By Meg Fair
Pittsburgh Current Managing Editor
The Zells may be a slacker rock band, but the Pittsburgh group’s latest EP is anything but lazy.
No More Heroes sounds like smoking weed on your front porch with your closest friends while you take turns talking about your lives and your overarching desire to drop out of society. Specific? Sure. But the sound of this five-song EP has a little something for everyone, including tinges of twinkly emo, dashes of power pop and jangly rock.
The varied sound was very much a result of the band members each taking on writing responsibilities. All five Zells (Frank DiNardo, Jackson Rogers, Philip Kenbok, Roman Benty, Tyler Gallagher) have writing credits on this release. A band member brings an original idea, and the band begins to communally work it out. “The important thing is that we get all of our best ideas out there, and everyone contributing lyrically and vocally is a bonus. We like to have multiple ‘lead singers’ at once, and we tend to inform each others’ lyrics,” say The Zells in a collectively composed email to the Current.
“The advantage of this is that there is no ownership over the creative process, and we feel more comfortable with each other as a result,” they wrote. “Plus, there’s five songwriters so we have plenty (if not too much) material.”
The warm, fuzzy sound, on the other hand, is a result of the band’s recording process. For its last album, the band recorded with Rowdy Kanarek at Post Office Studios. But this EP was recorded in DiNardo’s basement studio. “We had done pretty much all of our early recordings ourselves, so we felt confident and excited about taking this on – especially because we felt like these songs catered nicely to a warm, lo-fi, basement recorded sound,” writes the band. “We’ve always loved and been heavily influenced by lo-fi stuff like Japanther, Sebadoh, Guided By Voices, etc. Also, we’re poor as fuck.”
But the lo-fi, “low-budget” sound and energy is well suited to The Zells’ attitude and spirit. It’s defiant, happy-go-lucky and self-assured. It feels like the reflection of the millennial and zoomer generations, doing the absolute best with whatever challenges are thrown their way and managing to have fun and make it work while seeming cooly aloof.
This shines through in the Zells’ old-school film music video for “Saturday.” There’s roller skating choreography (and a few moments of giggle-inducing wobbliness), matching outfits, cheeky shots and self-aware silliness. The Zells can be seen performing in roller skates in a Christmas-light checkered basement and mock-playing instruments in front of abandoned houses overgrown with ivy.
Despite the goofiness, the band plays a lot and puts out solid work.
“Maybe a year or two ago, we all kind of realized that this was the thing we’ve all prioritized most for the better part of the last decade. No matter the turns and challenges life has thrown at us, we all keep coming back to this as the process that fulfills our sense of self, and makes us excited about our day-to-day,” says the band. “Creating, performing, making new friends, and traveling are all cool things that yield new experiences and perspectives. It’s a way to grow with the people you care about, we are best friends. And it’s nice to have this to talk about instead of our day jobs.”