This interview took place after a Nov. 9th show in Hershey Pa (in a barn). Dan Weyandt is Zao's vocalist that has a way of singing, which leaves an impression. Dan also writes the lyrics and has at some times played bass for the band. We got a chance to pow-wow…here is how it went.
Nate: Is this your first time playing in a barn?
Dan: We used to practice in a barn, but as far as I remember it is, but my memory doesn't count for much though.
Nate: First off, let's disparage any rumors, is Zao on the verge of breaking up?
Dan: We are on the verge of talking about what we want to do. We're actually supposed to have a meeting tonight. Everyone's having fun and everything but more or less with the situation we're in, it's to the point where…I got lucky I own a business, so I can come and go as I please. But everyone else really can't get a steady job cause we play on the weekends and most jobs…run of the mill jobs…you can't just get off when you want…so its hard for me to play a lot cause I own a business so that in effect, affects them to where they can't get a job so like the only money they make is from playing shows and our drummer Jesse is married and has a kid who's barely a year old...and it's just getting to the point where we're not sure what's gonna happen. Not because any of us not getting along or anything like that, but its more like life issues. I mean we don't make enough money, to dispel that rumor…we don't make enough money to where we can just play a couple of shows, so to live off the band, we'd have to play like two or three weeks of the month, and I can't do that and they can't just do weekends because then they can't get jobs, so it's like everyone's in a weird situation. But I'm not saying we're gonna break up. Tonight we're just gonna figure out what's best.
Nate: Ok…let's get know a little bit about the man behind the mic…first off, who's your favorite Simpson's character?
Dan: I like Barney. He's just cool.
Nate: What was your favorite vegetable growing up as a kid?
Dan: Lima beans.
Nate: If you could pick any city in the country to live in, which would it be and why?
Dan: Either Nashville or Boston. Out of all the cities I've been to, they are the main two that have the most appeal to me. Nashville's a nice big city, pretty laid back and I like Boston because I have a lot of friends up in New Hampshire which is close to Boston. I don't know of any big city in New Hampshire.
Nate: What was your favorite class in high school?
Nate: Did you go to your prom?
Dan: Nope. Never was invited. I wasn't very popular in high school.
Nate: Ok, let's get on to more important stuff…what would you say the typical Zao fan is like?
Dan: It's hard to say there's like a few. Everywhere from the overzealous youth group kid to the mellowed out, out of high school…it's hard to say, its like people around our age like 22, 23. Probably like half Christian kids, half whatever. Mostly like pretty cool…I'm a bad person to interview...that's why I quit talking on stage, cause I babble.
Nate: What would you say the current mission of Zao would be?
Dan: To try and stay together, and write the best we can… its been hard to focus on the deeper things in the band cause there's so much going on...like we'll come straight from work and play shows and go home and go straight to work and in between playing shows, we just work, and there's always something going on at Jesse's house with his wife and kid, and I gotta call in and check work everyday. It's tough to just get out anymore. It used to kinda be like a vacation in a sense where you could focus on what you were doing and not have to worry about what was going on at home, but now it's like, is the business alright, is the baby ok, how was business, it’s just hard anymore…were just all getting old, man and we have a lot of responsibility for our age and its hard to just put the rest of your life behind you when you go out. Lately we've just been trying to write good songs, just play well. A lot of people think that we're not a Christian band anymore but our whole thing is a non-pressured atmosphere, like the last show, Jesse prayed with a kid and we say stuff and talk to people after the show...can I just say something real quick? I just think what's worrying me about the whole Christian scene is a lot of the kids involved are like anti-religion, not putting God in a box that kind of thing. As far as I noticed, its almost as if the Christian scene is turning into a religion itself, where a lot of the bands follow the same paths where they get up, they play four songs, they say a little bit, and then they play four more songs and then they have their thing at the end, and its almost as if you don't fit in that mold then your not a Christian band. It's almost like there's rules to follow…like "you're a Christian band, these are your rules." You can't just get up and play, after four songs you'd better say something. I think whether you say or don't say anything, God can do something in people's hearts and minds at a show. Even if it’s just like a new kid coming to the show and makes a new buddy who came to see us, and then they go home, they become friends, and that kid leads him to the Lord…we never know how things are going to work out, we try to say we won't put God in a box, He works in mysterious ways...but then it's like "if you don't follow the formula, then God's not going to do anything. If you don't say anything, God's not going to save anybody." Personally it's hard for me because I'm at a different level then I used to be. I used to be very angry and zealous, I wanted to like hammer on people about it. And through touring over the years and meeting people and tattooing and making a lot of friends in a lot of scenes… a lot of my friends, maybe like 25% are Christians. So I see a lot…I have a lot of people come in and be like, "yeah man I was down in the city and this dude was ragging on me" and then for the next week they don't want to talk about it (Christianity). I just try to be a friend to as many people as I can and relate to people on their level and go from there. And I think that the bands that do say things are called to do that. The Bible says some people are called to plant, some people are called to water, and some people are called to harvest. Not every band is a bunch of harvesters, supposed to be raking in the souls every night. It's just we get a lot of flack, we get a lot of kids looking down on us. I think a Christian band is like the hardest thing to be. You don't get any real respect in the secular scene because people think you're a close minded moron, and in the Christian scene you don't get any respect if your not "Christian" enough. So that's where we are, that weird "can't please anyone" slot.
