What was the Oxford Music Community/culture like when Zoogma formed?
At that time the scene seemed to be exploding. When we started playing around with the idea of a band there were already a lot of local cats that had established themselves locally, regionally and even nationally. Examples would be bands like Shady Deal, Wilx, Bill Perry’s Balance Trio, and The Kudzu Kings. You could go to any bar with live music on a weekend night and the room would be packed and these guys would be killing it. Not to mention things like The Local Voice, Thacker Mountain Radio, blues culture/history, and student radio all had a huge positive effect on the scene as well. The scene was also very welcoming to us (but not initially ha). Being a band that played live-electronic instrumental music, we definitely had some of the older cats scratching their heads as to what the hell we were doing, but once we proved that we could draw a crowd and could play we started getting some respect and not just looked at as “the new kids on the block.” It was an amazing time to be a musician in Oxford because the students and locals wanted live music and everyone at that time was bringing something really unique to the table. Definitely a high point as a musician and being able to learn from all these guys helped us out a lot. It was a magical time to play music in Oxford.
What impact did having the “Zoogma House” have on the music community at the time? Is there anything you would consider a precursor or inspiration to make the Zoogma house what it was?
Having the “Farmhouse” was a huge thing for us. With the bars in Oxford closing earlier than many college towns everyone was always looking for a house party to go to after last call. At first we were just using it as a practice space to write and record material, but as the “after party” scene started to develop again with the rise of electronic music we decided we should try having one there. The first one was a late-night after Boombox played at The Library. This one was all word of mouth and we ended up having 100 or so kids come out, and we set up and played there until about three or four in the morning until the cops came and shut it down; It was a blast to say the least. After that we knew we had something cool happening there and started doing it a lot more frequently. Our biggest event was a party we threw on 4/20 one spring. We charged $5 at the door and gave the proceeds (about $2000) to the Human Society and had our own “festival” there. We had Bill Perry and a bunch of the local guys and their bands come play and then we headlined the night with Moon Taxi. It was like 120 degrees in there with 300-400 people packed in, but it was definitely one for the books. We still talk about that night with the Moon Taxi guys, incredible times for sure. All good things have to come to an end though and we decided to stop doing it since we didn’t have security and could be liable for all kinds of things we couldn’t control. It was special while it lasted though and it seems like Dent May did a cool thing with it a few years after that. The coolest thing to me about the Farmhouse was that you had all kinds of people there together enjoying themselves; hippies, hipsters, frat/sorority, ROTC, young kids, and older “townies.” People just wanted to have a good time and there really hasn’t been another experience like it, save for huge festivals, but this was when Bonnaroo was like one of three festivals people went to. Good times.
How does it feel looking back on those times and seeing how the local music scene has evolved?
This is a tough one to answer as we have spent a lot of time away since then. We wanted to expand outside of Oxford and have the potential for new & bigger opportunities, so we moved to Nashville and Atlanta sometime around 2012. It seemed as though a lot of the bands broke up or moved away as well as a lot of the students that would come to the shows and contribute to the live music scene, and it seemed to kind of happen all at once for whatever reason. Having played there a few times over the last few years and speaking with a lot of the cats that still live and play there, it seems as though it has gone through a little drought as of recent. The reason for that is up for debate, but again, everything good has to end at some point. I heard the mid to late 90’s in Oxford was also off the chain, so you have to imagine the town will come around and prosper again. A place like Oxford . . . It takes the whole town to create a movement. The bands have to be killing it, the students have to want it, the media has to be open and push and harness it all. It is a beautiful thing when all of those things click.