A couple of weeks back as I went to the Ducktails show at hausungarn, I accidentally caught a show by the Berlin-based hot shots Zulu Pearls. Ever since then, they became my answer to the question: Who do you listen to the most at the moment? Because the band around D.C. born singer-songwriter Zach Van Hoozer captures the very essence of how rock music should sound nowadays: Fucking sexy. With a dash of cynical romanticism. About half a year ago, they released their first album No Heroes No Honeymoons on Cantora Records, home of MGMT. And played along a ton of great bands such as Twilight Singers, Destroyer, Cults and Tennis. Let me tell you: These guys are about to go off like a loaded pistol!
Therefore, I was pretty honoured to meet Zach and his Dutch soulmate and fellow band member Jasper in Berlins best Belgian beer bar called Herman, which is close to my hood at Senefelder Platz in Mitte. We ended up talking for four hours, discovering our mutual love for American trash TV and discussing the skills of Australian rap queen Iggy Azalea. Enjoy this mad-cool interview and buy some vinyl over at bandcamp!
PDC: Zach, what was the one incident when you decided that you have to move from Washington D.C. to Berlin?
Zach: I’d finished school and was back home at my parents’ house. I was going to move to New York actually, but then I visited Berlin once more in 2009 and met Jasper and a lot of my close friends here. Everybody said I should give it a shot so I figured out how to do it and I did it and it worked out.
PDC: So you two did not meet in Washington?
Jasper: No, we met here in Berlin.
Zach: I came here with the record we have out now. I finished it at the day I moved, and I thought I was going to give up on music for a while.
Jasper: Yeah and we were just sitting around the house, and this music was playing. And I was like: What is this? This is pretty good! And Zach was like: It’s me!
Zach: And Jasper was like: Why you’re not playing? He’s like a band soul mate to me. I found him across the ocean and he has extremely similar taste. He’s a great guitar player and has a lot of time.
PDC: So who inspired you to do music in the first place?
Zach: I was really coming into my seventies phase when I moved to Berlin. We like a lot of classic rock. Big names like John Lennon and Lou Reed, The Clash…classic artists, really. I like to keep up with up with rap, which I’ve always been into. I got inspired to start making our videos after seeing so many rappers making all of their music and videos themselves constantly. We’re big on DIY.
PDC: So you do not really know a lot of bands who live here?
Zach: We do but it is all really fragmented. It’s hard to keep track of who plays in what band and when and where they are playing.
PDC: Jasper, did you have a particular reason to move from the Netherlands to Berlin?
Jasper: I had been living in Amsterdam for almost 10 years – and I was just ready for something new I guess. I needed to find a new place and it was easier to find one in Berlin than it was in Amsterdam. It was just too hard and expensive. I had already been here six times and always had a good time. I made it a permanent vacation. We don’t have any daytime obligations except for the band.
PDC: So you are on Cantora Records, home of MGMT…
Zach: Yeah, I vaguely knew one of the guys who runs it from my home town actually. Which helped us getting on with them. I think when they were in college they discovered MGMT and put out their first EP. So that was a big deal and that is why they have a label. They do a lot of other stuff that I don’t understand. They’re very flexible and are involved in business aspects of the industry that are constantly shifting around. I’m out of my depth with that, but it’s important to be able to update your business model I suppose. They helped bring us to the US two times last year. Things are just getting started but for me, the current record is already close to 4 years old. I’m excited to put out some new material soon ish. We have 20 songs right now, and now we have a plan to put it out because we have a label. But these songs have changed so many times. It will take a while.
PDC: So is there any main theme of the last album, love maybe?
Zach: No, I don’t think so. I was young and bored of living in America. I am turning thirty this year. But I was 23 when I wrote those songs after graduating university. There was a lot of cynical attitude on “No Heroes No Honeymoons”. With me there’s always a bit of cynicism involved, but lately I feel a lot differently.
PDC: So how did you get your dad to do your music video?
Zach: He wanted to. It was really just me, him and a friend. We borrowed that big car. And this woman who has been my neighbour my entire life – I never realized she was actually from Berlin. So I came back last time and had fun speaking German with her.
Anyway, my parents are really supportive and my dad was just having a good time. All of the video is real, that was just a real karaoke-bar that happened to have a costume party that night. And I just made him drink a little and throw on the shirt. But he wears it all the time anyway. It was fun to go back to my hometown, like that diner. I made all of our videos myself and really have gotten into it. Recently I was involved with a Marc Owen video, which was pretty wild. I’m trying to do more video on the side, to earn a bit of cash. I’ve been trying harder on all fronts really, the music front and video front. We like to do as much as we can by ourselves.
PDC: But it looks very professional!
Zach: Thanks a lot! I think I’ve basically put myself through community college from watching so many tutorial videos online. Every time we have something to do we just figure it out. Most of the times I’ve hired someone to do something for me, in the end I was disappointed. I’d much rather fail myself, trying to get my vision across than have to deal with a diluted interpretation of what I was looking for.
PDC: So you know each other really well, do you all live in the same house?
Zach: No we don’t. But we know each other really well. Jasper has stayed at my parents house pretty often, and we’re all very laid back.
Jasper: I love hanging out with Zach’s dad.
Zach: Yeah, I think he wants to drive us, that’s his fantasy and he wants to be involved. I would love him to drive us on tour and then I could make a short documentary about it.
PDC: Do you have any funny show memories?
Zach: Not so many, our first time last year at CMJ our bassist we were playing with in the states got a bit drunk and suddenly had his shirt off and was sitting on top of the amps. I didn’t see it coming, but I enjoyed it. I thought it was entertaining. We were all a little burnt out on New York at that point. We had so many shows at CMJ, several in the same place. It was our first experience of realizing we were at a so called industry event. You can really feel that it has little to do about the music and everything to do with the people working in the business.
Jasper: It is really awful. There is a really big gap between music industry people and musicians. And I don’t think they mix very well.
Zach: Coming from Berlin it was a bit jarring. Everyone is grinding so hard to be on top. One person pulls out a business card and suddenly there are ten in your face.
PDC: So what is next for you?
Zach: Playing as many shows as possible. Finishing up all our new material including our 2nd LP and definitely making some more videos. Basic stuff. It is really time to start the new phase with some new music. Now we have a home and are ready to do it, we didn’t even have a practice space until a month ago. Usually we would practice a day before shows in a rented space for an hour. But now finally it’s like we have an office. I really like it. It even has windows. Turns out it’s very close to the this club called Sisyphos. We went to record at the space last Sunday at noon, and the tram was full of wasted people. They didn’t look like punks or your average street drunks, but they were all drinking wine from the bottle. It all made sense when the tram stopped and they all got off with us and walked straight into the club. It was a nice Berlin moment.
PDC: Do you have any friend bands that you would like to rep?
Zach: Oh yeah, my friends who were heavily involved with “No Heroes No Honeymoons” have a band called The Tender Thrill in D.C., they play Rock ‘n’ Roll. I like the band Ballet School, another local band. And I receive some tunes from Sweatshirt which I liked, and our friends from New Zealand have a band called Sun and the Wolf.
Jasper: My friend Young Marco from Amsterdam. He plays electronic stuff. Vintage weirdo disco.
Thanks so much for this interview Jasper & Zach! Let’s drink beer again soon.