As of today Doctor Bones is on a temporary hiatus. In order to work things out and bring you the best art that we can, we are re-arranging and will be back with new and exciting material soon! Unfortunately all the shows we had booked have now been cancelled until further notice.
When I read this announcement on Doctor Bones’ Facebook page last Monday, to say that I was concerned would be the understatement of the century. But then when I heard that the band had parted ways with lead singer Anthony Fama, I was crushed, heartbroken, and in a bit of a state of depression for at least a good day or two. You see, Doctor Bones was one of the first local bands that I was ever a fan of. From the night I first saw them at Future Loves Past’s EP release show over a year and a half ago (which was also one of the first local music shows I ever attended), I made it a point to see Doctor Bones live as much as I possibly could. Not only do they have one of the best and most consistent live shows in the entire Valley, driven by pure energy and passion, infectious grooves that could make anyone dance and Anthony’s pure showmanship and theatrics, but their songs are contagious and can get stuck in your head for days after hearing them (and it also helps that everyone in the band is amongst some of the nicest and most genuine people I’ve ever met). So once I read the announcement, I had no idea what they were going to do, or if they were even going to continue after parting ways with such a force. And if they did decide to continue, how long would it take to find an adequate replacement? And even then, if they did find someone to fill Anthony’s shoes, would it still be the same? Would it still be Doctor Bones?
So it was a complete and total shock when, on Friday afternoon as I was about to head out for lunch, Mike messaged Nicole Parasida and I with an update on the state of Doctor Bones:
“Hi, Doctor Bones has a secret and has decided to give Echo Cloud the story exclusively.”
Needless to say I was floored. They’ve already found another singer? Really? And who did they get to fill their vacant lead singer slot in such a short amount of time?
The answer is Zach West. A singer, songwriter, composer and producer (according to his Facebook page) with a ton of musical experience, he recently moved to the Valley from New England and just released a 16 song electronica album called “Over the Years and Across the World” back in February. Needless to say I was excited to meet him (as was Nicole, who told me on the car ride over “he’s definitely a hunk…I like his tatted up guns!”), and when Nicole and I sat down with him and the rest of the band on Saturday for our exclusive interview, we had a lot of questions we wanted to ask. Mainly, why Zach, why the change, and where is Doctor Bones going from here?
JASON: So Zach, tell us some more about yourself. Where did you come from and what brought you here?
ZACH: I kind of lived all over the place since I was 18 (I’m 27 now). I grew up in Connecticut and took off to California when I was 18. I’ve lived all over: San Diego, Hollywood, Anaheim, Fresno, Salt Lake City a few times, Vegas a few times, Austin TX, Atlanta a few times, Orlando, Providence RI, Manhattan. I kind of have been all over for a long time.
But a lot of my time when I was younger was spent playing in a lot of different bands because, aside from singing, I can play a lot of other instruments, like guitar, piano, keyboards, bass and what not. And a lot of times I’d be on tours with different bands, and then something would fall through with one of the other bands and they’d be like “we need a guitar player,” or “we need a bass player,” or “we need a singer.” So I kind of spent awhile jumping bands, not like joining but just covering a lot. But I did a lot of cool tours doing that, playing all different kinds of music from rock to punk to heavy death metal to really poppy stuff, even played in a hip hop group for a while in Atlanta. So I kind of spent a lot of time doing my own thing in music.
When I moved out here, it was kind of a weird string of events that led me here. I was back east in New England, and I was dating a girl in Las Vegas, and I flew out there in January for her birthday. And my mom had just moved here from San Diego, bought a house in Tempe just down the road. And she was like “come see my new house, you’re already in Vegas, I’ll fly you back out to the East Coast.” So I came down, and I had heard about CRAS (the Conservatory), and I applied and ended up getting accepted, and so I packed my stuff and moved out here.
Once I got here, my original thought was finding a band in school while I was here, and I kind of made a post (on Craigslist) seeing who was out here. I didn’t know anyone, so I kind of made a post saying “hey, here’s me!” And I got quite a few responses, but they weren’t really my cup of tea, because I was looking for unique music, because I think my voice fits that better than more straightforward stuff. So I was waiting for something that was different and gelled well with what I was doing. Then [Doctor Bones] contacted me over the weekend, and we met up here on Tuesday and talked for like an hour and a half, and then we jammed on Thursday.
NICOLE: So why did you move around so much?
