even Dark Side of the Moon. It’s indicative of a band reaching a creative high, but certainly not peaking just yet.

The Zou will be giving a performing at Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts in downtown Youngstown on Saturday, Aug. 22 as band of the official release of Kills Part Two.