A group from our nation’s capital, Zoo Legacy combines two unique genres to create their own, distinct, Zoo Legacy sound. They recently won an award at the Toronto Music Independent awards for Best Urban Group, and are now preparing their third EP. Interviewing Zoo Legacy’s vocalist, Nick Pouponneau, he talks about the group’s influences, how his group has come to their own distinct sound, his belief in the genius of Lil Wayne, and their upcoming third EP.
Raz Mataz Magazine (RMM): What are the influences for your band’s sound?
Nick Pouponneau (NP): The funny thing about influences for us is, really and truly, we all listen to different music. Myself, I’m very much influenced by the Biggies, the Drakes, the Jay-Zs of the world, while the rest of the band has that indie rock influence… your Radiohead, your Metronomy, and other stuff, weird stuff that we all listen to, and we don’t listen to. Everyone kind of has their own taste, which is why it’s good to be in this band, because we’re always putting each other on to some good music.
RMM: How do you end up balancing those two different sounds in your music if you’re all inspired by those different types of genres?
NP: Well, the best way to balance it is, for one, we spend a lot of time arguing, sometimes we’re trying to fit a square into a triangle, but other times, what we really do is, we just try to work it out. On our first EP, we really worked on developing the sound, and on our second EP, it’s like, we know we got the sound, we know exactly what we’re doing with it. . . Once we had the Zoo Legacy sound, honestly I don’t want to say it’s just a mixture of rap and rock because it’s our sound that we’ve created. There are a lot of mixtures of rap and rock out there that don’t sound so great to myself personally, so it’s just our sound that we’ve created, and we’re comfortable in that zone. But, now that we’re comfortable in that zone, what we’re working on now is going to push that barrier even further.
RMM: How would you describe that sound, what makes it so unique from other artists?
NP: For one, everybody on that team is a really talented instrumentalist. We do everything on our own, so everything that you hear, everything that we do, is all a product of our own creation, and we’re there throughout the whole process, so we all work on it. It’s something we’re all doing together, and it’s a fully developed mental thing. For us, developing the sound is just spending a lot of time with each other. I do a lot of research, I listen to a lot of the music these guys listen to, and they listen to a lot of the music that I listen to, so we can kind of get an understanding of how rap works, this is the structure we work on in there, and understanding the structure of a rock song. Putting myself in the indie rock wold is something that has helped me a lot. For one, I like the sound of their music, where as before, I was kind of one-dimensional, only listening to rap music as opposed to opening my ears up to all types of music. It just made us open to all types of music, I feel like we could almost make any genre of music, and we could make it work, because we’re all appreciative of each other’s genres.
RMM: So that just really helps diversify your band’s sound, and your band’s music?
NP: Exactly, and that’s why people, they come to the shows and they see a lyricist and a band, so there’s something for people that enjoy hip-hop shows, and there’s also something for people that really enjoy rock, and then there’s this weird middle space where everybody can kind of appreciate it, because the audience can see how both groups liked [the sound], and I like where I’m at now, as well.
RMM: So you recently won an award at the Toronto Independent Music Awards for Best Urban Group. What was that like?
NP: That was amazing. We were really blown away. We didn’t expect to win. We were just excited to be nominated. For somebody to just recognize you for your craft, man, it’s incredible. We were just some guys in a basement just enjoying ourselves, and just expressing ourselves artistically, and then to take it to another level where people are recognizing that, not only by listening, but with physical awards, it really blew us away, we were super humbled, and we were just grateful to be a part of it.
RMM: Has that changed anything in your music, or the way you go about your recording sessions, or your concert acts?
NP: We’re always practicing to make the live show experience, because what’s the point of having good music that sounds alright if you don’t have a great live show? We’re constantly working on and evolving the live show. On top of that, we’re really harsh on each other, and we try to push each other to be the best that we can, so when you hear a song that has two verses on it, that’s two verses to you, but that may be verse 99 and 100 to myself because we want to make sure that we get it just right. Sometimes, I really love a verse, but the guys are like you know what? You can write better than that. Or, sometimes maybe a bass line comes up, or we’re dealing with a specific drum pattern, but then we decide it has to go harder than that, it has to be more creative than that. We’re always challenging each other, and that’s what’s fun. Yes, it’s frustrating at times, absolutely, but the end product, when you sit back and you listen to the music and you can be proud of it, that’s really what the payoff is.
