New Zebra Kid
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New Zebra Kid

London, Ontario, Canada | SELF

London, Ontario, Canada | SELF
Band EDM Gothic

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The Hot Dog evening show began as New Zebra Kid took to the stage, er Kitchen. Aaron Simmons aka New Zebra Kid has been experimenting over the course of 2012, and ever since going solo from London favourites A Horse and His Boy. He's been throwing refined ideas to the wall and seeing what reverberates. He started as a one man band which slowly morphed into this current incarnation with partner Quinn Read-Baxter. The first shows featured the duo both on keys, but, Aaron, finding himself cuffed to the keys and needing to 'move' decided to put more responsibility on his talented partner to guide the well crafted NZK sound. Up front and with a focus on performance, Aaron Simmons is again on top, and quite possibly this City's greatest potential export. For Aaron, there's an urgency to the live performance, and a need for spastic movement. On a good night, the music flows through the Kid. His romancing of a darker wave of late '70s/early '80s Synth Pop and Electronics is spot on. The music feels entrenched in the sound rather than a form of mimicry (like it's Sheffield '79 not London 2012). He's also moved away from the higher range vocal styling he became known for, and into something that's possible to compare only to a series of other performers (I hear some Skinny Puppy, but when last we spoke it wasn't a direct influence). It's not one singular voice, and the end result is this magnificent Gothic Choir. As a fan of the former higher range vocal I hope it's not completely disregarded, but there's no need to argue with where he is now. On this night, the voice was coupled with something I would describe as ready for the Theatre stage, sorta Shakespearian. At least, that's what was in my head. With so many bands focused more on their sound, and getting it just right, it seems like a revelation to see someone so focused on being a performer. I think it's a reminder as to what being on stage can be. Anyway, looks to me like Zebra Kid just hit the next level.
The element of Quinn Read-Baxter on keys should also be considered in the all around exceleration of the New Zebra Kid. Quinn's recent solo explorations have proven her a suitable ally for the Kid, and her knowledge and talents bring a lot to the table. Quinn on keys, and Aaron on vocals also furthers a greater organic feel of New Zebra Kid as an act reliant less on technology, and more on live performance. Though it really never mattered more than the quality of the music (which has been high from the outset), locally it should favour a greater appeal, but it'll take getting to larger centers like Montreal for the flow of appreciation to be fully realized. - Hot Dog London


Discovering New Zebra Kid was a defining moment of our growing interest in the London music scene. We were setting up a show for one of our absolute favourite performers, Sean Nicholas Savage, and needed a local name to help sell the show. Aaron Simmons, aka New Zebra Kid, had been playing with popular Electro-Rock unit A Horse and His Boy, before going solo just prior to the show, and seemed like a perfect fit. Aaron's vocals, to me, stood out as the most interesting part of that solid band, and when I heard his initial solo offerings I was sold. That night Aaron arguably stole the show and won new fans from those in attendance, including the traveling acts, the Group Sound and Sean Nicholas Savage. It was a magical night that ended with an encore that included everyone on the bill doing a messy and wonderful version of the Who's 'Baba O'Reilly'. Since then Aaron, short of an official release, has contributed some stand out tracks to a (sadly defunct) Topps' single, the Half A Dino Local mix and Rob Ross' Castledrum Compilation.

New Zebra Kid is an evolving beast, not to mention a bit of a perfectionist, and when he finally officially releases an album I can safely assume it will be something to celebrate. Recently, James Lindsay of Pleasence Records reviewed the Castledrum Comp on Weird Canada, and accurately caught the Kid's 'New-Order-on-cough-syrup swagger'. After some high profile gigs opening for Xiu Xiu and New Wave favourites Men Without Hats, New Zebra Kid takes to the stage for the evening portion of Hot Dog's First Anniversary show. The following is a conversation I had with Aaron about the current state of the London Music scene and, of course, his New Zebra Kid.

Mike Bot: So, first, I'm wondering how would say New Zebra Kid has evolved from those initial shows in the Summer of 2011 opening up for Sean Nicholas Savage and Born Gold (then Gobble Gobble)?

