published: 29 /
In the second in his new 'Gimme Indie Rock', in which he will be examining the best in alternative music, Jamie Rowland at the career of enigmatic Texas-based group, Zykos
Having plunged straight into the wonders of the Far East with Japan’s Satanicpornocultshop last month, I’m now going to whisk us across the Pacific and into the good ol’ US of A, specifically Austin, Texas. For it is here that this month’s band, Zykos, reside (or once resided – it’s a bit unclear, as you’ll discover below)
Formed in 2002, the band consisted of guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Mike Booher, bassist/guitarist Mike Roeder, Jarod Harmeier on electric guitar, Jerod Cykosi on drums and Catherine Davis on keyboards, organ, piano and backing vocals. They were quickly signed to Austin label Post-Parlo Records and in January and February of 2003, they recorded their debut LP, 'Comedy Horn'.
As debut records go, 'Comedy Horn' is a very strong effort – it opens with the shortest song on the album, ‘Moviehome’, a not quite 3-minute indie kicker that grabs your attention like a really good sentence at the start of a novel – I can’t think of an example of the top of my head , but you get what I mean. Other stand-outs from Zykos’ debut include the piano-heavy ‘Zeroth’, the catchily brilliant ‘Kodiak’, title track ‘Comedy Horn’ and the frankly epic ‘The Gambler’.
'Comedy Horn' is a great mix of new wave guitars and hammering rhythm section, but the band’s real pulling power comes from the pairing of Booher and Davis. Mike Booher’s vocals are totally unique; I can’t think of anyone else out there with a voice quite like his – his accent doesn’t sound Texan to me (although my American accent geography is not what it could be), he sounds more like one of the Boston-ites from the film 'The Departed', singing, rasping and screaming his lyrics while Catherine Davis backs him up and gives the songs depth and breadth with her beautiful piano and organ parts. It is these elements that, for me at least, make Zykos worthy of more attention than they have received.
In 2004, just a year after 'Comedy Horn', their second, self-titled album was released – and, while it’s not drastically different, the quality of the songwriting is audibly improved from the band’s debut. As if to underline this point, they re-worked one of the 'Comedy Horn' tracks for this album: ‘Understanding Fire’. It was a good track first time round, but on 'Zykos' it just carries that bit more weight – it’s crisper, tighter, fuller, and as it reaches its closing minute it’s absolutely sublime. A vast improvement, and that’s true of the whole record – the band have clearly found their feet by this point, and come at these songs with the confidence of a band who know what they’re about and where they want to go.
This is summed the seven minute indie-opus that is ‘Calliope’ – you’ve got to have strong songwriting to keep a listener’s attention for that long, and Zykos do it with ease.
With their second album behind them, there was some turbulence for the band as their label folded and they lost two members (presumably it was too confusing having a Jerod and a Jarod in the band, and rather than have to pick between the two, both were replaced). But with new members Alex Lyon (guitar) and Cully Symington (drums) on board, Zykos returned in 2007 with what I think is their finest work – the four-track EP 'Keep It Light'. The songs collected here showed that the band’s three year hiatus had not been spent idle, and their quality – I think – really comes from Davis’ piano being pushed forward in the band’s sound, with all the other parts working off of her.
But then... nothing! I’ve scoured the internet trying to find news of Zykos’ movements since 2008 – when a third album seemed to be in the works – but they just seem to have disappeared! I really hope they haven’t broken up, because I’m pretty sure they were on the verge of being not just a great band, but a fantastic one. Maybe, by some small chance, one of them or someone who knows one of them will read this article and see that they are brilliant, they are missed and they need to make more music! And you can help too, of course – I implore you to check their records out (all are available on iTunes); I’m sure you’ll agree that this is a band who deserve to be heard by a much wider audience and one who need to be brought back to life. Buy their albums, send a message! Viva Zykos!