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"Innocents Abroad"

Ziff CD reflects carefree days before musicians graduated high school

Ziff's lead singer and guitarist John Lyons and his drummer/pal, James Reza, look back on their days at Catoosa High School as a halcyon era of juvenile fun.

Since the songs on the local emo outfit's latest disc, "Thank You, Ziff, May I Have Another!" were written before the 21-year-olds were thrust into the real world, they have a certain feeling of pre-adulthood innocence.

That innocence has faded a bit now that Reza is a music major at Tulsa Community College and Lyons does criminal background checks.

During an interview with the musicians, Reza recalled something Lyons mentioned not long ago, a statement that sums up how both artists feel about their plights in the world. "John was telling me a while ago that life was just a heck of a lot easier back in high school," Reza said. "We didn't have rent to pay and we didn't have to have a real job."

Lyons added, "You can kind of sense that freedom in the songs. It's not us having to struggle in life, I guess. The album, to me, is carefree and happy."

The disc's lead track, "Tex," holds true to that carefree sentiment. It's sung from the perspective of a fun-loving teen who just wants to "go and steal some road signs," hang out with his bud, Bob, and tempt getting pounded into the dirt telling cowboys to "Go Back to Texas!/Go back where you belong/Go back to your mommy's town."

It's also about Lyons' unsuccessful attempt to convince a bar to give him the working mechanical bull they were throwing

It worked out, though, not getting that bull. After all, where would they have kept that bull of steel? Reza said they might have kept in their friend's attic.

"We used to have shows up there all the time . . . We had the best times in the world up there," he said about the attic.

"We were going to put the bull up there. It would have been awesome. Maybe it worked out for the best because the floor probably would have caved in."

Beyond the wild abandon of youth, love comes in on the disc with "We're the Same." It captures the feeling of how, even though you're alone and will probably end up watching "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" on TV, the loneliness is offset by thinking about that one special girl.

"I love to play that song because I haven't necessarily felt that way in a really long time," Reza said. "It's fun to be reminded of that."

Reza admitted that "Prayer" is "just cheese" and then Lyons added, "it's basically about a girl who's always there for you even when you're with somebody."

Once the pages of high school are filled, the rest of those remaining blank pages can seem daunting, especially when one realizes life leads friends down divergent paths. "Abrupt Change" finds the hero grimacing at friends changing and "life rearranging."

"We had a lot of our buddies who went off to college and they were just different people -- some of them not in a good way," Reza said. "Some of them were really awesome and fun to be around. Then they came back and they were just drunk all the time. They didn't want to do anything other than party all the time."

Although life post-high school is fraught with challenges and turmoil, Lyons said the band aims to reinforce the idea that depression is a result of not searching for fulfillment.

"All of our songs always have a good resolution at the end," he said. "We're kind of against all the depressing music that's out there right now.

"What we want people to get from our songs is knowing that there's always happiness -- you just have to find it."

Ziff CD release party

When: Doors at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Bob's at Cain's Ballroom, 423 N. Main St.
Admission: Advance tickets $10, $12 at the door, free CD with admission, available at Starship Records and Tapes, Albertson's, www.startickets.com, Cain's box office, 584-2306

By MATT GLEASON World Scene Writer - Tulsa World


Four Song Demo - 2008 Demo CD

"Thank You Ziff, May I Have Another?" - 2005 Full Length CD

"Self-Titled" - 2001 Full Length CD



 “THIS is the lineup that promises to finally take Ziff to the next level…” – G.K. Hizer / Urban Tulsa Weekly

What do you get when a group that was called “one of Tulsa’s best new undiscovered bands, emerging in the top of Tulsa’s talent scene in 2009” by one of the scene’s concert promoters (Donnie Rich/Flytrap Productions)completes its most successful year to date by imploding without warning, yet manages to recreate itself nearly as unexpectedly? If that group is Ziff, you get a rock band that’s finally ready to live up to its potential.

Originally formed around the songwriting of guitarist/vocalist John Lyons in 1997, Ziff has been a slowly evolving creature of rock and roll. Bassist and close friend Jesse Sloane came on board in 2002 and the band even weathered his deployment to Afghanistan, only to reemerge in 2009 as one of the most promising young rock bands on Tulsa’s local music scene.

Following a year that included a triumphant performance at DFest, the sale of roughly 2,000 copies of its latest four-song EP and an expanded touring schedule that saw the band play more shows in more cities than ever before in its 12 year history, Lyons was blindsided when Slone unexpectedly took up an offer to join another group. Instead of delivering a knockout blow to the band, however, the departure proved to be a wake-up call.

In an ironic twist of fate, the rhythm section for one of the bands that originally inspired Lyons’ original vision for Ziff, also provided the band its revitalized heartbeat.
“I remember when Ziff was just starting out, I’d go to Shamrock shows. My goal at the time was to follow the lead of bands like Shamrock and Epperley – they were the biggest bands in town, getting a lot of press, playing shows and building the biggest following.”

When the reigning king of Tulsa’s late 90’s music scene, Shamrock, departed for the west coast, drummer Aaron Baker remained in Tulsa due to family commitments. Even so, he continued to be one of the local scene’s most respected drummers, playing with bands like Day By Day and David Cook, before the latter went on to mega-stardom via American Idol.
Meanwhile, bassist Chris Brown followed Shamrock to California, where the band toiled for roughly a year before making its live debut, then promptly splintered. That experience segued into a five-year run fronting the San Diego-based rock act Tailgunner, dancing on the cusp of breaking through to mainstream success, before transitioning back to the Southwest to join The Feds. After spending nearly a year reconnecting with the local scene upon his return to Tulsa, Brown admits that “I went to see all the bands that I was told were the most popular, but Ziff was the only thing really worth listening to. All I could think was ‘Why is this not the band everyone is talking about?’”

Now, the teachers and former pupil have come together, as Brown and Baker join forces with Lyons, providing Ziff a revitalized, muscular rhythm section and the ability to live up to its potential.

Make no mistake,this is still Ziff; it’s just a leaner, meaner and wiser evolution of the band. Muscular guitar riffs, big hooks and pop sensibility still rule the day as the band melds common ground influences such as Failure, Smashing Pumpkins, Weezer, The Cure and The Beatles with Lyons’ fondness for Juliana Theory, Brown’s proclivity for pop wise acts like The Killers, Hum or Autolux and Baker’s gravitation to the atmospheric heaviness of Minus The Bear.

Instead of a leader and followers, Ziff is now truly a band of equals, as Lyons attests when he states that “I’ve never been in a band where the other guys were ever possible songwriters. I’ve always had to write the songs, the bass lines, the drum parts; everything. Now, for the first time, I feel like the weakest link in the band.”

According to Brown, the goal is to “take the wisdom we’ve all gained from our past and apply it in the right order.”
It’s with that wisdom and direction that Ziff launches headlong into 2010. All of the wit, whimsy and carefree joy is still there in the band that has previously opened for both major label artists like All American Rejects (Interscope Records) and The Rocket Summer (Island) and established indie rockers such as Ozma, Aqueduct and Schatzi (Reincarnate, Barzuk and Mammoth Records, respectively).

Now, however, Ziff has a renewed focus as a power-trio of equals that are all on the same page. Everything the band has accomplished previously is impressive, but it’s only a prelude to something bigger. The buzz has already begun, reaching out from the band’s home base in Tulsa to Muskogee, Little Rock, Dallas and Oklahoma City.

"You guys have a great sound and I'm pleased to play you on my show" - Davit Souders - Diabolical Productions (Concert promoter, Radio and Podcast Host)