Mike Barrow grew up in Zimbabwe. Then he found himself coming to the states—to make music.
“Growing up in Zimbabwe had a large effect on my life and my music,” said Barrow, singer and guitarist of the band, Zulu Wave. “More on subject matter, than musical style.”
“South Africa was my first experience in a serious band and I embraced the chaos present in the country. I let the energy and the lack of cleanliness characterize my music,” he said. “As an African, it will always influence my life and music.”
Today, in South Florida—specifically Tampa—this influence pours into Barrow’s current band, Zulu Wave. Formed by what the band notes as “chance encounters and blind luck,” Zulu Wave has quickly established itself amongst the Tampa area music scene, and is known for an energetic live show. A taste of this same energy shines through their inaugural EP releases—2011’s “Theep” and 2012’s “Nyami Nyami”—available for listen or purchase at zuluwavemusic.bandcamp.com.
In addition to making a return to several of their previous Florida tour stops, including Tallahassee, Zulu Wave is heading a bit further west to join locals Pioneers! O Pioneers! and Imaginary Airshow at the Handlebar, Friday, Aug. 2. Although bassist Brian Schanck is no stranger to the area, this is Zulu Wave’s first time playing Pensacola.
In between playing at home and touring the sunshine state, members of Zulu Wave sat down together to collectively answer a few questions for the IN.
IN: Although still a fairly new band, your lineup has rotated a couple of times. How would you describe, or introduce your current members?
ZW: I think the most interesting thing about all of our members is really the differences between us. Brian Schanck being well established in local bands and touring. Ariel Cortes (keyboardist) and Mike Barrow being newcomers to the serious band life, but not taking music seriously.
IN: Has the lineup been continually born out of chance encounters or friendships?
ZW: This band is a series of chance encounters and blind luck. Brian is awesome and found us through Tampa band, Wolf-Face. We are now friends through shows and recording. Encounters lead to friendships and that’s how we have been building this band.
IN: How have you been increasing Zulu-awareness?
ZW: We pride ourselves on an exciting live show and I think word of mouth has really helped us out in Tampa. Playing out of town and of course the usual Internet mediums have also been important.
IN: Do you have “go to” venues you routinely play at or near home?
ZW: New World Brewery has been kind to us here in Tampa and we have played there many times. Mojo Books and Music is fast becoming a favorite of ours as well.
IN: Is this a full time gig? Or are you moving toward making it one?
ZW: Any band that wants to be successful needs to be working at it full time. Does it pay? No. We all work day jobs in order to make this happen. If we were treating this like a hobby we might as well play Jimmy Buffet covers for extra cash. Some day we hope to quit our day jobs and have swimming pools full of Kool-Aid. But we aren’t there yet.
IN: What’s it like making your way as an independent band at this point in time, specifically in South Florida?
ZW: It’s tough. The scene is definitely growing between the bands and all the great music coming out of this area. But it seems sometimes like people aren’t going out to see the bands, even great ones from out of town. Getting out of Florida is also tough—eight hours just to reach a different state.
IN: What does a typical night out look like for Zulu Wave?
ZW: Local shows and good eats (beers). Tampa has a great nightlife but we honestly don’t party too hard. Between work and practice and shows, there really isn’t much time.
IN: This time last summer you had just played Times Square. How was playing a locale of that magnitude with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah?
ZW: Insane. A dream. We would hate for it to be the one big event of the band’s life but if it was, there are worse events than playing Times Square.
IN: “Nyami Nyami” is the title of your most recent EP. It’s also the name of a Zimbabwean river god said to provide protection to the Tonga people in difficult times. Does your EP emulate this creature’s persona, or its mysteriousness?
ZW: I think we took a much more negative view of this whole thing. More man eating terrifying monster fish than protector of anything. The album had more of that in mind than the positive.
IN: Is a full length album up next, or are you aiming to go “three for three” and release another EP?
ZW: I think the first step is finding a [new] drummer. After that, recording is definitely a priority. As far as EP or album—we haven’t decided yet.
IN: Name three bands you find yourselves listening to in excess this year—one for each member of Zulu.
BARROW: Ice Age
CORTES: And So I Watch You From Afar
SCHANCK: Kendrick Lamar
WHAT: Zulu Wave with Pioneers! O Pioneers! and Imaginary Airshow
WHEN: 9:30 p.m. Friday, August 2
WHERE: The Handlebar, 319 N. Tarragona
DETAILS: zuluwavemusic.com or 434-9060