Tuesday, June 08, 2021

The Zen Arcade: A Fun DIY Band that Make Their Own Rules

Describing themselves on their website as “the garage rock band that plays original and prawn cocktail flavoured songs” The Zen Arcade are the epitome of the fun, quirky, indie bands that are loud and proud about how DIY they are. 

The band consists of three members of the widely successful but now dissolved The Strypes. The Zen Arcade seem to not only enjoy the freedom of being a smaller independent band but to be absolutely flourishing creatively. 

This is clear from their debut EP ‘High Fidelity’ along with a delightful music video for the title track. 

Before even releasing any music, The Zen Arcade started a podcast ‘Higher Fidelity’, and a monthly zine ‘Cro Mag Non’. Their plan was apparently to build up a fan base for their music through gigging which evidently could not be the case once the pandemic began. This led to them getting to work on their irresistibly catchy debut single ‘Don’t Say a Word’ (released last October on their own comically named label Dental Records). Then shooting a music video for it themselves using someone’s back garden shed and a projector. 

Their debut EP ‘High Fidelity’ consists of the new title track ‘High Fidelity’, their previous single ‘Don’t Say a Word’, and a quite unexpected B-side track nearly twenty-two minutes long taking the form of a podcast episode. Both of the music tracks sound like they could be from the late 80s to early 90s high school movie, which I mean as a compliment. Without being cheesy, these tracks are feel-good indie rock bops that get stuck in your head and will no doubt wriggle their ear-worm selves onto your Summer playlist. 

The B-side chat session includes an hilarious and interesting discussion by the band about their influences making the EP, a few micro-interviews with collaborators and radio DJ Paul McCloone, and a round table of Top Five lists in true High Fidelity fashion (referring to the Nick Hornby novel and John Cusack movie that bonds music elitists and list-making nerds alike). 

Showcasing their skills for working with a small budget and a desire to be different, the music video for ‘High Fidelity’ plays around with stop motion, lighting, zooming, angles, and colour. All to pull off a silly but well-made visual representation of the friendly and dynamic band that they are. The song itself uses handclaps, melodic synths, and slightly grunge guitar riffs. All making a song that has the upbeat feel of a pop song with the edge of a straight up rock ballad, resulting in a charming and timeless-feeling tune.

If you couldn’t tell already from their social media, The Zen Arcade have a great sense of humour.  Willing to slip a joke in anywhere they get the chance, even in small places no one may look. This unconventional group display a refreshing no-frills approach and a firm interest in having fun with music and creativity that their listeners truly get the benefit of. 

The Zen Arcade calls themselves a garage rock band and this EP certainly gives the feel of a few mates in a garage making music together for the fun of it. Coming from such a polished studio background as The Strypes, this new project allows the members to bring their musical experience into a fresh, low-key environment that prioritises making entertaining content for themselves and listeners alike. 

Aoife McMahon
Image: The Zen Arcade 'High Fidelity' EP Cover Art

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