Eclectic heavy music maestros Zoax have been causing a riot supporting their heroes Funeral For A Friend on their final European tour. While they claim to have been keeping their fanboy impulses in check, our scribe Ryan isn’t as cool as that, and he jumped at the chance for a catch-up with their enigmatic frontman, Adam Carroll.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of catching a glimpse of Zoax’s live show, then you’ll be very familiar with frontman Adam Carroll. His presence is simultaneously warm and wild, friendly and feral: the perfect personification of the band’s eccentric sound. He’s also known for making a Zoax gig a very immersive experience: if you’re trying to hide up the back the man will literally walk up to you and bring the show to within an inch of your face.
However, on the biggest tour of their careers to date, playing in cities, never mind countries, who’ve yet to experience Zoax first hand, this isn’t necessarily the easiest feat to pull off.
“One thing we were all thinking of when we were going to play these venues was, OK, we do our show and it’s very in the crowd and that’s great in smaller venues, but in these places… Well, you’ve got a bigger gap in front of you from the stage to the crowd, loads of security… So we end up doing it anyway. We played in Manchester two nights ago and it was the Ritz, I dunno if you’ve ever been to that venue but it’s similar to here [Glasgow’s O2 ABC] but it actually has a big balcony… So I basically went all the way to the back of the room, up the balcony where people were sitting and I got Dee [the tour manager] to throw my microphone up and I just did the whole song up there. So people were like, ‘what’s going on?!’. It’s really good fun. But I have to tell security ‘here, I’m going to go wandering. But I’m not going to climb things or anything!’ so they’re all up for it and it’s really good fun.”
“Playing these stages is something else. We’ve got so much space. I look at the guys and they’re all the way over there and I’m like ‘ah, we’re so far apart!’ I think when we go back, we’re going to be playing small pubs for a long time I’d say but it’s going to be really interesting going back to those venues.”
Yet even for the most enthusiastic crowds, such an intense approach seems to put some audiences on the back foot. To begin with, that is…
“The fact we’ve been playing two nights in each city has been an absolute blessing for us. A lot of people don’t know us on this tour. We’re the first band on and we all know how that is. You arrive, it’s ten minutes in, the first band is just on stage, you’re just getting your drink. If the singer starts coming down and getting all up in your face it’s a bit ‘who the fuck are you?’ So, for the first night you could see everyone kinda looking at us like ‘I don’t know what to make of this, I don’t know how to act. Is it funny? Is it serious? Is he a kind of character? Everyone’s trying to figure it out. The thing is you get to go home, you get to digest it, so the second night is always much better for us. People know what to expect, so they’re like ‘I’m gonna get involved!’.”
That said, the affable Irishman revels in the mischievous side of his stage persona. With a knowing grin he says,
“It’s good to put a good scare man. I’ll be at the merch tables and couples will come up and the girl’s kinda hanging behind the guy and he’ll be like ‘aw she’s really scared of you!’ I’m like, ‘I’m just normal, I’m just selling my tshirts! In my head I’m just going, ‘have you ever seen Dillinger Escape Plan? Cause they will terrify you if I’m scary!’ They’re so intense!”
If Dillinger are one piece of the DNA that make up Zoax, then tonight’s headliners are definitely another key ingredient:
“The big deal for us is doing [this tour] with Funeral For A Friend. We did genuinely grow up listening to them. Like, I remember clear as day when I bought Casually Dressed, where I was when I bought it, and how much of an impact it had on me and my own musical career. Really big deal man. So I like playing in front of big rooms to loads of people but it’s just bizarre to be doing it on Funeral For A Friend’s final ever tour. When we got the offer through I didn’t believe it! I was like ‘that’s not right, they’re not asking us, surely?!’ But yeah, it’s been amazing so far man!”
Despite his evident excitement, Adam claims that he’s been keeping any fanboy impulses in check…
“I’m pretty calm with that kind of stuff. I think it was day one we all just clicked. Everyone was just so sound.”
… until he was invited to sing a song with his heroes…
“The first night we did it I think was maybe the fourth last German show. They asked me like day one, come up and sing a song, and I was like ‘uh, yeah?!’ It’s one thing for them to ask you to come on tour, but to sing a song?! So I just walk out and, ho-ly shit, it’s just blowing my mind, like every time.”
