June 29--Just that the Zombies still are may come as a surprise.
After all, the British invasion group responsible for hits like "Time of the Season" and "She's Not There" broke up for the first time two weeks before their pinnacle album, "Odessey and Oracle" was released in 1968.
But Rod Argent, Zombies keyboardist and vocalist, and Colin Blunstone, lead vocalist, seem to have never quite gotten enough of each other.
The two have reunited a few times since then -- between bouts of solo projects and work in other sectors of the music industry. However, even Argent was surprised when the Zombies were revived in earnest around 2000 after he and Blunstone decided to begin touring and putting out new material together.
It's material that -- despite the ever-present shadow of the band's early successes -- feels vivacious and enjoyable in its own right. Like the band's fresh and energetic fifth studio album, "Breathe Out, Breathe In," released in 2011 and featuring Argent and Blunstone along with Jim Rodford (formerly of The Kinks) on bass, Steve Rodford on drums and Tom Toomey on guitar.
Leading up to a performance Wednesday at the Payomet Performing Arts Center, Argent, 68, spoke with the Cape Cod Times about the band's new material, his relationship with Blunstone (also 68) and the zombie pop phenomenon. Here's an edited version of the interview:
Q: How would you describe this latest incarnation of The Zombies?
A: I think it's the best band I've ever played with. There's more energy on stage than when we first started to come over to the States when we were 18 or 19. " We just had a review come out about our live album, "The Zombies Live in the UK," and this review actually said: "These guys are at the top of their game." That was lovely to read, and I honestly believe it's true.
Q: What keeps you and Colin coming
A: Well we've remained friends all our lives, actually. When (we got the Zombies back together), it was a shock because I didn't have any intention to play live anymore, though my life remained 100 percent involved in music. ... But I was performing a charity concert for a jazz musician friend of mine in the U.K., and Colin was in the audience and just got up and sort of spur of the moment sang "Time of the Season" and "She's Not There" with me. After that we said, "Why don't we put six gigs together just for fun," and it was just a ball. That began 13 years of touring around the world.
Q: Describe the relationship between you and Colin. Are you more different or similar?
A: There are differences between us, but we are quite similar. We did grow up together, and I like to say we learned our trade together. Like "She's Not There" was the second song I ever wrote, and I wrote it with Colin's voice in my head. So I learned my trade writing with Colin's voice in mind as my lead vocal. Colin always says he learned his trade by singing my songs. So there's a lot binding us together. It was also those early experiences we had together at 18 and 19 years old. You know, it was a magical situation, coming over to America -- which was the Holy Grail for us, musically. I mean, I was listening to rock 'n' roll from here when I was 11, so nine years later to be on the top of the charts was incredible. So that cemented our early experiences together, and we've always remained good friends.
Q: How do you keep the older Zombies material still feeling fresh?
A: Well, it's not like we've been playing on stage together for 40 years straight -- we ... got back together professionally around the year 2000. So it's not 40 plus years, but it does feel fresh every night. It's the fact that with so much of our music you can approach things differently. " Like, I always try to start a solo differently each time. Everyone also listens to each other a lot, which is nice, because we get to constantly enjoy those musical differences.
Q: Why are you called the Zombies?
A: You know, it's a hard thing choosing a name. I think we had very boring names for two or three weeks -- the one I remember was "The Sundowners." It was the bass player -- the only guy that left the band -- who came up with the name the Zombies. This was a long time ago before all of the zombie television shows and movies, and so I vaguely knew it had something to do with Haiti and voodoo; I just thought it was a quite bizarre thing. I thought if you had a name no one else was going to have, people would stop thinking about the name itself and just associate the music with the guys themselves. Like, when people think of the Beatles, they don't think of insects scurrying around or even the play on words. They think of John, Paul, George and Ringo. So it was very important to me to get a name that no one else was going to have.
Q: Do you guys get a kick out of zombies being such a pop culture phenomenon now -- featured on TV, video games, movies, etc.?
A: I mean, sometimes they use our music because there's a link up there, which is nice, but I don't think I've ever watched a zombie movie in my life!
(c)2013 the Cape Cod Times (Hyannis, Mass.)
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