By Kelly Warren Harrell
When visiting the Outer Banks, location along the great barrier islands is often described by milepost (MP) number, starting in Kitty Hawk and ascending as you drive south along Route 12. Nestled somewhere between MP 6 and 10 lies the launch pad for the psychedelic fuzz indie rock band Zack Mexico. While the band’s earth center resides in Kill Devil Hills, its sound and style are completely out of this world.
Currently consisting of John Saturley (guitar/vocals), Jamie Brumbeloe (guitar), Matt Wentz (guitar), Tyler Byers (bass), Joey LaFountaine (drums) and Josh Martier (drums), the original iteration of the band initially came together in the late 2000s. Growing up on the Outer Banks together and sharing a love for music was enough to get the wheels turning.
“We went to school together since middle school,” said LaFountaine. “We knew of each other, but were brought together in late high school because of music.”
Saturley was the catalyst that seemed to pull the group together one by one.
“[Saturley] had some songs under the moniker Camel Dinosaur,” said LaFountaine. “He asked me to play drums for a show. Then [Brumbeloe], my musical homie, came in on bass for a second show months later. Then a year later we put [Brumbeloe] on guitar and brought in our buddy TJ [Harrington] on bass and had regular practices and songs. So we called it Zack Mexico.”
Nervous but ready to share their music, Zack Mexico began popping up at open mics along the beach and eventually began playing shows regularly. In 2011, Wentz was brought into the fold.
“Wentz came in on guitar and blew everyone’s tits off,” LaFountaine said.
If blowing body parts off is an indication of musical talent, fans may want to protect their extremities around these guys.
Over the next 4 years, Zack Mexico welcomed and bid farewell to a few members, yet the funky name remains and momentum continues to mount.
“The group has become more of an art project, which the old punk dudes will always hate us for,” LaFountaine said.
An art project is the perfect way to describe Zack Mexico. From trippy album art and show posters, to unconventional on-stage attire, the band offers up a visual kaleidoscope to match the psycho-surfer extraterrestrial auditory journey it delivers both in live shows and on studio albums.
Pulling from a cornucopia of musical influences — including Pink Floyd and Radiohead — individual ingenuity and passion are channeled through the band’s “creative life force or lightening rod,” Reed Frost.
“We all work on solo stuff with our own lightning rods, but when we work together creatively in Zack Mexico, it’s under the guidance of Reed,” LaFountaine said. “It’s nice to have someone to blame it on when people go, ‘What the hell is this trash?’ He’s also our scapegoat.”
To date, Zack Mexico has released two live EPs and three LPs, and played countless shows up and down the east coast. The band’s most recent album, “Get Rich and Live Forever,” dropped in November of last year, and has been met with high praise from fans. The album features eight long, deliciously jammy tracks that show a new trajectory for the band. On each track — averaging about six minutes each — the band allows time for the wave of the song to crest before letting it crash down into a sea of mind-blowing awesomeness — an artistic evolution born from performing live, feeling what works in real-time, and transporting that back to the studio.
While Eastern North Carolina can sometimes be a difficult region to break out of for musicians, Zack Mexico has found success with a little help along the way. An early affiliation with Diggup Tapes has helped to catapult the band’s music west of I-95 and make Zack Mexico a familiar name in and beyond the Triangle area.
“Diggup Tapes found us when we released our very first EP,” LaFontaine said. “His name is Nathan Price, and he helped us a lot. He’s probably the reason Raleigh knows who we are — shout outs, homie.”
While playing in Raleigh has its benefits, the band’s frequent stop-offs in Greenville have provided unique live show experiences that keep them coming back for more. After connecting with a couple Greenville music scene masters, the band was hooked.
“Once we got plugged in with Jordan Finn and Jeff Blinder they showed us a small freaky rock scene we never knew existed there, and that made us keep coming back,” LaFontaine said. “Like the Hobby Horse is insane… not every town has places like that. We like the weird shit.”
Zack Mexico returns to this year’s SpazzFest with a catalogue of new music to unleash on a guaranteed packed house. With two maniacal drummers (think Animal on steroids), a formidable wall of guitars, a meaty bassline, and Saturley’s magical god-like vocals, festivarians can expect this insane wave riding vehicle to completely shred their faces off and make them rethink the meaning of life.
Following SpazzFest, the band will continue to tour the east coast before embarking on their first international tour.
“In July we’re heading to Mexico to play for two weeks which were excited and nervous about,” LaFontaine said. “I think it’s just because the word ‘Mexico’ is in our name, but it’s really being made possible by one crazy Mexican fan — shout outs Jesse!”
To learn more about Zack Mexico, visit zackmexico.com.Login or register to post comments