ZAVALAZ: CEDRIC BIXLER-ZAVALA’S NEW TUMBLEWEED ROCK PROJECT

By FAITH ANN YOUNG
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If you’ve ever seen Cedric Bixler-Zavala perform live in his former bands The Mars Volta and At The Drive-In, you know that his live movements typically personify noise; he writhes and hurdles himself and his microphone around the stage in a cyclone manner, mimicking the loud sound palette of The Mars Volta’s reverb-crushed prog rock or At The Drive-In’s post-hardcore sound.

So it was a decided surprise when we sauntered into the wood-weathered desert hang, Pappy and Harriets, in Pioneertown, CA on a random Sunday night and happened upon Bixler-Zavala performing his new project, Zavalaz (i.e. his last name with an extra z). Better yet, in describing the new sound, we were delighted to use several adjectives you’d never think to use with Cedric–words like soft, mellow, acoustic–adjectives that were also perfect for a whiskey-soaked, BBQ-filled Sunday.

 

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Sometimes you wonder, what happens off stage for rock-and-rollers… Are they in touch with their softer side? Do they kiss their loved ones tenderly or do they bang like speed-freak monkeys? Can they cook a kick-ass fruit pie or grow organic fruits? Do they like Chopin? The list goes on.

That said, this project–risen from prog rock ruins–shows the delicate yet glowing ying to Bixler-Zavala’s status-quo yang… and it’s a pretty beautiful thing. Bixler-Zavala is married now and had twins this spring, and it’s a privilege see how this has perhaps activated the more tender yet raw and affectionate side of his musicianship. In Mars Volta, he wasn’t “allowed” to write songs.  So with this, “You’re going to get to hear my version of what a song should be. It’s really, really mellow. It’s really ballad-y stuff,” he said to Spin.

 

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In essence, Bixler-Zavala is un-peeling his onion and revealing more than he ever has before: this is Bixler-Zavalaz’s early morning yoga, Neil Young-meets-Fleetwood Mac, tuck-the-babies-in-early side. Bixler-Zavala describes, “They’re mostly songs that I was writing for my wife, lots of acoustic-driven stuff, lots of lap steel, a lot of Sunday morning stuff.” Like fatherhood, Zavalaz is all new terrain. The band is brand-spanking new. On Sunday, he’d written main chords down into his set list. But rather than scoff, we appreciated the effort–because it proved he’s trying hard this time to get it right…and maybe perhaps make it last.

 

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Bassist Juan Alderete de la Peña

Fear not, the sound may be quieter but it’s not dumbed-down: Zavalaz crafts complex layers of tunneling and wind-swept sound. Guitarist Dan Elkan (Them Hills, Broken Bells), bassist Juan Alderete de la Peña (The Mars Volta, Racer X) and drummer Gregory Rogove (Megapuss) all pull their weight – building loose yet power-packed southern-tinged rock, accentuating and luxuriating on each chord, each cymbal brush. One may argue there’s in fact more sound, just less fury.

If you want to toe tap and sway this weekend, sipping on whiskey, still charged by the last dregs of the supermoon, Zavalaz is touching down this Saturday at The Troubador. Get ready to be delightfully surprised.

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Zavalaz 2013 Tour Dates:
06/15 – Las Vegas, NV @ Artifice *
06/16 – Pioneertown, CA @ Pappy & Harriets *
06/19 – Santa Barbara, CA @ Soho Club *
06/20 – San Luis Obispo, CA @ Slow Brewing Company ^
06/21 – San Francisco, CA @ Cafe Dunord ^
06/22 – Sacramento, CA @ Ace Of Spades *
06/24 – San Jose, CA @ The Blank Club *
06/25 – Fresno, CA @ The New Starline *
06/26 – Bakersfield, CA @ Elements Venue *
06/28 – Santa Ana, CA @ The Observatory *
06/29 – Los Angeles, CA @ Troubadour *
06/30 – San Diego, CA @ Casbah *

  • = w/ Dot Hacker
    ^ = w/ Ev Kain

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Drummer Gregory Rogove

 

{ Photos by Faith-Ann Young }

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