Aaron Simmons: Well I just upgraded from 4 track recording to 8 tracks, and couple more synths have recently come into my possession. So my world has expanded quite a bit and I've got a couple new hits in the works. Could mean a release will finally come through in the next bit, but I won't guarantee it. Maybe if enough people get on me about it.

Well, you can be sure I'll encourage such a thing. I think it's terribly important for this local scene. You have a sound that it is line with not so much what's happening here, but certainly what seems to be hitting big all over the world. And it's not by simply trying to replicate some sort of hipster trend.

You recently played a bigger show in Toronto, I'm wondering how that went?

One of the best. Silent Shout (Electronic Canadian Music Blog) put on the show. Had a venue full of people with their eyes glued to the stage. That's all you can ever hope for. Got to play with hidden Toronto gems Valerie Dour and Fresh Flesh, which was pretty swell.

I've also been through disasterous Toronto shows in the past though. It's not always magic. Choose wisely.

Yeah, I mean there's so much happening in Toronto, and the smaller better shows we've attended seem to be full of people that weren't ready to be impressed, so I can imagine it's really not that easy. Everybody's clawing to find their place.

Toronto aside, what do you perceive happening here locally at the moment?

Seems like the live scene is kind of on hold right now. Hopefully it just means lots of great records will pop up soon.

Well I'm now awaiting at least one. What would you say to the community here in regards to pushing things forward?

If you appreciate anything going on in this city right now, give it all the love you can afford. And tell your pals.

Absolutely. And I'm wondering what's happening currently here that makes you excited to be apart of this local community?

Earlier this year Greggy Clypse released what is probably my favourite album to ever come out of this city, "Easy 101's". Unfortunatley it seems so far only a few people have noticed. You'll Never Get To Heaven are also pretty great. And of course Quinn Read-Baxter's solo work should be given some serious attention. Quinn's also been on synths for me at a few live shows.

Yeah man, that Greggy Clipse album is a unique and remarkable album. I'd love to see that get picked up for a physical release.

Lastly, I've always been a big fan of your DJ sets. I don't know anybody else who would give us 'Video Babe' by Alan Vega at just the right time of night? What's currently on the decks?

Dee D. Jackson 'Automatic Lover'
Ready For The World 'Oh Sheila'
Sisters Of Mercy 'Walk Away'
Cabaret Voltaire 'Sensoria'
Ambitious Lovers 'Let's Be Adult'
Clan Of Xymox 'A Day'
He Said 'Pulling 3gs'
Big Trouble In Little China 'Coup de Villes' - Hot Dog London


Aaron Simmons aka New Zebra Kid is one of those people referred to as 'wise beyond his years'. Still a young man, Aaron cut his teeth as vocalist with beloved local electro-rock band A Horse And His Boy. Since the demise of AHAHB Aaron has worked steadily on his most recent project New Zebra Kid. Each time out, Aaron is experimenting and attempting to harness the energy and party his former band brought to the stage. On a good night it's there, on a lesser night the patient can still see it. It's a daunting task to say the least and certainly he's aware of the comparisons. He's also aware that the comparisons often work in his solo favour. We here at Hot Dog feel NZK trumps AHAHB - the hard case evidence being the songs. Freed from the democracy of the band set-up NZK is exploring sound and structure and even early - making better songs. Truly, the only thing holding back New Zebra Kid from a larger national scope is the absence of an album. An album slowly being crafted into something special, something encompassing the energy of the love of music. - Hot Dog London


21. TOPPS/NEW ZEBRA KID Bobby Fischer
(Digital Single)


A remarkable single from a 'lost album'. It's a little heartbreaking that this 'can't miss Summer' hit', released in the early part of 2012, didn't make this London trio a name commonly appearing on blogs, small media and the CBC. If our commercial 'modern rock' radio had any connection to the local community this single would have been blaring out of cars rip roaring down Main Street all Summer long. The playability of the 'A Side' allowed this single to remain fresh into the second half of the year when New Zebra Kid's 'B Side' cover became our preferred version. Fundraisers continue to be popular and I say we raise the funds to get this pressed to 7 inches of wax. - Hot Dog London


