Sarah Vasquez of Other Side Drive’s On The Other Hand, got a chance to speak with Austin’s Zlam Dunk (and come up with a catchy-title as seen above). Sarah got a chance to sit down, talk, and focus her last On The Other Hand at KTSW on the band.
Wham, Bam, Thank You Zlam
When K-T-S-W’s Promotions Director Lauren Johnson walked into Texas Music Theatre during 2011 K-T-S-W’s Mr. Fest, there was a band ready to start their set.
“And the front man of the band, Charlie. He was wearing this jacket with an eagle on the back of it and he was dancing around on stage and all of the sudden, he turned around and like squirted everyone with silly string and the music started and it was just so full of energy. And at all that time, it just I don’t know. It made me remember what it was like to be a fan again.”
The front man was Charlie Day for the band Zlam Dunk. Zlam Dunk has toured three times, two and a half if you asked guitarist Brett Thorne. They produced four records and one EP and performed multiple music festivals such as South by Southwest and Houston’s Free Press Summerfest. Johnson says the band has a long history with K-T-S-W. Several of the members have worked for the station. Day was the program director at one point and Brett Thorne, Zlam Dunk’s guitarist, worked for Texas State’s newspaper The University Star. But on Dec. 14 at Red 7 in Austin, Zlam Dunk will be calling it quits at their final show.
“It’s hard seeing it’s an end of an era for us, but it’s also we had a great run.”
Why the last show though? Day says that after the band members graduated from Texas State University a couple of years ago, it’s been kinda hard to keep playing shows.
“Basically we don’t have the time to commit to what we want. If we wanted to really take the band where we want, we would have to pretty much sacrifice everything else and like live at home with our parents, try to tour cause there’s like no way you could really make money off it, so we all have career paths that we’re all going towards so it made sense to do that instead of prolonging the inevitable, I guess.”
Drummer Daniel Vega says life happened.
“Honestly, this should have happened like two years ago. I don’t know how this band lasted for four and a half years.”
“Yeah, I don’t know how we got out of the dorm that day.”
The dorm Day is referring to is Beretta Hall on campus. He lived in the basement next door to two other would-be members of Zlam Dunk. So one night, they had a bunch of people over, eight total, and started jamming. Day says they probably jammed for 20 to 30 minutes until one of the R.A.’s from the dorm next door came over to shut to down. The band ended up writing two songs.
“When they came over and shut it down, we’re like all right, everyone that’s in this room right now is in the band.”
Vega says Ryan Piper quit a week later. Day was supposed to be the tambourine player, but after Piper quit, he became the vocalist. He screamed in a hardcore band before, and says he doesn’t really sing in Zlam Dunk.
“It was kinda weird for me being in a totally different kind of band, but I was really excited about it and we just went from there.”
Thorne says it seemed that everyone was on the same page about the last show.
“I guess as far as like kinda what Charlie was talking about with if all of our hearts aren’t 100 percent into it like like they have been for, you know, three or four-ish years, then it seemed like everybody was on the same page, then it’s time for it to kinda close.”
Vega says no one fought the decision.
“It was definitely a hard decision.”
When the band decided the lineup, Days says he immediately thought of Equals and The Couch, both bands that played with them while they were all Texas State students in San Marcos.
“It just made sence to end it with the bands that have been there and have been our good friends since the whole time.”
Equals bassist Alex Guzman says there have been multiple shows with that exact lineup at a few different venues. Equals took a break from shows for the rest of the year to put together an album, but said yes to playing with Zlam Dunk one last time. Equals keyboardist Logan Wexler says it will be fun so they decided to do it.
“We were like oh yeah, no shows til the end of the year, yaddi, yaddi, yaddi, yaddi, but like, you know, it’s our boys and our friends.”
Equals drummer Matt Toman says the bands sorta grew up together.
“That’s like the cheesiest thing you could say. I mean, you think about it and we played our first shows at Triple Crown and then we played opening up for The Octopus Project and that was another thing with them, and we played Wild Frontier Fest in Austin with them. The shows got better, but we kept playing with them over the time, I guess.”
The Couch’s Taylor Wilkins says the relationship with Zlam Dunk started with a rival after competing at a battle of the bands on campus. Zlam Dunk won. But afterwards, they started booking shows together.
“Of course, it’s friendly competition and it’s good times and I think it drove us to all do better. We always wanted to put on better shows and we’d always talked about how going on before them or going on after them, it was always a different experience. Made us want to do better.”
The Couch’s drummer, Jud Johnson, says they had that kind of mentality putting together a setlist anytime they had a show with Zlam Dunk.
“Like all right, we’re doing a Zlam show, so gotta bring the A-game.”
Lauren says Zlam Dunk shows always bring high energy and connect with the audience. Thorne says that’s sorta been the idea with their live shows.
“Sometimes life sucks and but for 30 minutes, you know, once every two weeks or however often we play shows, like we just want to have a thing where it’s like any goes.”
Day says it doesn’t matter how many people are in the crowd, they always put all of their energy into their performances. He’s had a heat stroke from a show, hit his head on the speakers, and broke mics and stages as well as his ankle.
“I have scars on my leg from hitting a tambourine so hard into my leg that I will always have like scar tissue on my leg, just cause we all love the music that we wrote and it shows when we play because we put all of our energy and our heart and soul into it.”
Wexler filled in one time for Zlam Dunk member, Ross Bennett, on keys as well as the tambourine. He says it’s harder than it looks.
“And I remember thinking just messing up on tambourine really cause it’s harder than it looks and no, people think oh, it’s tambourine, I can do whatever I want. No, it’s hard. If you’re good at it, you’re good.”
Now with Zlam Dunk ending, Day says a lot of people are upset. One Zlam fan wrote on Zlam Dunk’s facebook wall that it feels like his favorite pet hamster is dying and there’s nothing he can do about it. Another person wrote on Twitter that her youth will die on December 14. Day says those kind of responses have been kinda satisfying to him. He wishes they can play another last show for every person, but says he knows that it’s never going to happen. So they will play one last show for all next Friday, December 14.
“Seriously, it’s been the best thing that’s ever happened in my life and it’s sad seeing it come to an end, but we’re gonna end it right.”