Singled Out: Zr. King's Welcome to Bearizona

Zr King

Zr. King are gearing up to release their new album Musically & Morally Bankrupt on April 17th and to celebrate we asked Griffin Lotti to tell us about the song "Welcome to Bearizona." Here is the story:

Griffin Lotti of Zr. King talks songwriting, singing, and the new single
The songwriting process in Zr. King typically begins with some level of instrumentation and ends with the finalization of lyrics and melodic arrangement of vocal parts. Along the spectrum there are a lot of variables - sometimes things come together really quickly, an hour goes by and suddenly there's a new track that's fully formed; but sometimes it takes weeks before the puzzle comes into focus.

Our new single Welcome to Bearizona is the leadoff track on our sophomore release, Musically & Morally Bankrupt, and is a song that falls into the latter camp. The riff that serves as the foundation this song is built on is an old one - I wrote it sometime in the mid-2000s - but it took a long time to come full circle as it exists today.

Let's start with a little background: I am a guitar player first and foremost, and always have been. I never imagined myself as a singer, and the fact that I front this band is just as much a surprise to me as it probably is to anyone that's known me as I've grown into the role - albeit, at this point, I'm more comfortable with it. But that took a long time, and at first, I was absolutely terrified.

Before we started Zr. King in earnest, Brandon (bass player, and my brother) and I were in another rock band, and that band had two incredible singers. There wasn't room for me to do much there, vocally. So I told myself the way to overcome my fear of singing was to demo songs and do everything myself - including the vocals. If it was garbage, only I would ever hear it, and I'd be the only one who knew I was even doing it, so it was safe. If I f***ed it up, so what?

The first song I choose to do this with was a Foo Fighters tune called Weenie Beenie (which is a total f***ing cop out, because all you need to do on that one vocally is scream). But I did it. It sounded decent. Then I did Motorhead's Going to Brazil. Lemmy's voice was guttural and gruff. I could substitute my technical inexperience with abrasive conviction. It got easier. It sounded a little better. I got more comfortable.

Over time, the anxiety lessened. We recorded our first album, which was a crash course in figuring out how to execute because the red light was on. Luckily, Matt (our other guitar player/singer) is a monster vocalist, and we work with a very skilled engineer named Jerry Ramos, a talented musician and singer himself (he owns the studio - Mercury Recording, in NJ - where we've cut both our records). I learned a lot from watching those two, and from our collaborative approach to tracking.

Unlike a lot of things in life, with singing, the harder you physically try to get somewhere, the more difficult it often becomes. You need to maintain control of your breathing, keep a calm head, and stay relaxed. Really great singers make it look easy because they have so much control, they don't have to physically overexert themselves to get where they want to go. Watch somebody like Myles Kennedy sing - that dude has a four octave range and barely breaks a sweat. There are exceptions of course (I'm looking at you, Brian Johnson).

So I started honing my ability to visualize what I wanted to do vocally. And the approach that helped me get comfortable with singing in the first place transformed into my process for writing: I'd use the instrumentals we cut in rehearsals or that I demoed to carve out the vocal melodies, and that's how all the songs on Musically & Morally Bankrupt were finished. I kind of shot myself in the foot though, because playing the guitar parts while singing this stuff is not easy. But figuring out how to do it is half the fun.

So here we are now: Welcome to Bearizona. I knew I wanted this song to be the first track on the album, and I wanted it to drop out of the gate with a punchy vocal that had an Alice In Chains harmony vibe: high and low notes in atypical intervals from the underlying chord structure, that serve as almost a dual lead melody.

Sometimes the music sets a scene and the song tells you what the subject matter should be. Listening to this song makes me think of driving through the desert, or on some backroad highway passing bombed out ruins that time left behind. Places once seen as the glimmering hope of a bright new future, or a symbol of power and position, that in time are relegated to crumble in the rear view. Time advances everlasting, crushing great men and cowards alike. It is the equalizer of all humankind - the pinnacle of success, power, wealth or influence is no match for the devastation time eventually leaves in its wake. Time shows great patience for temporary things.

That's what Welcome to Bearizona is about. The protagonist is time itself, sending a warning or, more appropriately, stating a truth that the annals of human history have shown to those who've paid attention time and again: physical monuments and shows of force are inherently temporary on an ultimate scale. Death is certain, life is not, regardless of who you are or what you have.

So take risks, do work, have fun, make it count. You only get one of these rodeos, and if you spend all your time being scared you can't sing, you never will.

Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself and learn more about the album right here!

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