by: Bryan Stoker
On June 24th, 2017 Zoo Trippin released their first full length LP titled Purple. Most bands wait until at least their third, or fourth, album before deciding to go the concept route. However, Lynn Roose III and Tony Casa have always been over achievers. So, it figures they would go ahead a do a full-blown concept album with their first LP.
The color purple is made by the blending of the colors red and blue. Like many that watched the election of 2016 unfold, Casa, who writes all the lyrics, felt he needed to do something to try to bring red and blue together and try and make our country more purple. Casa does what many cannot do as a writer. He raises questions, discusses his own experiences, but wants the listener to understand there are two sides to every issue, and people need to understand that, and see both sides of the argument. From a musical standpoint, Roose wanted to color the album, using keys that are tied to color. The album is split into a Blue and a Red Side.
Side Blue opens with “Mr. White and Mr. West”, and by doing so, Zoo Trippin lets people know they are not that party rock band you came to love. This a grown up band making music of a higher conscience. This is definitely one of the heaviest songs this band has done; the metal influence of drummer Steve Hatmaker comes to the forefront. This is not the way fans of Zoo Trippin would expect this album to open. However, in speaking with Roose, he said “We decided on this album to write it so every song could be played live with out having the horn section we have become known for. We really only used horns on only two or three tracks.”
“The Color Purple” is next. Roose has always said Led Zeppelin has been one of his biggest influences and he makes no apologies with this song. It's a slow blues burner to let the listener know what kind of ride they are in for on this album. This album is going to tackle some deeper issues than anything they have previously taken on.
“Funkin’ E” is track three, and at first listen was what I expected to be the single. It was not. It was also what I was sure to be my favorite track on the album. It was, but no longer is. It is a great song, it has all the elements of Zoo Trippin I love. Great lyrics from Casa delivered in his distinct vocal styling, funky bass from Austin Smith, the rhythmic guitar leads from Roose and Drew Dimitrovski , Hatmaker holding down the drums and adding flare in all the right places, and, of course, those horns from guests Jake Huffstetler and Neil Stackhouse. However, while the song is great and still one of my favorites on the album, it is not the best Zoo Trippin has to offer.
“Wait, I’m Awake!” comes next and is the best song on this album. This is the song that Roose definitely takes center stage on. The song starts with power chords and driving drums with a melodic guitar hook. Casa offers the line “You can blame it on the neighborhood, use your genes as a scapegoat, say your situation’s no good, or you can call yourself a sign of the times, there’s punishments and repentance if you're sentenced to the crime. Please know that I never meant to hurt anyone, anyone other than myself. Wait, I’m awake!” This is a call to action for the youth movement of today, become aware of your situation. You control the terms of your life. What sets this song apart from the rest of the songs is the way Roose uses his previously mentioned Zeppelin influence to showcase musically, the awaking Casa sings about so brilliantly. This is the solo should move Roose to the forefront as the best guitarist in the city. Wait, I’m Awake! is a 3:38 tour de force and one not to be missed.
Brave on the Battlefield Parts 1&2 close out the Blue side of the album. Part one is a slow melodic number that taps into the anger and resentment of the 2016 election cycle. It showcases a character that feels completely out of touch with society and feels left behind, part one closes with a building guitar riff that leads the listener into Part 2. Part 2 is more upbeat musically but feels more angry. The song examines the military industrial complex and the role it is playing in modern day America.
Side Red kicks off with Moderation and Middle. In an album where Casa has continually offered glimpses of his personal life and thoughts, he has never let the listener into his true self as he does on this song. This song is Casa answering his own question about finding the balance between moderation and middle. The band gives him all the support he needs to work this out in front of the listener, with a tight rhythm section, crunchy guitars and those wonderful horns again.
Savage is another blues number, something that this bunch of boys seems to understand how to play better than a lot of other bands. The slide guitar intro sets the tone early and keeps it rolling throughout the song. Casa continues to deliver memorable lyrics, most notably “sorry, not sorry, our party don’t care!”
God is the Rain follows and starts out with a circus/march sound. The subject of the song is the issue of climate change and again does a great job not pushing a political agenda, but instead saying here is an issue, here are the two sides to the discussion. Casa reminds the listener that this album is called Purple, it means that we need to work together to improve our situation.
Tall Tails features, Zoo Trippin, semi-member Alex Burnsides on vocals. Burnsides has appeared on Zoo Trippin recordings before, most notably dueting with Casa, on Dirty Dog Blues from Great White Buffalo EP. This is the first time that she wrote a song and brought it to Casa and Roose to be used for a Zoo Trippin album. Burnsides has a great blues voice and this song is a perfect showcase for her, especially when Roose launches into a blues driven guitar solo that when played live is surely to be a facemelter.
The most interesting song on the album is the closing number Uphill Swing. This song shows what we can only hope is the beginning of a great relationship between a band and producer. The Zoo Trippin boys decided to head to Oranjudio to work with Joey Gurwin to make this album. When asked about how much involvement Gurwin had with the project Roose shared this story with me. “Uphill Swing was never intended to be an acoustic song. We kinda tried to give it a Reggae feel, clean reverby guitars and what not, and it was one of the first songs we were tracking. In the middle of the take he (Gurwin) stops us in the middle of the take and says, ‘Are you guys doing this acoustic?’, We were said ‘Well no we hadn’t really planned on it.’ Joey just looked at us and said, ‘You are doing this acoustic’.” The marriage between band and producer is so important, and it couldn’t be more evident with this song. As the second single off the album it was not what I was expecting, but I can tell you when I first heard it my immediate thought was, these guys let Joey be Joey and this album is going to turn out amazing.
I had the pleasure of seeing this album performed at the release party and Roose was right, this album was meant to show this was no longer the party rock band people have become familiar with. What is even more impressive is how Roose, Casa and Gurwin come together to show people that Zoo Trippin a band that is about to dominate the Columbus music scene. Roose is easily the best young guitar player out there today, especially when it comes to blues. He tells people he is a pop guy, but when it comes down to it, few in the 614 play the blues better than Lynn Roose III. Casa is an underrated lyricist, he tries to fool people into thinking he is winging it, but in truth he writes some of the most insightful and thought provoking lyrics in the city. Spend 5 minutes with Casa and he will have you convinced there are 500 other singers out there better than him, 200 hundred better lyricists, and 10 better front men, just in Columbus mind you. When it all comes down to it, though, there are not many that can do all three as well as he does. Casa has been called the most dynamic frontman in all of Columbus, he is, it really is the best way to describe him. What is most impressive is Roose and Casa sought out one of the best producers in Columbus in Gurwin and let him get involved with their music. Hopefully these three men see what they can do when they are working together. This album is a must listen for any rock/blues fanatic.
Purple is available now on Spotify and iTunes, and is heading for release on vinyl sometime the week of July 31st. Albums are available, email firstname.lastname@example.org and request a copy.