ZACH: Just playing in bands, I guess I just love traveling. I didn’t necessarily want to settle down. I tried it a few times. I’ve had really good jobs working for aerospace companies, and if I was, for lack of a better word, a more normal minded person, I could have easily made a ton of money and had a house and done all that stuff. I just wasn’t happy. It wasn’t for me, none of it was. So when I moved out here, I made it my mission to find my band, the band I want to be in for a very long time. And it happened quicker than I thought it would.
JASON: So when you said that you were looking for music that was different and unique, what was it about Doctor Bones’ music that really grabbed you and made them stand out?
ZACH: It’s just a different sound that I really liked. There’s obviously a synth and a lot of different effects that go into it. And when I heard the vocals too, I thought they all sounded great, the kind of lower toned vocals, I can do that too, and I also have a falsetto. I kind of sing with an accent too, which is really weird too, which you guys will hear at some point. I sing with an English accent. Don’t know why. I have literally no idea why that happens. So I kind of have a very distinct sounding voice, I guess, and I thought I’d fit in well with them.
NICOLE: When you perform, are you still yourself, or do you get into a character?
ZACH: Oh a character. I totally turn into someone else and something else when I play, for sure. That’s something I’ve always taken great pride in, because no matter the style of band I’ve been in, rock or pop or whatever, it’s always been about the live show 100 percent. And that’s something I liked too, because they showed me a lot of videos, and just the energy and everything that they put into it, and it’s totally on my level.
NICOLE: Did you get a sense from watching the videos what kind of a band they were?
ZACH: Yeah, definitely.
JASON: On your Facebook page, Zach E. West Music, it says you’re a singer/ songwriter/ composer/ producer, and you can play a ton of different instruments. So what was it that made you want to join a band instead of doing something solo?
ZACH: (laughs) I do have an analogy for that. It’s like when you first hit puberty, for me, you play with yourself a lot, then you start playing with other people (everyone breaks out laughing). Then you realize that playing with people is way more fun, way more productive, and then if you connect with those other people really well, magic happens. And that’s what I’ve been waiting for.
NICOLE: So what are you most excited about?
ZACH: I’m excited to start writing, for sure. I’ve never sang someone else’s stuff before. I’ve always written my own vocal parts, my own harmonies, and all that stuff. And I’m excited because I think Hannah and I’s voices sound really good together, just from hearing that one practice.
HANNAH: I’m excited too that we’re already texting each other lyrics and ideas.
NICOLE: How much do you know about the local music scene here?
ZACH: I’m learning (laughs). I’m already starting to learn that it kind of reminds me of Austin, which I guess is kind of my hometown, but Austin’s a big-small city. I’ve only been here a month and a half, and even last night, I mean how many people did I run into (at First Friday)? I’m starting to learn that the same people roll in the same area, which I like, even though I just learn Phoenix is the 5th largest city in the country, which is pretty crazy.
JASON: So going the other way, what was it that you guys liked about Zach when you first met him and heard him sing?
MIKE: It’s kind of funny because he’s never seen us live, and we never expected to find someone like that. But I also like that he’s made electronic music before. That’s a kind of skill that translates, we have a lot of synth obviously, and that’s a direction that we feel comfortable working with. Now we can potentially have multiple keyboard parts on stage.
But his voice too, you know we’ve been described as being kind of new wave, and when I first heard his voice I thought “this kind of reminds me of some new waves things that I’ve heard,” and I could just hear how it would fit with us.
JESS: Yeah, some of his original works were very Depeche Mode-y in places. But he definitely has a skill set. You could hear it, you could hear the gravitas. It wasn’t a novice-sounding voice.
MIKE: But when he first got here, we didn’t know any of his experience. All we knew was that he had this electronica album that he produced and wrote all the songs for, and we could hear what he sounded like. But then he got here and he was like “I’ve toured in bands for seven years,” and we’re like “oh wow! That’s a shit-load of experience.” And then he was like, “oh I’ve also lived in all these cities,” and we’re like “oh, those are all cities that we want to play in.” It was just things on top of things that made us think “this is just too good.”
JESS: Also in his ad for Craigslist, his influences were, word for word, what was in our original ad that we posted two years ago to find a lead singer.
But the more important thing was meeting this dude (grabs Zach’s arm), because from his picture he looks like a San Diego douche-bag (everyone laughs) because he’s like fit, you know, and has tats and stuff. But then meeting him was different.
