A fter 20 years with Jimmy Eat World, going home and spending some quality time with your family doesn’t seem like it can get any better. For Zach Lind, it did. Zach and his wife Holly turned their living room into a music room, setting up drums next to the piano and hanging their daughter’s guitars on the wall. Zach noticed how good the drums sounded in that room and began recording drum parts. Soon Zach was adding instruments to those parts while Holly added vocals songs emerging right there in the living room.
With Jamie Woolford (The Format, Gin Blossoms) engineering and producing and Chris Testa (Dixie Chicks, Jimmy Eat World) mixing and mastering, those songs have become Street Lights (out May 12th), and Dead Reckoning (Nov. 13th) the first, and second EPs from Zach and Holly’s new project The Wretched Desert. While the name is a nod to their favorite Peter Gabriel album, it’s also a reminder that this is honest music, flowing naturally from a home in the desert full of life, family, love, and the anticipation of what can come when you follow your joy. Or you rearrange the furniture.
We recently sat down with Zach to discuss The Wretched Desert’s sophomore EP Dead Reckoning, his new Apple Connect playlist “Drummers-Turned-Singers”, and 20 years in Jimmy Eat World.
The music you two make together is pretty different from the stuff that you’ve been putting out with Jimmy Eat World. Were there any musical influences that drove you and Holly to make the music that you did together?
We have a lot of influences, we love Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, U2 and we have a lot of bands that we like together. I think more than anything it was just a collection of all the things we like. We didn’t really set out intentionally for it to be inspired by a particular direction.
I think a lot of the way The Wretched Desert sounds is based on our own limitations. I don’t play guitar, all I can do is play bass, drums and keyboard, so there’s really no guitar other than a song here or there where I get a friend to play for me. So it’s based on instrumentation and following our gut, we didn’t set out to have it sound a certain way.
Having been on the road for over 20 years with Jimmy Eat World, coming home and spending time recording at home with your wife must have been amazing. How do you think that transition affects you musically and do you think that the comfort of it influenced the outcome?
It was nice because I don’t think I would’ve thought to start working on music on my own if we hadn’t taken the intentional break that we took. I was sitting there like what am I going to do now, so I started tinkering because I had time and no responsibility and it lead to The Wretched Desert stuff, which has been really fun.
Your “Drummers-Turned-Singers” playlist was quite the treat, what made you chose the artists that you did?
It was cool doing that playlist; most of those artists I had already known about, but other artists came through some research. That Yo La Tengo song, I completely forgot about, but when I listened to it, it’s such a beautiful song that wouldn’t have occurred to me initially to put on it. A friend of mine said you should make a playlist of drummers that sing and I thought it was a cool idea. I’m also a huge Phil Collins fan, so I had to put him on there and obviously Dave Grohl. There’s so many great drummers out there that have sung and written songs, so I thought it would be a cool thing that’s a little bit related to The Wretched Desert, but just something fun that people could check out.
Did any of them influence you more intimately than their dual-talent?
I would definitely say Phil Collins and Dave Grohl. When Phil Collins was in Genesis, the story was that they’d have people come try out to replace Peter Gabriel. So they’d bring them in and Phil Collins would have to sing the parts so they could then try out and the guys in Genesis realized that every time he does it no one sounds as good as him. It’s funny because he didn’t presume he was just going to take over.
A lot of times I think drummers don’t really think and I was the same way – you relegate yourself to [being] a drummer, or I can’t sing, or I can’t do this. So looking at a lot of people on that list, those are people that said I can do that. Dave Grohl thinking Nirvana is no longer, but I can make a band on my own, I can play guitar and sing and all that. I think there’s bravery to that, which I relate to and that’s definitely inspired me. It’s too easy to settle into your role in life.
You and Jim [Adkins] came out with solo projects around the same time. Do you think that you influenced each other at all? What do you think of the solo stuff he’s put out?
I think his stuff is awesome. I don’t think we’ve influenced each other, I think we influence each other just over the course of working together for 20 years. I think there are probably things that you can’t unlearn or undo, in a good way, because we’ve worked together and made music together for so long. We probably have some similar instincts on things, but I think The Wretched Desert and Jim’s solo stuff couldn’t be much different than it is. We didn’t really interact during that time. He was busy doing his thing and I was busy doing mine and I think everyone just gave each other that space.
Taking a break from the band is taking a break from each other’s influence and input, so I don’t know if there was any direct influence between the projects, but it’s nice that they sound a lot different. We’re two ingredients in a recipe that is Jimmy Eat World and separately from each other, we can do a lot of different things.
Was this the beginning of your musical kinship, or had you jammed together over the years and just been too busy to put something like this together?
We have never done anything like this and part of it was that anything I would create would typically be working on drum patterns, beats and loops for Jimmy Eat World. So for me, I never even considered that I could actually do a full song on my own. It never occurred to me to try it; we weren’t really ever in the position to work together musically because the only collaboration I was a part of was Jimmy Eat World.
It’s been fun and the one thing I’ve realized, that I’ve always sort of known, is that Holly has a really good musical intuition that not a lot of people have. She’s someone that’s become really important for me personally, creatively, because I can show her things and she can say that’s not as good as what you had before but this is and she shows me some perspective on it. It’s really nice to have that because otherwise if you’re working on something by yourself you go crazy.
How did the idea to put this together with each other come about?
