Something Zesty produce a big sound for just two people. Cooking up their funky fresh tunes in a sleepout, the Whanganui-born and bred duo have just released their second album, ‘Funk’t Up 2’. Naturally enough it’s a follow up to ‘Funk’t Up’, which was released in 2021. Jemilah Ross-Hayes caught up with them.
Something Zesty are Andrew Condon and Isaac Chamberlain, a pair of metal heads who are happily trying on some colourful new music ideas. Meeting while they were in high school, they’ve each been playing music for 15 years, and together for about half that time, in and out of different projects before starting Something Zesty two-three years ago.
Their music studio is a sleepout that’s attached to Isaac’s parent’s house. Surrounded by posters from different gigs, the pair express gratitude for having the creative, comfortable, air-conditioned place to make music. Both agree that being great mates is a key part of their creative process.
“It sure made things easier,” Andrew laughs, before Isaac jumps in to explain their process a bit further.
“Especially writing music and having an understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We haven’t really had any trouble at all with writing, it just comes really naturally, so it’s just a fun time for us, and I feel like that’s what comes through the music a lot.”
The writing for ‘Funk’t Up’ started halfway through 2021 – alongside a creative Flight of the Conchords-esque Youtube series that features a man from another world, in blue dungarees, who doesn’t take their music seriously.
“The whole thing is filmed and edited on the phone, which just filters into the budget-ness of it. But that just started fully as a way of making content. We were just sitting there making all the parts for it!
“It just helps keep the ball rolling, and it’s fun as an artist to have a project like that and create a web series that exists in the band. We still have songs that we gruel over, but to have this little outlet that can keep us making music, helps us finish those songs and dive a bit deeper into the sounds that we can make.”
“There’s often so little time spent in the process that when you listen to it, it’s like, ‘Oh, we made this!’ And you just listen to it for a long time instead of a song that you work on all year, and you’re like, ‘Man, I’m sick of this song.'”
The pair mostly write everything together in their cosy studio space, though Andrew confides: “I don’t have many stories to tell, so Isaac writes all of the lyrics stuff, but we will refine that out.”
Isaac reassures that he is a key part of the process, noting that Andrew can play everything.
“We’ll meet up, maybe there is a little groove or a riff, and we’re like, ‘Let’s try jam this out’, and I get these weird lyrics, and Andrew says it’s cool. Sometimes you just need a yes man to keep things going! Otherwise, you keep coming up with ideas, and they spill out a bit. As soon as Andrew’s is into it, I’m into it, and we can just move on to the next thing.”
“There’s always an idea that’s cool, and it doesn’t matter really where it comes from,” Andrew agrees. “And as soon as the other person is like, ‘Oh, that’s cool,’ and plays something over the top, then you just kind of know if it could be something. Because we always do it in our studio, everything is one click away from being recorded, so you don’t really get missed opportunities from being in the classic practice studio trying to record things on phones. We can just get ideas down real easy.”
The feel of their new album is pretty darn funky, fitting the name well, but Andrew and Isaac are keen to explore as many genres as they can within this sound. The ‘zest’, as they refer to it, of ‘Funk’t Up’ is supposed to be a range of genres between the metal bands they have previously been in and the sound they’re into currently.
“That has been the beauty of the zest. Even the funk albums aren’t all funk. There’s lots of out-of-it stuff on there, just what we feel, so it’s cool to bring in all these elements and put our own tinge and spin on them,” explains Isaac.
“Making the characters create a bit more of a universe for the music to live in, and then we can go different directions with it and not just be straight boxed in.”
“I think that what I like most about ‘Funk’t Up’ 1 and 2 is that they are all just funky ideas from the video series,” says Andrew. “But once we got them together for an album, it doesn’t feel like an album that was a compilation of songs from a web song. It feels like you can listen to it in its entirety, and it has this flow and essence to it.”
Despite having released two full albums in the last two years, Something Zesty are still avidly producing more tunes, as Andrew lets slip.
“We’re working on a new EP that’s not funked-up, but it’s more of some of the other songs we’ve been working on for the last year and a half. It’s called ‘Try And Do That’. They’ll still be funky tunes, but it allows us to do more rock-based stuff and acoustic-based stuff, more of the other side. The more ‘pure’ kind of songwriting. Whatever lyrics we’re writing will be more sort of real.
“We play a lot of different genres, so it’s kind of natural to have that growth and have a project where you can put all the different ideas into in some way. That’s the best part.”
Following the theme of everything being done under the roof of their sleepout studio, track mastering is about all they don’t take on.
“We record everything in here to the best of our abilities and give it a good mix and then send it off to get mastered. This album was produced by Patrick Smith in te Whanganui-A-Tara, Wellington. We send it to him, and he does his magic. Having that go by a second set of ears is always a bit of confidence as well, but I’m sure they wouldn’t tell us anyway, even if they thought it was crap,” laughs Isaac.
“He is from Whanganui as well. The guy that does all our proper music videos, Josh Day, has been a best friend of ours forever, so it’s nice to have all these people that are involved in creating, and we can share each other’s skills. It’s quite a good nest around us, which is cool.”
It’s impressive that these two guys manage to do so many parts of the process themselves, but Isaac admits it isn’t all a breeze.
“There are a lot of hats to wear when you are mixing, mastering, recording promoting, and some of that stuff can weigh on you a bit.”
Footprints has become one of their most popular songs, but It’s Cool To Be Lame is Andrew’s favourite on the new album. The track was written in a day and focuses on the idea that it is cool to be weird and silly, throwing out a message of authenticity, encouraging people to just be who they are.
“It’s like a dress-up party. When everyone’s there, no one cares about what they look like, and there is this whole shield that has been dropped. Because everyone’s putting themselves out there, dressed up as a banana or something, and the whole party is a lot more fun because there aren’t walls anymore,” Isaac illustrates.
“It’s cool to be lame, it’s cool to just have fun, and I love the idea that we are just these lame music dudes. That’s how the blue overalls man from the outer world sees us.
“It’s nothing too serious, but there’s definitely a tone in there that is what we are about. It is cool to have fun. If we think we are silly, we can do everything. We’re not worried about what other people think. We are already silly.”
Andrew jumps in with his own anecdote.
“It’s funny coming out of metal bands, dressing in black and everything, and you kind of get used to it. People around me know that I listen to Michael Bublé more than some of my favourite metal bands, they know we are into silly stuff, but when you put it into a music project, all that funny dress-up stuff, you wouldn’t think those two worlds can sometimes exist within a single person so to be doing both at the same time.”
“At work, you are dressed up all nice, and then you see people in the street that are like, ‘Do you play music? Are you Something Zesty? I saw you dressed up last night in a purple poncho.'”
Something Zesty is yet to play live outside of their hometown, but they seem to have a blast playing beats regularly at their local Whanganui pub, Porridge Watson. Isaac explains their live set-up.
“It is sort of hard to replicate everything that we have created here because a lot of it will just be layered, so we tend to just jam loops. That is sort of how our live shows go at the moment, but we definitely have plans to get a drummer and figure out how to play all this music with a band.
“We’re just having fun, having beers and making music, immersed in this spaceship of music, trying to keep it all flowing.”