When Zipper Club dropped their first single “Going the Distance" last year, it was a rather unexpected immediate hit. “It was a whirlwind,” said Mason James at Coachella last Saturday afternoon, the day after his band played on the Mojave stage at the festival. “We would get these texts like, ‘Guys, you’re climbing the charts,’ and we would just be like, ‘What the f---.’”
“We hadn’t even played a live show yet,” added Lissy Trullie, his bandmate. “They’re like, ‘You guys gotta start touring.’ What?”
If these names sound familiar, it’s because they are: Mason James was the founding member and former guitarist of Brooklyn punk rockers Cerebral Ballzy, and Lissy Trullie the one-time model and longtime “darling” of New York's downtown scene. Together, along with drummer Damar Davis, they’ve formed Zipper Club, a name they’ve preferred to keep ambiguous in its meaning.
“This band has been so backwards,” James went on. “Other projects I’ve been in, we’ve hit the road for four years and nobody gives a s---. Nobody gives a s---, and you’ll play to like six people. This was instantly [that] we found success at the radio, and it’s been a f---ing dream.”
And here they were, fresh off playing Coachella. “A bucket list check off,” said Davis.
“And we get to do it again next weekend,” added James.
The project began as a “bedroom project” for James, who was exploring a different sound. He had left NYC for L.A.—“I needed to warm up. It got cold in New York. I’m a softy now.”—and met Trullie along the way. They started recording in North Hollywood with his friend, The Smashing Pumpkins' James Iha, who produced their upcoming album, a 12 song LP out later this year.
“That was also part of the move to L.A.,” he said. “I have space now, I have a studio. That was really where the project took shape, when we started working in the studio together. We were working out of my place in Venice and then would bring it in the studio with James. I love playing shows but writing music and just having that feeling of creating, there’s nothing better than that. And then I listen to it on repeat over and over again until my ears bleed.”
Trullie and James, who was often back and forth between coasts, finished the record together in Manhattan, in Union Square, with TV On the Radio’s Jahphet Landis on drums.
“In this shady rehearsal space that is probably Mafia-tied,” said James.
“I don’t think it’s exactly a rehearsal space,” added Trullie. “I think it’s a front.”
“A drug front."
“But they were good to us."
“They were great to us, so we’ll hold it down,” James said. “We’re not gonna name any names.”
The duo became three with the addition of Davis, who took over on drums after they all met later on, in L.A. “We were fortunate to have my buddy Jahphet play drums on the record, but Damar took that and made it his own style and sound,” said James. “It all took shape about a year and a half ago, and we’ve hit the road ever since.”
A highlight so far has been touring with Tears for Fears. “Can’t get over that one,” said James. “And that was our first tour ever. We were jumped from doing a residency in L.A. to maybe a hundred people to 3,000 people in vineyards in the Northwest.”
“Yeah, we had to catch up real quick,” said Trullie.
Another pinch-me moment was Tears for Fears’ Curt Smith joining them on the Coachella stage for a cover of “Mad World”.
“He was here with his kids," James explained. "He wanted to show off for his youngsters.”
It was hard to miss Trullie when she took the stage, statuesque in a head-to-toe red vinyl ensemble—despite the blazing desert heat, of course—designed by a friend and costume designer who goes by Kindall Almond.
“Lissy’s got hooks,” said James. “I think that was one of the really cool things when we started writing together, that I like to focus a lot on sound and texture, and she was able to come in with huge big choruses, and I think that’s what really complimented each other.”
“Absolutely,” said Trullie. “Mason is a synth maniac.”
“I nerd out,” he said, smiling.
“He really does nerd out on the synths, in an epic way,” she said. “And then Damar, mister do-it-all, he’s the man.”
“I come from a straight just-playing-drum background, not necessarily from a technical aspect,” said Davis. “Since [Mason] is a synth maniac, I have to learn how to do things on the fly. That’s what they both bring out in me.”
“That’s another thing,” added Trullie. “I think for all of us, this project has pushed us somewhere technically that’s, at least for me, beyond what I was doing before. I play the guitar and have since I was a kid, so I’m really comfortable on that, and then I taught myself piano somewhere along the line. But now, I’m playing bass for half our set, so that’s pushed me further, something that I didn’t think I was able to do well at all.”
“We’re making each other better players every day,” said Davis.
“It took a while to figure it out, but I think we’ve kind of got it dialed at this point, and it feels good,” said James.
“Going the Distance” is undoubtedly catchy, but it’s also raw; and there’s an underlying punk to the song and to the band.
The day of their Coachella performance, they dropped “Regrets," the B-side to a Record Store Day 7-inch release on April 22, along with A-side “Breath,” pressed on lavender-scented colored vinyl.
Like “Going the Distance,” “Regrets” is straightforward pop. “Had something on my mind that I didn't want to say / Talking to you makes me second guess / Living my life with with no regrets,” James and Trullie sing in layered vocals.
What’s there to regret? I asked them.
“Nothing at the moment,” said James.
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