"It’s been six years since we last heard from the Zebras, who brought their shimmering pop to Melbourne via the sunshine state in 2007. Well, the twee-lovin’ kids out there can finally quit biting their nails because the band is back, with their third full-length release, Siesta, due out in June.
We got a taste of the album late last year with the punchy ‘Chase’, which featured on Lost and Lonesome‘s 15th birthday sampler alongside gems from the Icypoles, Milk Teddy and more. Today the Zebras are following up with lead single ‘Try’, a pop song written in classic style that again shows off the band’s effortless feel for melody – and what appears to be something of a fetish for analog synths.
‘Try’ is a bubbling track that showcases the tight interplay between musicians who’ve been working together for almost a decade. The gorgeous production and mixing were done by band leader Jeremy Cole and Architecture in Helsinki‘s Gus Franklin. " Who the Hell
"Siesta, the third album from The Zebras, is a guitar pop delight from beginning to end. If you sample it without knowing anything about the band you might nod knowingly and conclude that jangling tunes like this must originate in Scandinavia, the more melodic side of some Glasgow street, or perhaps Brighton. However, The Zebras list their home as Melbourne, Australia, so score another victory for the land down under.
The songwriting here is first class, with the sort of breath-catching hooks you expect form the best in this genre. But nevertheless, the tunesmithing here is forced to share the honors with soaring male/female vocals and a driving rhythm section. Most of the tracks are fast-paced and bouncy, perfect for a summer session in the sun or a drive to the beach. But the band gets the emotional weight spot-on for the handful of slower numbers as well. The only reason to not get this album would be if you aren't in a good place to fall in love with a set of songs, because there really is no other reason.
" When You Motor Away
"The Zebras’ third album has them striving for clean, sharp production. An alteration in emphasis to a punchier synth sound to accompany their surf-rock roots has resulted in a mature-yet-laidback indie classic. Chase and lead single Try, though familiar, take unpredictable turns. The highlight, Another Copy, is a culmination of all their best assets; bassist Edwina Ewins’ vocals are propped up by a wailing guitar line in a chorus you never want to end. Though the grunge of their earlier work has been filtered out, clever songwriting gives this polished work plenty to sink your teeth into.
" The Music
"The Zebras have a headstart on the whole ‘90’s revival because they’ve basically been around since then. In fact they’ve been saving themselves, Siesta is their first record in six years, arriving right in the middle of the public’s froth for that particular slice of yesterday.
The funny thing is, although you can hear constituent elements that mark them as 90’s rock kids, when you put those bits together, I’m not entirely sure I can name any band from back then that sounds quite like The Zebras: not even The Zebras themselves. Going back and listening to their 2003, self-titled record, there’s an identifiable connection, but you can hear more of other influences crowding into their pleasant alt-pop: warm and lazy sounds like The Lemonheads or even flashes of a band that would have been their compatriots at the time, Screamfeeder.
Strangely, The Zebras’ origins, as a shoegaze band back in Cairns, are more evident now than they were in 2003. There’s an incredibly smooth texture to the production and perhaps everything they do, recalling the inexorably even, steam-roller-esque sound of bands like My Bloody Valentine or The Jesus & Mary Chain. It’s nothing like as heavy or drowned in reverb, of course, but the ghost of that sound lingers here and imparts a unique quality to Siesta.
Really, because this mostly isn’t -as you might expect- dream pop, but undeniably the deliciously warm and sweet sound of ‘90's alt pop: Pavement, perhaps Belly at their least dreamy, or even Clag back in the day? There may not actually be a band from yesteryear which sounds quite like The Zebras do now, although perhaps there are some echoes from closer to home. You could put together a double-header with The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and I think that gig would go off quite nicely.
