Drummers can do more than just hit things. They may, for example, write songs. They might even sing.
Shane Zweygardt does all three in Wire Faces, who for the last five years have been finalists in the Westword Music Awards' Best Post-Punk category.
Prior to putting Wire Faces together in 2010, Zweygardt and guitarist Ian Haygood both played in a regionally acclaimed band called The Jimi Austin, which was fronted by future Fierce Bad Rabbit leader Chris Anderson.
"He wanted to write kind of singer-songwriter tunes," recalls the Fort Collins-based musician, "and then Ian and I would come in and mess them up."
Wire Faces, which also includes bassist Menyus Borocz, has a more raw, groove-based sound, which nevertheless manages to be both melodic and experimental.
After taking on lead vocals duties, Zweygardt moved his kit up to the front of the stage, and now plays standing up in order to keep his vocal mic from picking up too much of his drums. He's also begun filling in for the drummer in another band, coincidentally named The Wire Dogs. Both played Saturday at the Westword Music Showcase, which meant that, as soon as Wire Faces finished their set, Zweygardt had to rush across town in time to sit in with the Wire Dogs.
Having already released three albums in rapid succession, Wire Faces decided to switch things up last year and release a new single and accompanying video each month. "We were trying to do it, until our guitarist — who grew up in Fort Collins and had this 'I need to get out of Colorado' feeling — took a break to travel Europe with his wife. And then we kind of got off track."
But the band did manage to put out a half-dozen online singles, and is this month releasing its first-ever 7-inch, an unlikely cover of an all-but-forgotten track from the Ferris Bueller's Day Off soundtrack. We caught up with the hyperactive frontman last week in order to hear the full story.
Indy: When I think of singing drummers, the first three that come to mind for me are Grant Hart from Husker Du, and then Peter Prescott from Mission of Burma and The Volcano Suns. And then, um, Don Henley from The Eagles. Can you give me three more?
Shane Zweygardt: Three that you haven't already mentioned? Well, there's Brian Chippendale from Lightning Bolt, who wears a telephone receiver inside of a burlap-sack mask thing. And he makes all kinds of weird noises while playing. And then, gosh, Michael Shuman from Mini Mansions, he sings a lot. And then there's always Phil Collins.
There is. But did he sing and play at the same time live?
Yeah, he did. I've actually seen live videos of "In the Air Tonight" where he starts out singing, and then he goes behind the drumset while he's singing through a headset.
Your new single is a song from Ferris Bueller's Day Off ...
Yeah, "Beat City!"
Were John Hughes movies a big part of your formative years growing up?
Well, I've always loved those movies, but honestly, that song started out just as a gift to a friend. I'd been asking her, "If you ever had a band cover a song, what song would you want?" And she said, "Oh, that's easy, 'Beat City' by The Flower Pot Men." So then I secretly started working on a cover song and gave her a copy of it for her birthday.
So when you gave it to her, was it like a John Hughes movie? Did she fall in love with you and leave the jock guy behind?
No. But maybe in some alternate world.
Your bio mentions yearly Westword Music Award nominations in the post-punk category. What does post-punk even mean at this point?
Honestly, I don't even know. It's just a term that people have thrown out there. I don't even think about that kind of stuff, how to categorize what we're making. Like with the cover of The Flower Pot Men song, they were kind of a New Wave band, so I was just trying to make that sound more like contemporary rock. You're still dealing, for the most part, with the same chord changes and attitude.
I do notice that some of your music, especially on the verses to "Lend Me Your Ear," have kind of a sparse Gang of Four minimalism, where elsewhere you do more densely textured sounds like Mission of Burma.
Have your arrangements become more varied over your five years together.
It depends on the day when we're writing a song. We don't want to do the same formula. So sometimes I want it to be more stripped down, other times I want the songs to be fuller, you know, even though we're just a three-piece. I'm a huge fan of Fela Kuti, so I almost just wish we were some sort of crazy Afrobeat band.
Plus, then you could have eight wives and your own compound.
I'd love that. See, that'd be great. Minus the part where the government raids you.