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ZXO embraces expansion into four-piece band

Local+band+ZXO+releases+first+LP+album%2C+%E2%80%98LP1%E2%80%99+on+Oct.+27.+Frontman+of+the+band%2C+Ryan+Bewer%2C+says+that+the+band+hopes+to+continue+to+perform+and+make+more+music+as+their+audience+grows+larger.+
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ZXO embraces expansion into four-piece band

Local band ZXO releases first LP album, ‘LP1’ on Oct. 27. Frontman of the band, Ryan Bewer, says that the band hopes to continue to perform and make more music as their audience grows larger.

Local band ZXO releases first LP album, ‘LP1’ on Oct. 27. Frontman of the band, Ryan Bewer, says that the band hopes to continue to perform and make more music as their audience grows larger.

Photo Courtesy of Anna Longworth.

Local band ZXO releases first LP album, ‘LP1’ on Oct. 27. Frontman of the band, Ryan Bewer, says that the band hopes to continue to perform and make more music as their audience grows larger.

Photo Courtesy of Anna Longworth.

Photo Courtesy of Anna Longworth.

Local band ZXO releases first LP album, ‘LP1’ on Oct. 27. Frontman of the band, Ryan Bewer, says that the band hopes to continue to perform and make more music as their audience grows larger.

By San Kim, calendar editor

Local bands always go the extra mile to confront people’s underestimation of their music. ZXO has fought hard to establish their presence in the local music scene, by performing at the critically acclaimed Pygmalion Festival this past October.

Not long after the festival, ZXO dropped their first LP, “LP1,” whose title sounds incongruous to the band’s ambition at face value. The title started off as a folder name that contained tracks for the album, but sounded more relevant to frontman Ryan Brewer as the band inched toward finalizing the album.

“Calling (the album) ‘LP1,’ I think, hints at a future. It kind of indicates within the name that there is going to be an ‘LP2,’” Brewer said. 

Producing a second LP seems pretty surreal for ZXO, which used to be a one-man band by Brewer and “never a thing.”

All ZXO needed to grow into the full band it is now was a little nudge from Brewer’s friend, who convinced him that there is untapped potential in his songs.

Having recorded songs by himself with a set of limitations, he really recognized the need for collaboration as well.

Brewer credits his band members with the richness “LP1” possesses, calling his previous EPs the “polar-opposite” of the album. He added, “when I play (the songs) by myself, they almost put you to sleep,” as opposed to the same songs played with his band that “you can almost head-bang to.” 

However, where the album shines the most is in ZXO’s ability to blend in a healthy dose of exotic elements. This is attributable to the transformation Brewer underwent in the past five years, during which he had his first transatlantic travel in China, Vietnam, Bolivia, and Peru.

After he rediscovered the love of reading, books gradually played a bigger role in shaping his music — especially those of Alan Watts, some of whose writings undertake the task of interpreting Eastern traditions for the Western audience.

Inspired by shamanism, Brewer built the album on an imaginary world where two worlds exist. “The album is told from the point of view of beings from a higher dimension that create humans in order to experience the lower dimension,” Brewer explained.

Many tracks, such as “Haze of the Maya,” are narratives from the perspective of higher-dimensional beings who contrive to make our lives difficult to work through.

The source of the album’s fictitiousness is Brewer’s own experience, not some bizarre imagination.

Brewer reflected, “the older I get, the more information I am flooded with…I am just overwhelmed by the possibilities of life…I keep asking ‘is there a better way to be spending my life?’” His misgivings about his life can be detected in “Two Arrowheads” and “Colors I Bathed In,” which relate uncertainty felt by lower-dimensional beings who yearn for connection with those in the higher world.

The fact that the album is a pure product of Brewer’s own experience and thoughts is not so apparent. As much as the album sounds outlandish, it sounds ambiguous and enigmatic lyric wise. This is not only because of his willingness, like many artists, to leave his music open to interpretation; there is also a more personal reason.

“Things that are overly confessional tend to make me a little uncomfortable,” he explained. “The more overtly and explicitly confessional you are, the more you confess about some hyper-specific instincts, it becomes more difficult for the audience to relate to that.”

ZXO’s “LP1” is more than enough to convince people who take local bands with a grain of salt that there are a lot of hidden gems in Champaign-Urbana. The band will probably not be referred to as a  “local band” soon. They certainly have the aura that is universal in all up-and-coming successful bands.

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