Nate: What personal changes has Zao had to deal with in the last few years?
Dan: Well when I joined the band, it was me, Russ, Brett Detar, and Jesse. And that went on for like a year, then Brett left, half because he was in the Juiliana Theory at the time and was more passionate about that which is very understandable because most of us don't listen to that much heavy stuff either. And we were kind of on hiatus and Russ and I started a band with Scott on the side. So the rest of the guys were all friends with Scott, I didn't know him that well, so we all became good friends. During the sixth months we had off was when I started to tattoo a lot, and a lot of the changes came when the boss I worked for left and gave me the business. So then my personal bills like tripled. Because I used to just work, now its like not only do I have my rent at home and all my utilities for that but I have work and supplies, utilities, regardless if I'm on the road or not. The reason I can't go out as much is cause I like lose money when we play shows, I make way more at home. And its not a selfish thing, like I need to go out and buy a new TV, but at the end of the month, I have a ton of bills, and if I've been playing shows all month then I'm like screwed. And with Jesse having a kid that too, is like another whole realm of responsibilities. And then Russ left to go to film school. Anyone who knows Zao knows that we've almost broken up once a month for the past like three years, and Russ really wanted to go to school, and he didn't want to postpone it because there wasn't a whole lot of stability in the band and he didn't want to wait any longer to go to school, seeing that at like any day, like with one really bad show or argument…I mean we're on the fine line. So he felt like it was in his best interest to start his life instead of waiting another year and graduating college when he's like 80.
Nate: What other bands out there, are really impressing you right now?
Dan: Actually I listen to all old bands, like Johnny Cash, Neil Young….I think my favorite band right now, I don't know how new they are cause I just started hearing about them, I think they're called Songs: Ohio. They're on a label called Secretly Canadian. They have some really good stuff out…I like Pedro the Lion…and their (Songs: Ohio) stuff is sort of like that…with more keyboards…then I'm into weird stuff. Like I love the Misfits, Danzig. I've been listening to Built to Spill a lot. I'm just starting to hear all this old music that I never heard before.
Nate: What's the Zao practice schedule like?
Dan: In all honesty, the last time we practiced as a band we can't remember. I don't think we've practiced with a PA since Blood and Fire…cause mainly we play enough shows…I never really practice with them…I've gotta work all the time, then they will all practice…and I can listen to the tapes and get it all down on my own…they practice…well we just wrote a record, so that doesn't really count cause that was like a lot of practice to write that…but just basic practice, maybe every month and a half…two months.
Pete (my friend who was hanging out with us): How do you think the recording went?
Dan: Really good…they wrote the first song on the new CD, they wrote with their mouths in the car on the way down to the studio…there's ten songs, one instrumental, and two with Jesse by himself, so there's technically like seven heavy full band songs. I had heard two of them...I get down to the studios, they gave me a CD…I listened to it for like 12 hours a night…I have tons of lyrics, and I just kinda went from there.
Nate: You guys are known for having lots of lineup changes, a lot of members have gone through the ranks, if you guys were all on stage at once, all performing one song, what would the result be?
Dan: I don't know what song we'd play. I think it would go alright, cause as far as it goes we still get along…some I haven't seen for awhile…like I haven't seen Sean or Nick from the first line-up. When we played Atlanta, we saw Roy the old guitar player and Kevin, he started played Bass after Splinter…everyone's still friends.
Nate: How has being in Zao changed you?
Dan: I think its opened my eyes a lot...to how people are…I mean you live in one place and people are all sort of similar, but you see people when you travel…I think it’s changed me for the better...sometimes it’s stressful and that effects me in a bad way, but I would say overall, looking back I would say it’s been a positive experience as far as learning how people are. When I first joined, I was part of a small youth group and was all fired up and didn't listen to secular music and thought if you did this or did that, there was no way you could be sincere…but traveling around I met people who I considered to be the most sincere people I’ve ever met...sincere in their walk and who they were, and they would like smoke or listen to Slayer and I was like wow you don't have to live in a cage? I just got a lot more freedom in my life, more understanding.
Nate: If there was one thing you could tell the Zao fans worldwide, what would it be?
Dan: It would probably be more focused towards the Christian kids, I would say in everything in your overall walk, you have to worry about yourself the most, cause a lot of times your so worried about everybody else, that we don't realize how bad we're slipping up…I started reading a lot of Oswald Chambers and that's his message…that so many of us are so concerned with other people, not that we shouldn't be compassionate and care, but we get so involved in other peoples lives that we forget about ourselves in the sense that we start to slip.
Nate: If Zao were going on a worldwide tour, what bands would you take with you?
At this point Jesse was walking by and said: I would go on tour with Third Eye Blind so I could watch them play every night.
Dan: I would go on tour with Third Eye Blind, Johnny Cash, and Iron Maiden.