In a band I want to be with these people. I’m in the fantasy of “I will succeed with them together, and they will be with me,” you know, a “we’ll do this as a family” kind of thing. There’s that kind of unity, and that’s hard to find, because people do music for a lot of different motives.
MIKE: If you know the history of our band, it’s turned out to be harder than we think, because sometimes people think that they think they know what they want out of music, but maybe they’re not ready for all of the work that it actually is. And someone with more experience is aware of how hard it is.
JESS: With us, we think about bands like IAMWE, where all of their members seem to put all of them in it. There is no one weak member. They live the band. And it’s just nice to find that first kind of click with someone who has that vibe too.
MIKE: If you’ve ever started a project, then you know that you kind of fantasize about having the opportunity to push like a little reset button.
JASON: So did you guys feel that you needed to push a reset button?
MIKE: Well part of me feels like the last couple of months…we could have been better. Honestly. We hadn’t progressed at a rate that we thought, like, you know…
NICOLE: So you think that you guys came to like a flat-line?
MIKE: Yeah, like part it was that we hadn’t really written songs in awhile.
JESS: But we are getting a second chance at something most people don’t even get a first chance at. And what we did for the past two years was awesome, with the people we did it with. It’s been incredible, it’s been incredible for what was needed to get us to this point. And there’d be no way, you couldn’t go back in time and say “I wish I had Zach earlier.” No, he came exactly where he needs to be. And we had Anthony exactly where he needed to be. And we’re all still friends with him.
JASON: So are you guy prepared for, or do you think there will be people who will see you guys and think “this isn’t the Doctor Bones I know and love”? And as a singer stepping in, Zach, are you ready to be compared to someone else that’s been known as a great performer in the scene for years now?
ZACH: Oh yeah, yeah I have no concern. My confidence is pretty high in what I do, and I don’t think I would have stepped into something if I didn’t think I could provide something as good if not better. With a lot of my experience, I’ve been doing this for over 12 years now, I’ve been singing since I could literally talk, so I have a lot of stage experience and a shit ton of recording experience. And I definitely have full confidence in what’s to come for sure.
MIKE: The only thing I was worried about was “how long is this going to take?” Because finding the right guy, who has what it takes…to find that perfect mix is hard. But finding Chad happened fast, and this happened fast, so…
JESS: When it’s right, it’s right.
MIKE: And we have a lot of work to do. We’re not going to play a show for months. You have to build your chemistry with one another, and we don’t want to have to develop that on stage. We want to do that behind the scenes so that, when we play our first show, people go “yes, this is Doctor Bones!” But we want people to know that we’re not done, which is why we’re doing this interview so quickly.
JESS: The way that I address it is that the music and the entity continues on. The music is bigger than one person; one person can’t sink the ship. The music we make is still going to be the same style to which we’ve been doing, and we’ve found a guy that understands that and loves that, and is going to be instrumental in pushing that forward. Also, we’re still going to play some fan favorites. What we’re going to do is like what we did with Paul Pierce once Chad joined, and we re-wrote the songs with his voice, and how Sun City changed. On the songs that we haven’t recorded, that’s what’s going to happen, because we respect Zach as a vocalist, and we respect his craft.
MIKE: The truth is we’re going to write new songs, and we’re going to be different. But even if the band never changed, we would still be constantly evolving as a band, because that’s how musicians are. I always think “how can I move this? How can I push this?” It’s been like a shot of adrenaline just in the last week alone, because we’ve got that energy again.
Also we’re not releasing the album that we recorded anymore.
JESS: It’s shelved
MIKE: We’re sad about that, but we’re doing what we have to, tough decisions. And the amount of work and heart and blood and sweat that we put into that album, it’s not for naught, if you will. It’s good that we did that, and it gave us a lot of perspective and experience that we can put into whatever work we do next…which is going to be awesome! I’m so excited, it’s hard to contain.
HANNAH: I’m excited to have the opportunity to play some of the newer stuff we’ve been working on.
MIKE: I guess the point we’re trying to get across in all of this is that it’s going to be different, but that’s not something that you shouldn’t be excited about.
JESS: And it’s not going to be jarringly different, it’s still going to be Doctor Bones. It’s going to be better.
HANNAH: And too, we are keeping the name because we are Doctor Bones, and…
MIKE: And so are you guys
HANNAH: And yeah, so are you guys, and it’s not just about us, it’s about the crowd too. And we’ll probably go through a lot more shit storms in our lives, but we’ll still be Doctor Bones.