RMM: Would that be the most important part of your group, just bouncing off each other with different ideas, and then creating that Zoo Legacy sound?
NP: Absolutely, that’s definitely the most important thing for us. It’s just creating the music that we make, and luckily for us, the way the music industry is right now, it’s in a situation where people embrace different things, so I think saying we’re a mixture of this and that, it doesn’t really throw people off. Where as in the past, it might’ve pigeon-holed us, now people are interested to hear what we sound like, and when they get there, we just hope people really enjoy it, because we work hard on it.
RMM: We’ve talked about the Zoo Legacy sound, but what about the lyrics? When you’re writing lyrics, what are you and your bandmates trying to focus on?
NP: Really and truly, we try to focus on coming up with some out-of-the-box concepts, because a lot of rock music is a lot of very over-arching scenes, so they have lyrics that are generalizations of things, with great metaphors potentially, but scenes that aren’t specific, whereas the rap world is focused on cleverness and wittiness in terms of delivering punch-lines, but at the same time, being able to deliver lines out directly, so it’s not so much an over-arching scene. Rap is more delivering significant metaphors and short lines to describe what exactly is going on. So, I really push myself to kind of come up with concepts that mirror, or are kind of similar to the indie-rock world’s over-arching themes, but while still introducing those punch lines, and still keeping that wittiness alive in my lyricism.
RMM: You personally as a lyricist, do you prefer those witty punch lines over storytelling in your rapping?
NP: To be honest, I can honestly say I love it all. . . I love listening to Drake rap about some crazy shit, and then I love listening to 2 Chainz, rapping about just everything, you know, Lil Wayne, if you look into my CD changer you’d think I’m the most confusing musician you had ever heard, because I just have so much of an appreciation for lyricism, and it’s all kinds of lyricism. The other day, I was listening to Elvis Presley with my uncle. Even with him I was picking up things like damn this guy really knows what he’s talking about.
RMM: What do you think of Lil Wayne? Do you think he’s one of the best rappers out there, or do you think he gets over-hyped?
NP: I think he’s definitely a genius, and one thing you can always say about Lil Wayne is that he’s everywhere. There was a time where you couldn’t turn on the radio without listening to Lil Wayne, and to be able to be that consistent, on so many records with so many top artists and always be competing, he’s definitely incredible. He can sometimes try to push the box a little bit and not really focus on himself, but I guess that’s what comes with being Lil Wayne. I haven’t been there yet, so I can’t really describe it.
RMM: Do you have any big concert tours planned, or playing in places abroad?
NP: As of right now, we’re just focused on finishing the third EP – we’re in the writing phase. We’ll definitely have some stuff lined up for the summer, but nothing 100%. We’ll definitely have some stuff lined up for the festival season, but we’re just going to work hard on the new music, so that way, when we’re out on the road and doing these shows, we can definitely deliver the fans something a little bit different from what they’ve been hearing.
RMM: What’s the bands idea for the third EP? You said you wanted to push your sound a little bit now that it has been established, where are you looking to go in terms of pushing your sound to new places?
NP: Everybody’s working on their specific instruments and stuff, so you’re going to see a lot of fine tuning these individual instrumentations. The guitars are going to be a lot sharper, there are going to be a lot more complex things that are happening there, our bass lines are going to have a bit more bump to them, we’re going to be dealing with a lot more live drums, so you’re going to hear a lot of that influence. I think our sound is just going to get edgier, maybe more defined, and people are going to know Zoo Legacy when they hear it, there not just going to be, oh this is a mixture of rap and rock. They’re going to know what exactly Zoo Legacy sounds like after the third EP.