Squirrel Nut Zippers return to the road after long break, but don’t call it a reunion

:: Squirrel Nut Zippers ::

 :: Boulder Theater :: Dec. 17 ::

 :: Cervantes Masterpiece :: Dec. 19 ::


By Chibo Acevedo

If you so much as ear-glanced at mainstream radio in the mid- to late-’90s, you might remember the swing revival that was happening. The movie Swingers came out in 1996 and featured a big-band playing swing at the no-longer-in-existence Derby dancehall/bar/lounge in La-la Land — or as some call it, the city of Los Angeles. That scene was one of the more memorable moments of the film, and seemed to help ignite an explosive renaissance of the ’40s swing era.

The Lindy-Hop was back. There were swing bands everywhere; Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Royal Crown Revue and, of course, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. Ironically, of all the bands in that revival, one band that made an impressive mark was never really a swing band perse — Squirrel Nut Zippers.

In this mix of frenetic, pulsed, retro-swing music, they were a band unlike any of the others. In fact, they wouldn’t really even classify themselves as swing, because their music was more inspired by the music that inspired 1940’s swing music. What they brought to the table was a mixture of eclectic Dixieland jazz and ole-timey-floating-down-a-lazy-river kinda music. In spite of the fact that they weren’t playing the same exact kind of music, they were lucky to come along when the country had taken an interest in swing era culture.

“It was always funny to us (that we were part of that) because the one song we had on the radio was a calypso rip-off. So we never felt a connection,” said Chris Phillips, drummer and founding member of Squirrel Nut Zippers, during a recent phone interview with The Marquee. “We felt no relevance or connection to the big band, zoot-suit thing. We just happened to be five people who happened to be exploring the exact same eclectic types of music at the same time. We worked together in a restaurant and dug each other. I definitely think old timey is a more accurate description of our music — or ’30s punk.

Having taken a break for the past six or so years, Squirrel Nut Zippers are getting out on the road again, playing shows and having fun, according to Phillips, but he said, too, that he’s careful not to use the “R-word.”

“I still refuse to call it a reunion, opting for the more beatific ‘sabbatical.’ It had been about six hundred years. At least that’s what it felt like — but, probably closer to six years,” Phillips said. “In the end the break has made us stronger.”

Phillips had been boozing it up quite a bit in the band’s heyday and needed the break to get it together. “I sobered up,” he said. “No, seriously, my fascination with ditch digging had collapsed. I then had to find something to occupy my attention to keep from hitting the bottle again. The Zippers seemed like the perfect fit. Like an old shoe; worn out and dusty, but filled with spectacular memories … also a bit smelly.”

The Zippers are presently working on a new recording, but Phillips eluded to the fact that the final theme of the album is far from determined. “It’s not clear exactly what shape it will take yet, but the new songs and demos are smokin’. This year was a lot of exploration,” he said. “We came to find the live shows really enthralling. It turns out the same has happened in the studio. We will most likely have a record out from this year’s touring. Suart and I are also working on a prequel to Dancing To Morocco,” our book about dive bars of Morocco,” Phillips said.

:: Squirrel Nut Zippers ::
:: Boulder Theater :: Dec. 17 ::
:: Cervantes Masterpiece :: Dec. 19 ::

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• Andrew Bird
• Gogol Bordello
• Cherry Poppin’ Daddies

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