Article from April 2015
Zolopht: Pack Up the Van
Pack up the van, let’s go/ To another city, another show
The chorus to Zolopht’s Pack Up the Van astutely describes the band’s work ethic and inherent chemistry. The Grand Junction-based band has been the largest local draw for the past year, setting venue records at locations like the Ale House and Barons. In that last year, they have gone on tour, released their first record, and helped shepherd in a new generation of interest in local music. Zolopht’s blend of “Blues twisted reggae-rock” draws in listeners, while their individual personalities make devoted fans. For a group that can be depended on to draw crowds in the hundreds, they are very humble members of the Grand Valley community.
The history of Zolopht goes back to the first meeting of founding members, Zac Grant and Cam Vilar. Zac moved to town to attend (then) Mesa State College and brought with him his love of reggae and folk music. After a small show he met Cam and the two instantly clicked. It turned out that mutual friends and been insisting that the two meet for months. They began to play together and formed a loose band with mutual friends.
As to the unique name? The band’s drum kit was left over from a previous project and bared the initials MC. It became a running joke to rename the band each performance with a combination of the two letters. None of them stuck and eventually they settled on Zolopht and The Destroyers, a reference to the negative effects of antidepressants and other pharmaceuticals. Drummers and bass players moved in and out of the band until Zolopht opened for the Williams Brothers Band, whom Zac had previously shared bills with solo. After the show the rhythm section, Jared Schmidt and Allen Bradley, talked about how much they enjoyed Zolopht’s sound. Quickly Jared and Allen began splitting time between the two bands. The four became the core of Zolopht for the next two years.
In August of 2009, Zolopht was invited to open for Rehab at Mesa Theater. A cornerstone of Grand Junction music, The Mesa Theater, has a long history of pairing local opening bands with regional and nationally touring music acts. Zac, Cam, and Allen played a stripped down acoustic set with Cam on lead guitar, Zac on rhythm guitar, and Allen shifting duties between the bass guitar and djembe drum. The crowd was very receptive and it was then that they realized the band’s potential. The three looked at each other after the set and ovation and realized that there really was something worth building upon.
The first major additions to the band were violinist Ian McGowan and percussionist/jack of all trades Greg Indivero. Ian was living in Denver and visiting his brother Sebastian, who was also Zac’s roommate. Zac jammed with both Greg and Ian several times until Ian decided to move to Grand Junction. The fuller sound of two additional members began to differentiate Zolopht from other reggae-rock bands.
The band then recorded their first demo EP which had a positive response, but didn’t quite reach the group’s expectations. It did help them reach a larger audience, though, and the band had one of their most memorable concerts. In February 2012, Zolopht combined with local “hard hippie rock” band Gnar for a show billed “Zolgnarpht” at Tenacious Brothers. Zac and Cam had their first radio interview before the show with Dustin “The Ninja” Coren and the venue had enough business to reach capacity twice over the night. Both bands took the stage for an encore, with 2 full drum sets, 2 bass players, 3 guitars, a violin, auxiliary percussion and 5 microphones on stage at once as the bands collaborated on a short set that included Pennywise’s “Bro Hymn”. Somehow it worked and fans of the band continue to point to the show as one of the best collaborations in the Grand Valley.
Gnar’s bass player, Geoff “Geothro” Mueck, began jamming with the band after Gnar broke up. He later joined the band permanently when Allen and Zolopht parted ways. Bradley would go on to form the funk group Tight Thump shortly thereafter. The band also added trumpet player Daniel Ohlson on a few songs, filling out the band’s sound. Although the addition of horns started as an experiment, it began to define the band’s sound. New songs included horn parts and old ones were rewritten.
The new influences brought on a slew of new songs, which became the core of Zolopht’s first full record, pH Balanced. The album was produced by Taylor Riley at Fusion Audio Solutions. The studio experience went a long way towards developing and improving their sound, especially helping flesh out the band’s now-signature three part harmonies among Vilar, Grant, and Schmidt. A short tour followed, kicked off with an album release party at the Ale House. Zolopht played for a staggering 3 hours, including a mix of songs from their album and covers ranging from Black Sabbath to Weezer. It still stands as the busiest night ever for the Ale House, breaking their record for food and alcohol sales. The band also sold dozens of their new album to help finance their tour.
The road had some tough lessons to teach, and it built the kind of camaraderie one can only form in a van packed full of adult men. However, the life of a rockstar has never been in the cards for Zolopht. Their roots run deep in the Grand Junction community and any small financial gain from performances goes towards paying off their van and other expenses. Indeed, their day jobs matter as much as their roles in the band. Zac continues to work at the Ale House, but now he books their weekly entertainment. Cam works as a server at downtown’s newest restaurant and music venue, The Local. Ian and Geoff work at REI, while Greg and Jared are managers at Roasted Espresso and Subs, and Texas Roadhouse, respectively. Daniel recently graduated from CMU and is working as a chemist for Reynolds Polymer.
Then there is Zolopht’s 8th member, Cody Krieger. After Daniel joined the band, and Jared added a saxophone solo on Ph Balanced, filling out the horn section looked like the next step. The band had always benefitted by adding new talent, but an 8th member seemed too much, too soon. Any doubts were quickly assuaged when the group saw Cody play at a local open mic event. The saxophone player was quickly invited to join and played his first gig after only a week of practicing. The horn section of Krieger and Ohlson has become a fan favorite and is featured prominently on new material the band is writing.
It took Zolopht 5 years to get their van, but now it is running on all cylinders. Their most recent show at Mesa Theater, opening for Dirty Heads sold out, with over 820 tickets purchased. Combined with Tight Thump, they pushed the opening of The Local past capacity. The next year could see them break out to an even larger audience, but their roots in the community keep them grounded. Their unique blend of music can be found at most digital outlets, and their CD is available at Triple Play Records, Seeds of Revolution, or Roasted Espresso and Subs. Zolpht is playing live April 24th at the Fat Tire Festival in Fruita, May 8th at Sabrosa, the Montrose Wine Festival on May 9th, and wherever their van takes them to the next show