New Zebra Kid is another local performer I’ve sang many praises of, and continue to do so. Over the course of 2011-2012, Aaron Simmons aka New Zebra Kid has embraced lo-fi New Wave Synth Pop, and carried it into Goth Funk territory. His continuous tinkering and experimentation has taken the project from something really great to pure excellence. Our first look at New Zebra Kid in 2011 was one of the best local performances I’ve ever had a chance to see, and the last, at our Hot Dog Anniversary show in December, was even better. Criminally underrated and underheard are two tags that will not likely stick to this performer. When those creaming their jeans over the extended outpour of Weird Pop from Montreal find their ears to the New Zebra Kid it shall be known. For now, take the opportunity to see this wunderkind in an intimate setting - just a short trip down town. And prepare yourself to dance in a slow haze like 'it's starting to kick in'. - Hot Dog London


He may be called the New Zebra Kid with new songs, but the London post-punker and popster is an old hand around the Oh! Fest.

“I have just have one song left. I just wrote it on Monday,” New Zebra Kid aka Aaron Simmons said late in his main set stage.

He followed up with a loud and driving dance-flavoured tune late Saturday afternoon on Dundas St.

Under other IDs, Simmons has been around the indie fest scene since it started a couple of years ago. He was part of one of London’s top rock bands A Horse and His Boy before it broke up and also was part of the charming alt-folk duo The Late Miss Mary Kingsley.

Through them all, Simmons has displayed a mastery of loops and samples. New Zebra Kid is just solo Simmons — but with a dreamy universe of Bowie/Simple Minds/Suicide beats and melodies flowing around him. - London Free Press


"New Births Of 2011

•Teledrome
•Demos
Got the demos last summer and they knocked me on my ass!
•Paul Lawton
Other newborns from the two-oh-one-one:
•Outtacontroller (Alison Lang)
•Paula (Benoit Poirier)
•Saünlust (Taylor Burgess)
Winnipeg stonerjams etc. etc.
•Sorry (Jesse Locke)
Best new band from Calgary that isn’t Teledrome
•Bataille Solaire (Gabriel Jasmin)
•Teledrome (Jean Sebastien Audet)
•New Zebra Kid (Pam Haasen)
•Dirty Beaches + full band line-up! (Simon Frank)" - Weird Canada


"Montreal and Toronto may still have the most representatives of any Canadian city, but dark electro is thriving everywhere, from Halifax to Calgary, Ottawa to Vancouver, and exciting new hotbeds appearing in London, Ontario, and Grande Prairie, Alberta. We’re not too exclusively nationalist here at Silent Shout, so border states (minus NYC) appear too, with artists from Minneapolis, Seattle, and Brattleboro, Vermont making our list."

"...60. New Zebra Kid – Go the Extra Mile" - Silent Shout


New Zebra Kid rides high in this week’s Reaney’s Pick video.

London post-punk synth popster Aaron Simmons is in solo mode as the Kid for the video, playing Ya! Ya! Yawm!, a song also heard on a new compilation album by London-region artists.

When the CD is launched on Thursday night at APK Live, there will be company for the New Zebra Kid — like-minded musical ally Quinn Read-Baxter.

“We’ve done one show together so far. This will be our second show,” Simmons said Tuesday.

Sudbury-tied Simmons, 24, attended Saunders secondary school as a teen after arriving in London.

Under other IDs, he has been around the London indie since some acts on the compilation first flourished a few years ago. He was part of the award-winning rock band A Horse and His Boy before it broke up. As a previous Reaney’s Pick, he was also part of the charming alt-folk duo The Late Miss Mary Kingsley, an act whose absence is also lamented.

“This is much poppier . . . obviously 80s influences,” he said of the New Zebra Kid sound compared to his AHAHB songs.

Simmons continues to show his mastery of loops and samples with a dreamy universe of Depeche Mode/Suicide-styled beats and melodies flowing around him.

The Kid will be in good company on Thursday, when most of the acts participating in the Half A Dino Local Compilation album join the action at the downtown London club.

Says London rocker and booking agent Matt Trocchi: “The album features 12 extremely talented local artists. Some are well-known and some are only just beginning to break into the vibrant London music scene. Each of the 12 songs (is) quite different from one another, which we feel provides listeners with an accurate representation of our diverse music scene.”

