Photos by Lori Sky Twohy
JBO: Hey Zoe, my name is Jamie with Jambandsonline.com. How are you doing today?
ZOE: I’m doing great, how are you?
JBO: I’m doing great. I see that you and the band are playing a lot of festivals this summer. Is there any you are looking forward to playing the most and do you prefer them to smaller venues?
ZOE: Well, it’s interesting, because the upstate stops are really fun for David since he’s originally from Vermont, so I think it’s really nice for him to go back. Electric Forest is always totally insane, and the kids are so excited. There is something really refreshing about that. It’s such a big show, but also during the smaller events, there’s such sweetness to them too. You get to have more intimate experience with your audience. So, were excited about all of them for different reasons.
JBO: Which festival in the past would you say has left the biggest impression on the band?
ZOE: Well, ya know there’s a few of them, but Oh my gosh, I have to say Camp Bisco. It was about 3-4 years ago now and we were just kinda starting out. Nobody knew who the hell we were. We went to the festival and we were so excited to perform and when our performance started, we had probably only about 300 people at the show. We were so excited, but 300 people? It was a big stage but it felt pretty empty. Bas were playing, all of a sudden, all of these kids start running to our stage. That was the first time we ever experienced anything like that. We didn’t know what was going on. By the end of our performance, we had like 5000 people at our show! It was just mind-blowing! I guess the people heard our music and liked it and said “let’s go check it out?” It was very special!
JBO: Very Cool! Can you tell me a little bit about the parade you guys are doing with the Mayhem Marching Band at Electric Forest? It sounds awesome! What can we expect to see?
ZOE: Were definitely excited to work with some Michigan kids and getting some good times going. You’re going to see some really happy, excited kids that are so stoked to be performing with us and that makes us excited. People put out the most amazing videos, the most loving/touching videos, because you had to audition, so I feel like you’re going to expect a lot of really talented, crazy kids break out into total chaos! Hence the name ‘Mayhem’, I think it’s going to be quite chaotic, which will be really exciting!
JBO: So tell me about the Great Convergence in Egypt, and how awesome that must have Been?
ZOE: Oh my god, well I actually wasn’t able to go, I was already booked up, which was a bummer. It was right next to the Pyramids and the boys got to see the eclipse while playing in front of the pyramids. It was probably the craziest adventure for the band in terms of going somewhere nuts!
JBO: Wow, that sounds incredible! Did visiting there inspire David or Tommy to write any new music?
ZOE: Yes! Actually there’s a song that’s going to be on our next album. Part of the inspiration came from the boys inviting some local folk musicians to sing and play music. They actually recorded it, and some of that field recording is in our song, so ABSOLUTLEY!
ZOE: The album is going to be coming out in October…Brand new album!
JBO: Can’t wait! Now I have a few questions just for you. I know you’ve been dancing your whole life, and you started belly dancing in 2000, is that correct?
ZOE: Yep, I started in 2000. You got your facts straight!
JBO: Did you have an interest in belly dancing before you joined the band? Or was it something that you always wanted to do?
ZOE: That’s an interesting question, because the band wouldn’t have formed without belly dancing. I actually started belly dancing 4 or 5 years before the band got together. When I was a little girl, I did ballet and as I grew older, I shifted away from dance for a while. It wasn’t easy for me, because I have flat feet, so it was really tough trying to be a ballerina. I stopped because it was really hard on my body. Then I started belly dancing when I saw a dancer at a festival in 2000.
JBO: Gotcha! So what’s your practice regime like? Do you practice a lot when your on tour? Or take any classes?
ZOE: I have training season, when I’m not on tour I dance approximately 2-7 hours a day. And that’s with training on my own and taking classes from other people. I take a class called modishi, which is an Indian dance. And when I’m on tour, it’s a lot harder to dance that much, especially with the late nights. And it’s more important for me to focus on conditioning and taking care of myself, so that’s when I do a lot of Yoga. I take a lot of Yoga classes, and I do Yoga in the green room before the show. I’ll warm up my body and dance a little bit, but the focus is protecting my body while I’m on the road.
ZOE: Oh my god, so many people. I was really lucky to have really great teachers early in my career. My original teacher was Katerina Berda and I was really lucky to have this amazing woman teach me. She was like 60 when she started to teach me, and she had all this knowledge, and there is a tradition of tribal belly dance in the West Coast since the 60’s. I got to learn from her and she was part of that. It was really amazing. But I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for that amazing dance community.
JBO: I have to say that one of my favorite songs to see you perform is “Colony Collapse” where you dance behind a curtain, with a spotlight beaming on you, creating a shadow. How did you go about perfecting that? Did you stand in front of a mirror?
ZOE: Oh yeah! That’s actually traditional Balinese dance. Isn’t that cool? It’s a very old dance form and the band that accompanies it is this huge orchestra of people hitting these tuned metal pieces all the way up to a Gong.It’s called a gamelan and is actually a traditional and classical dance form. We were lucky enough that there is a group in California and I met one of the dancers, and she’s wonderful. Her name is Rose, and she’s my teacher! I’ve been learning a lot from her. I would not have been able to do it without her. My goal is to represent Balinese culture as well so people can get a taste of these cultures that are so amazing on so many levels.
ZOE: Yeah, it’s really hard! Balancing is very difficult. And you actually have to retrain your body. I practiced for months and months and I have to practice it for at least 30 minutes before the show, or it will fall off! But it just takes practice, like anything.
JBO: Your right, practice makes perfect. I also noticed that recently that you closed out a show with Bohemian Rhapsody, which is a perfect song to close out show. Did anything inspire that or did it come organically?
ZOE: Ya know, I think that can be credited to our tour manager Rich. Rich suggested we play that song and somehow I ended up on stage lip synching and we were like, “let’s just do it!”
JBO: I have a question that you might know the answer to. Do you know if David started playing the Banjo or the Violin first?
ZOE: David began playing the Banjo first, his friend growing up, named Charles, played banjo in a band with David and David actually played drums. David didn’t pick up the violin until about 6 years ago.
ZOE: I know, he’s really good!
JBO: Well, were getting close to the end here. Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about?
ZOE: Our fall tour promises to be unlike anything that you’ve seen. We’ve spent almost a year trying to figure out how to execute it, but were doing a concept album. The whole thing is going to be a story with a concept behind it. It’s going to be unlike anything we’ve ever done, and were really excited. We have a fully visual video show planned and we’re looking forward to presenting it in the fall .
JBO: Well I certainly can’t wait for that. Thank you so much for taking the time for an interview and see you at the Forest!
ZOE: No problem! Take it easy, and yes, see ya at Forest!