BY: CARLY KANE
A violin begins to play over a smooth electric beat. Two seemingly different sounds that coincide to create a unique, aesthetically-pleasing sound. Sounds begin to loop and build with vocals, drums, violin and synth. The energy of the sounds seems as though it must come from a booming band of six or more, but only three people are on stage. Hypnotic visuals spiral on the projector as the lights dance on the faces of the three performers.
Zombie Mañana is a Chicago-based band consisting of Danny Biggins, Dustin Borlack, and Cassandra Lynn. Danny began writing solo work in 2013, and in the turn of 2016 he brought on drummer Dustin and vocalist/violinist Cassie.
After seeing the band perform live, I was blown away. They have the unique ability to combine a variety of genres and sounds that go deep beyond just melodies and harmonies. What makes Zombie Mañana different from the rest is their ability to use outside sounds from nature, and the voice as an instrument rather than just vocals. They have sampled sounds such as laughter, birds chirping, a train passing, and the sound of a haunting, out-of-tune organ as only a few examples. They use elements of life to heighten the instrumental and vocal experience.
I was lucky enough to get the chance to speak with Zombie Mañana at the show.
CRAFTED: Where did the name come from?
ZOMBIE MANANA: The phrase Zombie Mañana first appeared as lyrics I wrote late one night: "I'm trading sleep for a zombie mañana," (from New Meanings). A couple days later the phrase was stuck in my head. I liked the way it looked and the sound of it, and also the social/political commentary that is implied in the name.
C: What genre would you consider Zombie Mañana, and who are your main influences?
ZM: Electronic singer/songwriter, rock, psychedelic, alternative, dub, fusion. We played in jazz bands in college, and in that time got into classical and world music as well, all of which influences the compositions. Our main influences include Radiohead, Animal Collective, Flaming Lips, Dirty Projectors, and Beck, to name a few.
C: Tell me about the writing process.
ZM: The songs often start either with a rhythmic idea or I'll stumble on a chord progression and write to that. I compose and track everything in Ableton Live. I'll create melodic and riff ideas on either guitar, keyboard, or just simply my voice. As for the lyrics, they often come last but sometimes I stumble on a phrase or I hear someone say something cool and I'll decide that I'm going to write a song around that idea. When Dustin and Cassie each joined, they had to learn a bunch of songs that already existed. They have really brought these songs to new heights. Learning all these songs has helped them to really get into the vibe that I'm trying to create, and will prepare us for songwriting going forth. We just recently began writing new songs together. Dustin has been sending live drum recordings by phone that I have made music around. Technology!
C: How will having additional writers add to the sound of the band?
ZM: We are excited for that because I am always open to ideas and new perspectives that I hadn’t thought of before. Collaboration will take the art to new places. Dustin has had a lot of input on live transitions for the songs and expanding certain sections for improvisation. The new songs that are being written have a lot of cool and complex rhythmic ideas. It helps that we are both like minded when it comes to music and humor. Cassie has a wonderful sense of melody and I look forward to picking her brain and including more vocal harmonies.
C: Any last thoughts?
ZM: Zombie Mañana is a band focused on manifesting more than just sound. We make use of live visuals - often by our friend Brandyn Zpacely. We aim to connect with the audience on an intimate level. Sometimes life is sweet, sometimes life is scary. Same goes for our music. We aim to express a wide range of the human experience. There is a lot of tension and uncertainty in the world right now, and we need to feel connected more than ever as a species. This world needs more art. Humans need more empathy and compassion for others and this planet. Otherwise, it will most certainly be a "Zombie Tomorrow".
Zombie Mañana has a few dope upcoming projects: a new single will be out soon, and there's a show October 7th at The Store, a venue in Lincoln Park, Chicago.