Interview: Exotic Animal Petting Zoo

Exotic Animal Petting Zoo stand out in stark contrast to the crowds of bands in today’s heavy music scene that are content with recycling the same formulas and structures ad nauseam. With a unique, genre-defying sound that bridges the gaps between several different musical worlds, the band are committed to giving listeners an experience unlike anything they’ve heard before. After years of frustrating delay, the ambitious follow-up to debut album I Have Made My Bed In Darkness has finally been unleashed, and its release has brought with it the rebirth of Exotic Animal Petting Zoo – and their entire career. Drummer and vocalist Stephen Carr took the time to speak to about the band’s new album, and what the members have been up to during the past handful of years.


You guys released your sophomore record, entitled Tree of Tongues, on July 17th via Mediaskare Records. What has the overall response been like to the new release?

Man, people love it. Our friends, and some of the old fans too – it’s just gotten real positive feedback. Everyone’s telling us it’s kind of like a new genre. I don’t think it is, really, [laughs]. But everyone else seems more excited about it than we are! It’s been pretty positive, and overall we’re looking forward to pretty much improve our whole song structure. Our first one was just kind of like a whole bunch of riffs thrown together, and yeah, it was cool – a bunch of instrument nuts loved it – but the second time around, it makes more sense and people get it more. It’s more friendly on the ear. And I dunno, it’s been awesome! Haven’t really heard a bad [response] yet, thank God, so yeah, it’s going pretty well.


Can you explain the significance of the album title Tree of Tongues, and how it relates to the music?

It’s kind of like a new growth. We started with the release of I Have Made My Bed In Darkness; we went through so much hard shit, going through that and losing members, kind of losing momentum. We weren’t sure if we could really continue or go on to make a second album. And luckily everything kind of panned out; we got a new guitar player that was pretty positive about it. And then once we started writing songs, it just kind of felt like a whole new band, and a whole new lyric meaning. My brother Brandon does all the lyrics and stuff, and I’m sure he could go off a little more about what it means, but overall it’s kind of like a new growth. Kind of just starting over, you know? That’s what it feels like, anyway.


You’re not the lyric writer for the band, but would you say that there’s an overarching theme or message that ties the record together?

It’s kind of going along with our personal stories. A lot of the confusion, a lot of questions being asked, answers being demanded. A lot of seclusion, too. Being lonely, and that same old shit, you know what I mean? [laughs] Just feeling anger and feeing neglected by everything. Kind of just the same old shit that you always hear, you know?

Your first LP came out in 2008, leaving a pretty big time gap between these releases. Why is this the case?

Well, we got invited to do one pretty good tour – it was with Fear Before and I Am The Ocean, and we didn’t really have a booking agent at the time. So once we got home from that we thought we were good enough just to go out and do a bunch of DIY tours, when we really know nothing about it, you know? Man, I hated doing that. Just setting up calls, setting up a date – it was kind of sloppy, no confirmation, and no promotions. So we went on two or three of those just to support the album with a couple buddies’ bands, but every time we’d come home we would just be broke, and we wouldn’t really have a place to practice or anything. So all that time just added up, and over four years, we really started writing the second album probably in 2010, 2011. So yeah, all of 2009 and most of 2010 it was just kind of lost. We were just like, “What are we doing? Where are we at right now? What do you want to do?” So a lot of confusion going on for the most part, but we got it figured out in the end.


As a band that’s very experimental and dabbles in many genres, is it more difficult to get onto tours? Do you feel like you have to work extra hard in order to win over listeners?

Yeah, it’s definitely a litter harder to get on some tours. I mean, we’ve had agents and promoters tell us, “Hey, you guys don’t sound like anything. I don’t know what to do with you guys. You guys don’t sound like this band; you’re not bringing in this type of crowd.” They just tell us we don’t know what to do with you. So it is a little more difficult not really just being in one scene, like hardcore, emo, or whatever. We’re trying to find our people right now, so hopefully it works out. But yeah, it’s a little tough trying to get on the bigger and better shows with the sound we have right now.


It seems like anytime I research a band online, there’s always a never-ending dispute among listeners about what genre they fit into – and it’s even worse when it comes to experimental bands. As a band that tries to be innovative, is this obsession with labels frustrating to you?

Oh, not at all. I encourage it, actually. I have no idea what to call it, it’s kind of fun to go online and see what new subgenre of another subgenre somebody came up with. For example, my favourite one was like “ADD-metal” or something like that, like “ADD-post-rock” [laughs]. Or something crazy like that. But I enjoy it, looking at stuff like that; it’s fun.



Which bands would you say have been major influences on your music?

Geez, I don’t know. All four of us listen to so many different things. We like Aphex Twin, electronic stuff. Dillinger Escape Plan, of course, we always get compared to them, and of course we all like them. We’re all fans of Every Time I Die, I guess Deftones, that we all kind of listen to. Everyone’s got their own taste and style, ranging from metal to electronic, so it’s kind of weird.


Was there a particular moment earlier in life that really piqued your interest in heavier music?

When I was 14, and you go to your first metal show, and everyone’s letting loose and going crazy, and kind of finding who you really are. When you’re at one of those real angry shows, you can just kind of mosh, dance around, and let loose. And that was kind of the eye-opener for me. And of course with Dillinger Escape Plan, when I saw them, it was just insane, and I was like, “Holy shit! I want to make people feel how this band is making me feel right now!”, you know?


Are there any words you’d like to leave with fans who are going to be reading this?

Check out the album, and check out the Zombies Ate My Neighbors tour in September!


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