At any rate, the combination of this stylistic innovation and the nostalgia double-dose is serious pleasure for an old fuddy-duddy, and it carries me a long way through Siesta. That’s certainly a good thing, because the eleven cuts here don’t do a huge amount to distinguish themselves, one from another. Everything blends in a pleasantly melting manner. I think Siesta actually gets dreamier as it goes along; maybe it’s just me. It’s good to hear from The Zebras again, a timely return which not only benefits from the ‘90’s revival but, if anyone’s enjoying this half as much as I am, one that might just give the revival some extra legs as well." Chris Cobcroft, 4ZZZ
"In the six years since their last album, The Zebras have moved cities and had a significant change in membership. In spite of all of this change, the tales on Siesta hark back to Jeremy Cole’s formative years in Cairns as the five-piece draw on the lazy vibes of misspent youth.
The Zebras are as breezy as ever on this outing with their guitar jangle and bouncy melodies sure to get the most stubborn wallflower tapping their toes. There is a hint of their long deserted shoegaze roots during moments like Chase, but for the most part the band peddle the musical equivalent of sunshine that would’ve been well at home during C86.
Bassist Edwina Ewins’ vocals are more confident than before as she becomes one of The Zebras’ main weapons. She is at the forefront of first single, Try, as she croons through a hyper-smooth chorus that won’t subside and is wrapped up in a bouncy baseline and playful synth. Penned by new member Lachlan Franklin (formerly of The Smallgoods) High Art is the first song from The Zebras that doesn’t have Cole’s hands all over it and yet its cheery sheen fits the band like a glove.
The Zebras leave no pop stone unturned as they gather help from Architecture In Helsinki’s Gus Franklin to mix all the tracks. There are few things as difficult as writing the simple pop song. Siesta shows The Zebras are masters of the craft." Chris Havercroft, X-Press Mag
"It’s been six years between releases for The Zebras, due in part to the fact that leader Jeremy Cole and the band self-produced this third album. But while it’s easy enough to simply say it was worth the wait, all that painstaking craftsmanship makes itself known across Siesta. What might seem like just a sprightly, infectious pop album on the surface proves richly layered and remarkably well calibrated. And lyrically especially, the band’s persistent singalong choruses shine against a dark mirror of melancholy life lessons.
For all the sugar rush at play here, an anthem like ‘Wait’ is defined by conflicting emotions: “You understand that I am nothing like you,” sings bassist Edwina Ewins, before later adding, “You are the reason for it all/And I’m paying for it more and more.” A scathing clutch of kiss-offs are housed in what could easily pass for a bubbly love song – if you don’t listen too closely to the words. The friction between happiness and sadness, and pleasure and pain, also marks the uncertainty of ‘First & Last’ (“You could be dreaming/How would you know?”) and the double-vocal immersion of ‘Desert Island’ (“So we will hold back tears and suffer in silence”). Even the gorgeous ballad ‘Berries’ sees Cole shrug dolefully: “You think you’ll make it just by trying/Well, whatever works.”
You could write these off as jangling tunes that put all their emphasis on gilded melodies, but there’s plenty of depth beyond that immediacy. ‘Another Copy’ and the opening ‘Fire Fire’ approach the lush, boy/girl dream-pop of labelmates Lowtide, whose earlier single Cole recorded. Guided by chiming keyboards, the title track gets spacey enough to evoke the more pop moments of M83, while the moody New Wave of ‘Try’ recalls when ultra-catchy US band The Rosebuds turned to wintry synths. ABBA keeps coming up as a reference point too, not just in the giddy layers of Siesta but in the idea of having songs succeed on levels both superficial and profound.
Take the Rocketship-esque ‘High Art’, the only song not penned by Cole: written by guitarist Lachlan Franklin (ex-Smallgoods), it works a sordid tale of tequila, mushrooms, happy hour and police into another cloud-topping anthem. Whether you see it as overdriven perkiness or prickly comic understatement, there’s no reason it can’t be both. By the same token, you needn’t be familiar with Cairns or any of the band’s native Queensland – Cole’s cited source of inspiration for this album – to appreciate these songs. The themes of repeated disappointment and cautious hope are as universal as those glossy hooks unfurling at every turn." Doug Wallen, Mess+Noise