Zoo Riots
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Zoo Riots

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2012

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Established on Jan, 2012
Band Alternative Indie


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The best kept secret in music


"Zoo Riots - Arbutus Skin Lady"

Hailing from British Colombia, Zoo Riots is a band that combine aspects of R&B, blues and psychedelia to achieve their unique indie rock sound. To be honest, when I first sat down and listened to Zoo Riot’s newest EP Arbutus Skin Lady I thought it was Alt-J; and I mean that in a very positive way. The oftentimes smooth, mellow vocals combined with two-part harmonies and lofty falsetto strikes a similar chord to that of This Is All Yours.

​The members of Zoo Riots are long-time friends, so it seems fitting that they recorded Arbutus Skin Lady in the house that sheltered them all at a point in time. Throughout the EP, it is easy to hear the passion that these individuals have for both music and each other.

Arbutus Skin Lady is mainly built on dynamics and it predominantly relies on heavy layering of guitars and vocal arrangements to achieve its desired sound. Most of the tunes, such as “If No One Sees It” and “Vultures” begin delicately, yet build to heavy climaxes that are emotionally rich. Oftentimes the problem with music that constantly builds is that the production cannot keep up, leaving the climaxes rather ineffective and bland, however this is not the case with Arbutus Skin Lady. The production is just as solid as the songwriting, making it possible for Zoo Riots to pull off the large and intricate sound that they sought to achieve.

The EP starts out with a very tasteful short song titled “If No One Sees It” that begins with a nice picking pattern coated with some blackface tremolo. Even though this song was quite curt, and the lyrics were sparse, I found that it contained a lot of elements of music that I liked— building guitars, groovy bass and a catchy vocal hook. I found the overflowing transition into “Diamond Shades” to be an odd choice, as the riff that connected the two songs stops abruptly, leading into something completely different that seems to allow the song to take its true form.

My favorite song of the EP is the closing track “Vultures” which functions extremely well as a closer. It is dark, climactic and a bit mysterious. I found the tightness of the instrumentation (as well as the harmonies) to be pretty impressive, making it even more clear to me that this band has been playing together for over three years. Their familiarity and comfortability playing with each other is pervasive throughout the music, and “Vultures” is a wonderful example of the amazing synchronization between the members. Music such as this is not written within a few days, and Zoo Riots is a great example of a band that took its time in its creative process and it definitely paid off.

Overall, I found Arbutus Skin Lady to be a very nice work of art. My only complaint about the music is that I would occasionally find myself a bit distracted by all of the culminating parts. It is typical for a band to want to pack everything into their first release, as they want to demonstrate to their audience how much they can do. With Zoo Riots, it is evident that they can do many, many things, and it is certainly better to have to tame one’s natural abilities as opposed to struggling with limitations. - William Morrow - Divide And Conquer Music


“What’s the point of doing anything if no one sees it?”

So quotes the opening track on the debut EP by Zoo Riots, Arbutus Skin Lady. It is long, diverse, crafted well, and presents a great mix of sound type. As stated on their Bandcamp, they describe themselves with an “indie/psychedelic” sound. I was impressed by the engineering and musical diversity: one could be forgiven for thinking each track was done by a different band, although this is not a bad thing. It’s eclectic and shows a variety in their musical capabilities.

The lyrics throughout are quirky, satirical, and metaphorical: they’re poetic and put together. Whether it’s an extended metaphor about Rome or agonizing over being a “vulture on the sprawl,” I can tell a lot of effort was put into the lyric writing. It’s an extra bonus on the great music—I found myself listening to a few tracks over and over to really get the message.

As with a lot of music, Arbutus Skin Lady sounds much better through headphones: the engineering and instrumental work is ideal in stereo, allowing the music to wash through your ears and consume you.

Some of its music is pure, classic alternative. Other tracks are more hypnotizing with hints of psychedelica.

“Toolbox Baby” is truly mesmerizing. I found myself lost in the fifth track, which goes from an angsty vocal dominant section to the prominent guitar riff taking the spotlight. Elements of punk or post-punk are present here, and even some classic metal (the fadeout is reminiscent of early Black Sabbath).

Awesome guitar solo on “Separate Pages.” Like the rest of the album, it showcases diversity and pure talent.

Listen to this EP. Listen to it two or three times to get the full effect. Zoo Riots has hit us hard with their debut on the recorded market, and hopefully any future work will live up to the superb quality presented here. - Cazzy Lewchuk - The Permanent Rain Press



Zoo Riots are a psychedelic-indie rock group based out of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

With a loud and frenzied live show that dips heavily into the melodic and mysterious, Zoo Riots’ competing influences of psychedelia, indie, blues, and soul merge to full effect. Intricate vocal and guitar harmonies, thundering dual percussion, and groove heavy bass lines are key features of their ever expanding sound that aims to keep audiences guessing as much as dancing. Their influences and likeness include artists such as Radiohead, Grizzly Bear, Arctic Monkeys, Tool, Local Natives, and The Mars Volta.

Leading up to the release of their debut EP and supporting tour throughout western Canada in April 2016, the band has performed alongside several local and national favourites including The Dudes, Jon & Roy, Sean Verreault of Wide Mouth Mason, Tal Bachman, and Finger Eleven.

The band is currently working on material for their debut full length album, to be recorded with Elisa Pangsaeng (Shad, Said The Whale, Hey Ocean!, Data Romance) at Monarch Studios, Vancouver. Zoo Riots are Cayman Burke, Liam McLaren, Justin Campbell, Liam Moes, and Kevin Mckay.

Past performances include:
  • Support for Jesse Roper, Sean Verreault of Wide Mouth Mason, and Tal Bachman at ACBC's "Rock N' The Bike Festival" 2015.
  • Winner of Finger Eleven's "Fall Of The Hammer Tour" contest 2015. Direct support for Finger Eleven and Head of the Herd.
  • Featured performers at the UVSS' "Education is a Right: Rally for Student Debt" 2016.
  • Car Free YYJ Festival 2016.
  • Rifflandia Music Festival 2016.

Band Members