Tom Petty once wrote, “If a band like The Zombies existed now, they would rule the world.”
But for founding members Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone, it took a little time to warm up to their legacy.
“When we first got back together again around the year 2000, it wasn’t to be The Zombies,” said Blunstone, the lead singer since forming the band back in 1962. “For the first year or so we didn’t use The Zombies name.”
“We were really pleasantly surprised at the interest there was in The Zombies, and gradually we started to realize that there are many people in the world that wanted to hear The Zombies repertoire.”
They could be forgiven for not knowing about the enthusiasm surrounding The Zombies name, particularly their critically acclaimed 1968 album Odessey and Oracle.
“To a large extent, it wasn’t a commercial success when it was released,” said Blunstone. “Even when ‘Time of the Season’ was eventually a huge hit, the album still wasn’t a commercial success.”
“I can only think that it’s word of mouth that it started to sell in considerable numbers.”
With little success in their native UK, the band amicably separated and went their own way in 1967 before Odessey and Oracle was even released- Blunstone went briefly into insurance before starting a solo career, while Rod Argent started the eponymous band Argent with lyricist Chris White, known for their hit ‘Hold Your Head Up’.
But delayed success in the US, especially with ‘Time of the Season’, a song that is almost inexorably linked with the Sixties, has led audiences back to The Zombies catalogue.
“We started to embrace The Zombies stuff much more,” said Argent, the lead lyricist and pianist. “I particularly resisted it, because I didn’t want to look back and rake over embers, but in fact the promoters often billed us as The Zombies anyway, and we started to rediscover the old material some of which we never played the first time round.”
And when they took to the stage for an intimate show at the Molson Canadian Studio March 2nd, they played a nice mix of old and new, the show acting as a brief cross-section of Argent’s and Blunstone’s entire careers. Music from their new album Breathe In, Breathe Out also went over quite well with the welcoming audience.
The current tour takes them to South by Southwest, a major arts and music festival in Austin, Texas. Argent says he isn’t worried about the young demographic that makes up the majority of the festival’s crowd.
“We find usually that our audiences vary,” said Argent. “Neither of us is searching for a youth audience, but I have to say that almost everywhere there is a real component of young people coming to see us.”
“Hopefully, South by Southwest will introduce us into new markets,” said Blunstone. “But it’s a bit of a journey of the unknown for us because we’ve never been there before, and we know it’s a really big media event, we don’t quite know what to expect.”
What they can expect is an incredibly busy schedule in the near future- they are coming back to North America three times this year, as well as playing two major UK tours. Argent and Blunstone both agree a lot more is expected from the band.
“Last year we played the Philippines and Japan, and they wanted us back again and we just said ‘that’s enough’,” said Argent.
“We’ve actually got April off, but our agent said, “I’ve got you a tour of Spain and Portugal and France,”” said Blunstone. “I said I physically cannot do that, we have rest.”
“By the way they want a new album,” interjects Argent. “When are we supposed to write and record a new album?”
But for a band in renaissance, the expectations could be a lot worse.