Trocchi and his Say Domino bandmates are among the 12 acts.

Simmons is working on his own solo project.

“I’m slowly learning to record,” he said. “I want to do it just by myself — completely solo.”

Fans who admired the Kid at last fall’s Oh! Fest on Dundas St. are likely waiting to see him move on the stage Thursday.

His stage style is “Jake LaMotta meets Kevin Bacon,” one admirer said then. - London Free Press


Castledrum Records is a brand new electronic label based in London and they’ve just put together their first compilation gathering together some of the wonderful underground talents there and nearby. Consider us blown away by Greggy Clypse and New Zebra Kid, and Toronto’s Man Made Hill provide an awesome Olivia Newton-John cover. The whole compilation is available PWYW on Bandcamp. - Silent Shout


London, Ontario’s Castledrum Records make a strong first impression on this encyclopedic compilation of avant-gold bangers. With 21 tracks, this epic collection of electronics touches on a little of everything — the Moroderesque pulsations of kid YEARS, criminally smooth lover whisper of Digits, pitch-dark dancefloor explorations by 1nce Prodigal, New-Order-on-cough-syrup swagger of New Zebra Kid, chopped ‘n’ screwed David Lynch synths from Candle Eater, and Toronto’s favorite funk-freaks Man Made Hill and Doom Tickler holding down the goblin groove. That’s only the tip of this iceberg, so take a crash course. - Weird Canada


New Zebra Kid is a 2-piece band featuring London Local, Aaron Simmons (formerly of A Horse And His Boy). This was my second time taking in his performance, but my first time with band member, Quinn Read Baxter (2nd keyboard). Aaron projected his emotion-filled vocals which carried his body into an interestingly distorted and danceable beats to the already packed bar. Without a doubt, New Zebra Kid is one of London Ontario’s Best Bands – One you need to see! - Indie Underground


The Group Sound and Sean Nicholas Savage's hotly anticipated London stop began with an opening set by one man gang New Zebra Kid; who both stepped outside the shadow of his former band, A Horse and His Boy, and broke out as the New Kid in Town in only his third performance to date. Simplifying the five parts of AHAHB down to the vital components seemed to work New Zebra Kid’s Aaron Simmons into a comfort zone that allowed the London native a chance to bust loose with his best songs to date. Finding just the right time to switch from a jagged coo to A Vega-scree the Kid's complete control engaged the focused audience. Headliner Sean Nicholas Savage was seen pointing to his head saying ‘this guy’s smart’ and lightheartedly suggesting he was gonna ‘steal’ the Kid’s moves. - London Fuse


Discography

1. V/A - Distant Cousins Mixtape Vol. 1 - December 2011
(NZK featured on Weird Canada's "New Births of 2011")
2. TOPPS - "Bobby Fischer" (Split Single) - February 2012
(#21 Release of 2012 - Hot Dog London)
3. V/A - HDRSDCDR - April 2012
(Featured on Weird Canada)
4. V/A - Castledrum Companions - August 2012
(Featured on Weird Canada, Silent Shout, blogTO
"Go The Extra Mile" featured on Silent Shout Top Songs of 2012)
5. V/A - Half A Dino Compilation 2012 - September 2012
(#1 on CHRW 94.9 London September 18th - December 11th)

Photos

Bio

"Up front and with a focus on performance, Aaron Simmons is again on top, and quite possibly this city's greatest potential export. For Aaron, there's an urgency to the live performance, and a need for spastic movement. On a good night, the music flows through the Kid. His romancing of a darker wave of late '70s/early '80s Synth Pop and Electronics is spot on. The music feels entrenched in the sound rather than a form of mimicry (like it's Sheffield '79 not London 2012)." - Hot Dog London

New Zebra Kid (Aaron Simmons) makes lo-fi electronic 4-track pop on vintage synths and drum machines in his London, ON apartment. New Zebra Kid has shared the stage with such acts as XIU XIU, Men Without Hats, Doldrums (x2), Sean Nicholas Savage (x3), Gobble Gobble, Phedre, Tenderness, Man Made Hill (x2), and Lantern.