Minnesota band Zoo Animal defies genre conventions


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Holly Newsom considers herself more of a songwriter than a vocalist. Passionate about the paradox of life and the things in it, she creates the most powerful songs she can with the least number of words. 

“We are not the typical rock ’n’ roll band,” said Newsom, the 25-year-old lead singer of Minneapolis-based Zoo Animal. “If one note says it better than six, then I’m going to use one note.”

Zoo Animal will perform at 9 p.m. today at the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St. Admission is $6.

The self-proclaimed minimalist grunge pop band is hard to classify into one type of music.

Because it is a trio, the parts are very simple, said manager Flip Arkulary.

“Even though I work with them, I’d say they are the most innovative band in Minneapolis right now,” Arkulary said. “People here view them the same way.”

Bass player Tim Abramson said some of the songs would be comparable with a band in a certain genre, while others would be labeled differently.

“We cover a broad spectrum,” he said.

The three-piece band has been together for the last three years, and it tours around four times a year. Currently, the band is on an 18-day tour, performing 14 of those nights.

Newsom said the members are keeping their sanity with quiet van rides and lots of coffee.

But it’s been a long road and a lot of hard work for the trio.

Zoo Animal first began when Newsom’s solo act needed a bass player, and she approached classmate and fellow church member Abramson.

“[Newsom] needed a bassist, and I thought that four strings might be easier than six,” Abramson said.

Abramson didn’t realize he had a passion for music until after high school, when his parents bought him an acoustic guitar for Christmas.

“I have a younger sister who is like a prodigy or something,” he said. “I grew up with the mentality that you have the musical gift or you don’t, and I didn’t.”

Now, after learning to play bass for the band, Newsom said “it’s kind of cool” Abramson is able to cater to the music she writes.

The band picked up drummer Nola Paster to round out the trio on this circuit after regular bandmate Thom Burton opted out of the tour.

But success is not always easy for a band from the heartland.

“The biggest challenge of being a band from the Midwest is getting the right people to hear you,” Newsom said. “The road is so expensive, especially with gas being $4 a gallon.”

Yet, the members have a broad enough fan base to fund their tour this time around.

“We did a kick-starter, and it was ridiculously helpful,” Newsom said. “But I don’t want to have to do that again; it was just to jump-start the whole thing.”

She also said that her music and art suffers because all of the other work she puts into the other areas.

“Out of all the groups I represent, they are the most likely to be nationally known,” Arkulary said.

Being a drummer before she was anything else, the band’s lead singer said she’s really into the rhythm of words and tries to get every verse to have the same number of syllables.

“Getting lyrics and music to fit is a really articulate idea,” Newsom said. “Music is the punctuation.

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