I set up a drum set in my living room and we decided to take our living room and turn it into a music room. We put my grandmothers piano in there and we have guitars, amps, a conga drum and a drum set. It was a product of starting to record some stuff. I started recording drum parts and decided to try to put a bass in, so I started learning bass and putting down bass tracks and I felt like the music was cool and maybe I could try to sing on it.
I realized that I was a better singer than what I thought I would be, but I don’t have a great voice and I’ve always known that Holly has a great voice, so she tried it. I would sing the part first to show her what to do and she would sing on top of it and it sounded way better, so it just started from there. I needed a good singer and she’s in the next room, so I dragged her into the living room and had her sing and we felt like it could work. One thing lead to another and we thought okay, we have a handful of songs that are decent, let’s pick three and do them the best we can and that was the first EP we put out last May.
The Wretched Desert is a tease to yours and Holly’s favourite Peter Gabriel album. Is there a story behind that?
The album is called US and it’s one of our favourite albums that we’ve listened to. We met when we were basically teenagers and we’ve always loved that album. It’s meant a lot to us and when we were thinking of a name, we were listening to that song and we heard the lyric and thought that could be it. It’s the first three words in the first song on the album and it hit us, like yeah that’s it, because it’s really hard to come up with a band name in this day and age. Every name is taken, so finding something that we really liked that wasn’t taken and fit [was hard]. In a weird way it [also] kind of fits creatively to what we do, so we just stuck with it.
Do you see The Wretched Desert becoming a full fledge side project with more recordings in the future and tours?
I don’t know. I think we’ll definitely do more music; we’ll for sure put out more. I think we’re going to continue to put out three at a time and I feel like we work really well that way because it being a newer project we don’t really feel like an album is warranted. I guess we would make an album if we felt like the demand was there, but at this point it’s just a new thing and we like the idea of just doing three song releases.
I think we’ll try to do maybe two [releases] a year where we can maybe put out three songs and keep working at it. As far as touring, I don’t know how we would, because we have three kids and we haven’t really thought about that aspect of it yet with only two of us.
Your daughter plays the guitar, you sing and play drums and Holly sings as well – Do you think music runs in the family or that it’s just a beautiful coincidence?
I think it probably is a little bit of both when you’re around it. My daughter Ava plays piano and guitar and we don’t push it on her, but I think it’s something that she’s around. She hears music being created in the house, there are guitars and pianos around. She likes to go learn songs that she likes, goes on YouTube and learns how to play a song. I think she could be a really cool musician, I mean she is, she hasn’t really flipped the switch and gone after it yet but she does enjoy playing recreationally.
Next year marks the 20th anniversary of Static Prevails and your major label debut album with Capitol Records. How would you say the band’s sound and your drumming technique have evolved over the years?
I think it’s just sort of organically grown, as we have as people. We had musical tastes and interests back then that have shifted over the course of 20 years. I think tempos have slowed a little bit, I think we’ve really tried to push ourselves melodically, but I think the process has been pretty organic. We’ve never really see out to make super crazy experimental records or something different, so it sort have just evolved from album to album.
The anticipated reissue of five iconic Jimmy Eat World albums including Static Prevails and Stay On My Side Tonight is coming up next month. Do you have any personal favourite vinyl albums from growing up and has your preference stayed with vinyl or evolved with technology?
We use both. We have a record player in our living room where all of our musical instruments are and we listen to Spotify or Apple Music in the car, so we kind of do a mixture of both.
When we first started the band I would get a lot of 7 inches from punk bands that we liked. I have a record that I got a long time ago that I still like to listen to, it’s a Rocket from the Crypt album called Circa: Now! and that’s probably one of my favourite albums. I have a bunch of Beatles stuff and old punk stuff, like a Christie Front Drive one and they’re one of my favourite bands that I listen to all the time. We just got the Simon and Garfunkel box set and we’ve been listening to it a lot because we love them.
What has the writing and recording process been like so far for Jimmy Eat World’s ninth album? Do you see the band recording with any analog equipment again, and would you compare the new music’s sound to any of your previous albums?
I think how we’re going to make the record is a little bit up in the air at this point, but we’ve started to get together and resume working on writing new material. At this point, we have a big batch of material, sort of rough ideas that we’re waiting through and listening to and seeing what excites us, in the middle of determining what the next album will be like. That’s where we’re at right now, but in terms of how we’ll make the record or what we use is something yet to be determined.
Not really, I think in a way we want to avoid that. At some point when it’s done, you might be able to look back and make some connections, but I think right now, at least for me personally, I try not to even consider that. Keep the process focused on what excites us right now, what we like and sifting through the different ideas that we have and what speaks to us now. It’s interesting, there are older ideas that we worked on and never released that listening to now, song ideas, we’re like those are really cool. You start to hear the general vibe of the album come together, but it’s still so early that it would be premature to speculate on what the end product will be like.
What is the most exciting part of celebrating 20 years together as a band?
We didn’t really do anything official for our 20-year anniversary, but we did the Futures 10 tour, which was a total blast. That was such a fun tour and such a fun record to play. I think the tour capped it off, that was our celebration and it was great.
Are there any memories from over the years that stand out most vividly to you?
There aren’t really any specific things. It’s hard to pick one over another, I think just in general the feeling that we get from being able to play music and enjoy a career for this long has been really neat. As we get older, the more we appreciate it. You’re part of a team, part of a family. I went to pre-school with Jim, Tom and Rick have known each other since junior high, so we’ve all known each other for a long time.