Tribe Of Tha Moon: Zulu Are A Force To Be Reckoned With

One of the most vital bands on the planet right now...

Thriving and knowing no creative boundaries, the Los Angeles hardcore scene continues to provide wave upon wave of talent, and Zulu have come to be one of the big game players. Their debut album ‘A New Tomorrow’ is an ode to the past with a message of hope for the present and future – told through the lens of vocalist and primary songwriter Anaiah Lei. Clash meets Anaiah one month on from the record, to dive into his musical journey, life on the road with Zulu and how the record came to be.

“I figured people would be into it, but the amount that people were into it took me a little by surprise,” Anaiah tells Clash over the phone, taking his first weekend of rest after a mammoth tour that saw the album released in the middle – to a glowing reception. “The way people have talked about the record has been so cool to see. It’s been such a beautiful past month… and it’s only been a month. That just goes to show that with whatever future material, we’re just gonna continue to grow and grow and be able to not just stay in the hardcore realm – but also draw [upon] different genres that influenced me.”

Indeed, when Zulu unveiled the third single ‘We’re More Than This’, it took the entire scene by surprise – a soulful, hip-hop track that ditched the power violence of hardcore for a more transparent, minimalist approach. Anaiah explains: “I wanted to add influences like jazz, R&B and hip-hop. I’ll listen to hardcore, metal and whatever but I’m also listening to all these other people that have nothing to do with the genre, but everything to do with the history – and that’s what I pull from it.” This side of Zulu was neither a risk nor a calculated decision, rather, a natural means by which to connect with their roots, for Anaiah. “I do it because of the people that came before us, and honouring those ancestors, which is also another big part of the record. Looking to the future and honouring the people that did it before. The album cover is a literal example of that.”

Reggae music is quintessentially linked with Anaiah’s upbringing, he tells Clash, having had those sounds ingrained into him from a young age. “It was the default genre that was played at my mom’s house and my dad’s as well. There was a lot of reggae – I come from a Rastafarian background. Reggae is where it all started…classic Lowrider Soul, and then it went into punk, after that. My dad was super into punk and all that. He put us onto that from really early on.” Ever since, punk has been a dominant factor in Anaiah’s life pre-Zulu, where he was primarily a drummer in The Bots with his older brother – at the staggering age of just nine. The vocals – and Zulu – came a lot later, he explains. “I’ve done music for so long, but as a drummer – I am a drummer. I’ve done every other instrument but vocals.”

Explaining his journey to the accomplished frontman he now is, Anaiah tells Clash “I was like ‘I want to front a band’. So when I started to do it, I tried to emulate other vocalists that I liked. It wasn’t something I could do. I wanted to do a higher pitched style – higher than the register I sing in now.” Experimenting and managing his screams safely has been an ongoing challenge, but the guidance of his touring peers in Show Me The Body, Jesus Piece and Scowl has been instrumental. “Thanks to Aaron [Heard] from Jesus Piece, he helped me out a lot on tips that I kind of knew, but some wisdom and knowledge he passed down while on tour. I was in it together with a whole lot of vocalists – Kat [Moss] from Scowl, Julian [Cashwann-Pratt] from Show Me The Body. I related more to Aaron cause me and him have similar style – but vocalisation is still vocalisation, so regardless we were all still in it. But Aaron really put me onto how we do our style.”

One of the record’s standout, gnarly singles ‘Where I’m From’ enlists a collaboration with Soul Glo’s Pierce Jordan, who had some thoughts for Anaiah ahead of the tour. “He [Pierce] was explaining how at a certain point, his vocals just clicked – to where every day, pretty much, it was fine. It just got into a routine, when you do your warm downs, warm ups – the recovery time becomes quicker. At one point in the tour, it just clicked, and I understood what he meant. It was a moment where it was just ‘oh wow, my vocals are doing well for eight or nine days in a row now.’”

Having written and produced most of ‘A New Tomorrow’ himself, Anaiah admits he was a tad exhausted by the time tracking vocals came around; the result of his overarching aim to produce a cohesive body of work that stays true to Zulu’s founding principles. “Punk music is about expression. Typically, the more negatives and the frustrations, you know, that’s what punk music has always been about and always will be about. I’ve done that before, I’ve done that for years. That’s not what I wanted Zulu to be about in the first place. I just wanted to honestly talk about what I was going through, my own experiences and collective experiences that us as a band have had.”

Ultimately, ‘A New Tomorrow’ is an optimistic record – something people don’t normally expect from hardcore punk, but something Anaiah felt he needed to convey. “I just wanted to spread some love and actually talk about that, for a change and hopefully inspire other people. I was shifting from being real miserable in life to finding hope in myself too, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted – so let me go ahead and reflect that in the lyrics and the overall theme. I did alright with it, but it took a minute trying to figure out the kinks and how to piece it together. I guess there’s parts where it’s more poetic, but there’s parts where it’s very clearly what the record is about. The title is the most clear of it all.”

The mood amongst the band is still electric one month on from the record’s release, Anaiah tells Clash. “I really hoped people would rock with it and dig the nuances that we’ve put into it, the change-ups and growth. Of course, the first record – that’s like the band’s statement. Everyone in the Zulu camp is super hyped about that.” Whilst the band aren’t in a hurry for new music at this moment in time, they are feeling more assured than ever that their uncompromising, fearless approach to songwriting has resonated all around the world, and will continue to do so as they take it out on the road.

Just coming down from the Show Me The Body Tour, Anaiah admits that its sheer existence is a miracle in itself: five artists that are such an essential part of the present in Scowl, Jesus Piece, Show Me The Body and Trippjones. “The tour we just did, that just does not fucking happen at all. I’d never seen a tour like that, I’d never been on a tour like that. That energy was just unmatched, every single night.” Looking ahead to the summer, UK fans will be able to hear ‘A New Tomorrow’ for the first time at hardcore’s unofficial home – Outbreak Festival – which is upgrading to the colossal Depot Mayfield in Manchester. “Last year we played Outbreak as well. Originally it started as a small hardcore festival. By the time we played last year, I was expecting it to be at one of the smaller venues that I’d seen videos of. 2000 Trees is also dope. It’s cool to be on the radar of other festivals that aren’t necessarily from the hardcore world.”

‘A New Tomorrow’ is out now on Flatspot Records.

Words: Rishi Shah // @rishi_shah2

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