This Saturday, Feb. 11, the NAC’s Southam Hall will be taken over by a couple of the rocking-est (is that a word? That’s probably not a word.) bands currently touring the country: the Sam Roberts Band and Zeus. Earlier this month, Trevor Pritchard chatted with Zeus’s Mike O’Brien about their new album and touring with the guy behind Can-rock staples like “Brother Down” and “Don’t Walk Away Eileen.” We aired this interview on Apartment613 Live on Feb. 2; if you missed our radio show that week, check it out below. It’s been edited slightly for clarity.
You’ve got a new album coming out in March called Busting Visions, and you’re going to be playing at the NAC on Feb. 11 with the Sam Roberts Band. What’s it been like being on tour with them?
Yeah, we’ve been teamed up with the SRB crew for quite awhile now. We started doing some shows with them back last year – I think it was September – and then we did a bunch in October, right across the country. It’s been great. They’re awesome guys, and we’ve really hit it off as bros. So it’s a good time.
I heard a great description of this tour from Chart Attack calling it the “Too Many Beards In One Room” tour.
(Laughs) Wah wah. Maybe there weren’t as many beards as there could have been, but I think we represented as well as we could.
How has the tour been so far? Any highlights you’d want to share?
Wow. Well, we’ve been off for pretty much most of December and January. We’re sort of getting back to it now. But loking back on it, there’s lots of highlights. There’s been a lot of great shows. And it was cool to watch their [Sam Roberts Band’s] shows as well to see how well they perform as a group and as a team on the road.
So yeah, specific highlights? I can’t really think of one off the top of my head. I remember we saw a moose in Red Deer in a school playground eating apples out of a tree. That was quite memorable.
You guys played in November here, in Ottawa. At Zaphod’s – not with Sam Roberts.
Yeah, we did our own show there at Zaphod’s with a band called The Skeletones Four, who are from Guelph, Ontario.
Is the NAC show going to be similar to that November show? Different?
Well, since our new record’s coming out, we’ve been playing mostly new stuff. Just sort of in preparation. You know, a lot of the stuff we have off this record we’ve been playing live, but there are some that we haven’t. So we are looking to get as many of the new songs into the set as we can. But you know, there’s also certain songs that we’ve had around forever that are hard not to play. It’s always a delicate balancing act. You’re at the mercy at the length of time you have to play as well.
The new album doesn’t come out until March, but I’ve been listening to it, and I feel like it’s got this great 1970s sound to it, like it wouldn’t be out of place on AM radio from that time. Was that how you were approaching that album – to go with that sort of feel?
No, we never really plan things out quite specifically like that. I don’t think that we intentionally went for a 70s feel. I think it’s just something that’s inherent in the songs we write and the sounds we like to make and the style of playing we do as a group. That’s the way it comes out.
Do you have a favourite track off the new album?
That’s really hard to say. We’ve sort of been workign with these songs for over a year now. We started recording this album at this time last year, pretty much. Living with the songs [for that long], they’re all your fabourite at one part or another. So it’s really hard to say which one’s your fave.
You’ve got a single off the record, the title of which is completely escaping my mind.
It’s called “Are You Gonna Waste My Time?”
Yeah! I feel like I’ve been hearing that song a lot. Have you noticed the track getting lots of interest?
You know, it’s a song that we recorded with XM Radio. We did a live version of it back last summer or something like that. Maybe even before that, I can’t remember when it was. Anyway, it was one of those things that became, like, one of those YouTube things were people were watching it and commenting on it a lot. The song has sort of had a life before it was even recorded officially for the record. So yeah, it does feel like there’s a lot of buzz behind that tune. But you know, it’s one of our many babies. It’s really cool to slip one out into the world and see what happens.
Last question for you, Mike: when you play Ottawa, do you ever just get a chance to hang out in the city? And if so, what do you get up to?
You know what, we don’t really get a chance to hang out in the city very much. But the people that master our records, they have their studio there in Ottawa. It’s called Bova Sound, and Phil and Janet Bova – well, both Phils, Phil Jr. and Phil Sr. – they all live in Ottawa, where they have their mastering studio. So the last time we were there, we got to go and check out the studio and have a nice afternoon with the family. Hopefully we’ll get to do that again this time.
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