Zzvava’s Zen & the Art of Indie-Rock Improvisation

. November 30, 2018.
These indie rockers consider their music untamed, improvised and created out of nothing. (Photo by Jeffrey Freer)
These indie rockers consider their music untamed, improvised and created out of nothing. (Photo by Jeffrey Freer)

Zzvava is pronounced (zee-zee-vah-vah), but we’re pretty sure they’re not stressed about you mispronouncing that. This band’s preternaturally wired to be harmonious. Bassist Anna Parker, who has more than a passing interest in astrology, certified that harmony when her charts showed each member was born under mutable moon signs. But if you knew Parker and her band-mates, Nick Zomparelli, Jeffrey Freer, and Jordan Collingridge, then their adaptability, their easy-going, never-stagnant natures, would be a given.

Over the last decade or more, each of these Arbor/Ypsi-music makers have leaped to a few different creative lily-pads around the local pond, and each would essentially be “the easygoing one” in whatever respective project or collaboration they took on. Zzvava has four super-flexible cogs spinning together.

Zzvava has more than just an edge to their music (…which is a hybrid of boogie-ready surf-rock, jangly psychedelia, riffy power-pop and snappy indie-punk). Their edge is also that their first album is out after only 10 months of the band’s existence, produced by Ann Arbor’s own Fred Thomas, no less. They’re each songwriters who can bring material to the table, and when you see them live, they’ll rotate around the stage and swap instruments/vocals. “We don’t really hold still too well,” said Zomparelli. And “..you never get bored,” assured Freer. Zomparelli adds that “We all have an eclectic appreciation for music and it’s hard to write just one style. I like that split-personality kinda thing.”

The spirit of rock n roll

Collingridge follows this by encouraging us to consider the spirit of rock n roll as being something that is untamed, improvised, and created out of nothing. “I like albums where you don’t know what’s going to happen next,” he said. Their debut, Mutable Moons, came out in early November. Their next gig will be at this year’s Mittenfest XII at the end of December in Ypsilanti.

“Jeff, Jordan and I live together,” Zomparelli said. “I played in a prior band (Ping Pong) with Jordan and we all had solo projects, so we had a lot of material we could bring to each other. I was drumming for a short stint in Anna’s other band, Electric Blanket, and said: ‘…Hey, you wanna come over and play bass with my roommates?’ Six months later we’re recording an album with Fred (Thomas).”

The only point of stress might be that Collingridge is the only one with a car. So while everyone else currently Ubers- or busses-their way to a venue, Collingridge brings all the instruments. Yes, althought each band member can play each instrument, all of the instruments arrive in Collingridge’s car. “Hey! We’re a public transportation-kinda’ band,” Zomparelli deadpans.

Creating together

We don’t wanna say they’re old pros, ‘cause they’re not old, but they’ve been around these blocks already. In fact, each of them have their hands in other creative outlets, like photography/videography (Freer), painting/drawing/design (Parker—who designed the cassette layout). And I’ve almost lost count of how many times I’ve mentioned Zomparelli as an auxiliary contributor in previous band features. So they certainly got their feet wet long ago and continued playing/working through the music scene’s quasi-dryspell after the once-very-active Woodruffs venue closed in Ypsilanti; they each remarked enthusiastically about what they sense as a general rejuvenation in the local music & arts scene. “A sense of community is really important,” said Parker. “Not just feeling that sense within our own band, but across the scene as a whole.”

Along with that, Zomparelli said, their consistent output creates a bit of a timestamp, or musical memoir, to look back on their own, and each other’s, previous songs and lyrics and appreciate it as a narrative, a developing consciousness, a record of experimentation. “It’s all about self-expression,” Collingridge said. “Working hard and experimenting—whatever you want it to be, put yourself out there.”

Zomparelli knows that in some bands, all it takes is one contrarian or ornery member to break it up or to stop a good idea from growing. With Zzvava, it’s an echo-chamber of reciprocal encouragement: “…we have a new song that’s jazzy, with a bossanova beat. So who knows what we’ll come up with next? I think we’re all trying to figure it out just as you’re trying to figure it out…”

Zzvava’s recording Mutable Moons is out now.

See them at this year’s Mittenfest (Dec 28-30) at Bona Sera (200 W Michigan Ave, Ypsilanti).


The lineup is available at mittenfest.org.


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