So their biggest tour to date, and in support of their favourite band. That’s a pretty exciting year for the young band. And it’s about to get a lot more exciting for them, with the release of their debut, self-titled, LP this week.
“When we started the band we instantly started writing a record and we’ve scrapped two albums. Scrapped them completely, not good enough. We always thought we were better. And a first album is so important these days, because we might not get the chance to do another one. It’s so bloody expensive and labels aren’t taking risks. For bands at our level it’s so hard: you have to have thousands and thousands of likes on Facebook or Twitter for a label to say ‘well you have a bit of a fanbase, we’ll take you.’ As opposed to going ‘your music is amazing: you have to come with us and we’ll build you.'”
“With the record. We weren’t writing for anybody but ourselves. That’s not so sound ignorant or selfish, but at the end of the day we’re writing the music, we’re playing it every single day. We want to like what we’re playing, cause there’s going to be people that will like it, and if they like it it’s going to be even better cause they’ll see that we love it. There’s so many bands that never play certain songs and that’s really shitty when a fan comes to a show and they love a song but they won’t play it because they don’t like it – that’s rubbish! So when it came to the record we were like let’s write stuff that we like playing and we know is gonna go down well.”
“Compared to the two EPs (2014’s XIII and 2015’s Is Everybody Listening?), its like the two EPs came together and made a child. It has all the grooves, it has all the riffs but there’s a lot more melody. It’s definitely a lot more accessible. I definitely think that the most chaotic song we’ve ever written is [debut single] ‘Bitter. Angry. Fake.‘. That was one of the first songs I ever had to sing with the guys. I wasn’t used to singing over songs like that. I was like, ‘this is mental, what am I doing here?!’. We don’t really have songs like that any more. They still have the time signature changes, but nothing as scatty. We’ve still got the big riffs, but there’s funny stuff too. There’s one track with a reggae section – there’s a lot of groovy moments on it. We’ve been playing like four new songs on this tour and they’re going down an absolute storm. People are asking us after the show, where can I get this song, and I’m just like 13th of May – be ready for it!”
“It’s a great sign man cause I do truly believe in this record. I’m not gonna bullshit and say blood, sweat n’ tears went into it – bollocks. But I’m just really genuinely happy with the record. If we get to do a second one then brilliant. I don’t know if it’ll be better than the first one. People might fucking hate it, but I’m going to love playing it, and the band are the exact same. We’re just so proud of each other’s performance on the whole thing. I’ve done numerous EPs but this is my personal best. So next album I’m gonna seriously raise the bar for myself. I don’t know if people will notice this, but every lyric on this record I did myself, [including] every backing [vocal]. I wanted to challenge myself with different ranges and stuff and I’m really chuffed with what I’ve achieved.”
So after the release, what’s next for Zoax?
“If the record goes down well I just hope we can get more tours like this, man. We’re still such a small band and I just want to play more shows like this, in all parts of the world, in whatever venues, with whatever bands: just put us in front of crowds! We’re gonna have to do it, but I don’t want to be buried in the pub scene all the time. I really don’t want this band to go to waste. And I really do think that this record stands a good chance of being something that’s gonna be nice for people, I really hope so. We did put a lot of time in it. I’m not a bitter guy about anything, and I never would be, but I would be slightly gutted if the record didn’t get the response I’m hoping in my head cause I just know that people put so much money and time and made commitments towards the record.”
“So we want to play another tour, put another headline show on, similar to the ones we’ve done but hopefully maybe getting more sell out shows this time. Then we’re playing Download festival again this year, and Camden Rocks which is just, Christ Almighty, I’m getting to see all my favourite bands! I’m gonna have an absolute blast man!”
“But if everything all goes well, we have a fanbase kicking off – album two! We’ve started writing stuff already, always writing man!”
With their unrivaled live shows, inventive songwriting, and absolute determination, if any band deserves these opportunities, it’s Zoax. Rest assured you’ll be hearing a lot more of them in coming months…
Zoax is out this Friday, 13th May.