Zoo Trippin's Tiny Desk submission featured the five band members wearing sunglasses in a cement underpass, performing a stripped down version of their 2016 song "Great White Buffalo."
The acoustic, ukulele-strumming tune cemented their crowning as WOSU's local favorite from the 2019 NPR Music Tiny Desk Contest, beating out 50 other bands from around Central Ohio. But it's far different than the bass-thumping, amped-up version they brought to the Broad & High studios.
Speaking to WOSU's Clare Roth, guitarist and vocalist Lynn Roose III says that sound is part of what keeps them here.
“For awhile it seemed like rock n' roll was dying off a little bit, going the way of the dodo, to pop music and whatnot," Roose says. "But in Columbus it’s alive and well."
For all the talk of rock, Zoo Trippin' are really musical vagabonds. While songs off their 2016 album feel most influenced by blues and funk, their next record Purple swings from metal to acoustic to modern country. They took another turn for last year’s The Sonny Black EP, which leaned toward hard rock.
Roose says their genre-commitmentphobia gives them a broader, more eclectic audience.
“Since we play so many types of music, I think at different shows we’ll perk up someone else’s ears that weren’t digging the really heavy rock n' roll stuff we were playing," Roose says. "But suddenly we play something with a bunch of harmonies, it’s like, ‘Oh wow, that was nice.’"
One such song is "Forget Me Not," written by singer Tony Casa.
“That song, lyrically, was about my grandfather, Dante Casa. He was going through Alzheimer's. We just wanted to address it because a lot of our stuff is that upbeat cut-throat rock n' roll: Have a good time, party, this and that," Casa says. "But sometimes it gets dark and heavy. And we wanted to reach out to people, like, 'Hey, you’re not alone in this, because this is very common.'"
Zoo Trippin' were noticed by the National Alzheimer’s Association, which invited them to play benefit shows, which ultimately raised $100,000 for the cause. Casa says music is a particularly apropos way to approach the topic.
“In your brain, when it comes to the senses, they’ll start to go one after another, but music somehow remains intact for a long time," he says. "That’s why, when you hear a song from high school, you get taken back to that place and that time. You can almost hear and smell and taste those times almost because it’s so strongly wired in your brain."
Zoo Trippin' has a slate of festivals to play this summer, including Comfest and Red, White & Boom, along with a national tour coming up in November. But their home base isn’t changing any time soon.
"We want to travel the world and spread this music to every corner of the globe, but we will happily retire and die in Columbus, Ohio,” Casa says.