The city of Philadelphia has a rich history. It’s a city of firsts, most famous for being the city where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776 and the Constitution in 1787. It’s the home of the Liberty Bell and the Philly Cheesesteak.
Philly is also steeped in musical history, particularly rock and roll, soul and jazz. The birthplace of Chubby Checker, Frankie Avalon, and Fabian. John Coltrane lived in Philadelphia in the 50s, Philly Soul reigned in the 70s and the city was the home of a little show called American Bandstand in 1956.
These days there is a very healthy music scene happening – Kurt Vile, The War on Drugs, Cayetana, Dr. Dog, Beach Slang to name a few. Add Jukebox Zeros to that list, although they’ve been rocking out as a band since 2003 and have shared the stage with the likes of The Cramps, The Supersuckers, Sonny Vincent, Tommy Stinson, Glen Matlock, Mudhoney.
JBZ consists of Peter Santa Maria (ex-Stuntmen, ex-Beretta76, The Thirteen, Sonic Screemers) on guitar and vocals, Brian Zee on lead guitar and backing vocals, Justin Lee (Dive In The Box, Rabbits on Trampolines) on drums, and Wayne Wright (ex-Comiskey Players, ex-Famous In Vegas) on bass.
Their latest record – Count To Ten is the band’s second full-length, to go along with 3 eps. Jukebox Zeros keep it simple; a mix of punk, power pop, surf, rockabilly and rock and roll, a perfect paring for a beer or ten. They’re loud, fast, and in your face and they list the following as influences: Ramones, Replacements, Stooges, New York Dolls, Humpers, Devil Dogs, Rolling Stones, Cheap Trick, New Bomb Turks, Sonics.
You get the idea. Now get their records.
Peter Santa Maria – Lead Singer and Rhythm Guitar. By day I work as a Web Editor and Designer.
Brian – Lead Guitar and Backup Vocals
Justin Lee – Drums
Wayne – Bass. By day I shoot, edit, and broadcast short nature documentaries on the strangest, most interesting species of animal on the planet – us.
You guys have been around since 2003 – what drives the longevity?
PSM: It’s fun to play music together and we’re all friends. It’s great to get up on stage and kick out the jams, or come to practice, have a few beers and a laugh.
JL: I joined in 2006, but the key to keeping it together is continuing to want to have fun. Things change and you have to change with it to keep it fresh from year to year. Also, just writing and playing music/shows that you love.
B: Being lucky enough to find a group of guys that are all on the same level as far as priorities, time, musical taste, sense of humor, and an uncanny ability to not let the rough patches and slow spots kill the commitment to Rock!
How did you become Jukebox Zeros?
PSM: I had just come off playing bass in a band called The Stuntmen for a number of years and wanted to switch to guitar. I had never played guitar in a band, nor fronted a band before. In 2002, I bought a beat up guitar and amp, wrote some songs on a 4-track in my basement, then placed fliers up around the city looking for people to form a band. Jukebox Zeros had a solidified lineup of 2 guitars, bass, and drums and started practicing in February of 2003. We played our first show on Friday the 13th in June of that same year and haven’t stopped playing since. I’m the only original member. Brian joined up shortly after we started playing shows in 2003 and has been on every single thing we have recorded. Justin joined on drums when our drummer Joe left in 2006. Wayne joined on bass in 2011 when our original bass player Rob left the band.
JL: I like jukeboxes and I am a zero.
W: I showed up — we ran through a few Dictators songs if I remember correctly — and that was it.
B: Right place/right time for me. The band needed a last-minute fill-in on lead guitar for a show on Mischief Night, 2003. I was a close friend of the bass player, and I’d kicked around a few bands that never got off the ground with him. I learned the set and had a practice or two and played the show. It went pretty great as far as I remember! After another fill in gig or two, they asked me to join and the rest is history.
Tell us about the scene in Philly…
PSM: Lots of great bands currently playing rockin’ music (Hound, Creem Circus, Posers, The Workhorse III, Weird Hot, Bad Doctors, Bikini Spiders, Missile Toads, Dixy Blood… that’s just off top of my head, there are lots more), lots of bad bands currently playing insufferable music (none of which I would even waste the time mentioning here). Musical genres and cycles come and go. There are more places than ever to play in this city, but the majority of them are all controlled by one or two booking entities. If you aren’t on the “cool kids” lists, it can be hard to get a show booked at a “reputable” place. The best way to foster any scene is within and amongst the bands themselves, that’s what we’ve always prescribed to: Support each other and help each other out. Clubs, cliques, and scenes will come and go; the friendships and collaborations between musicians and artists will last.
Describe your sound as a cocktail – what’s it called and what’s in it?
W: It’s called a Mexican Lickerish – one shot: half tequila, half Jägermeister. Every time I try to describe our sound, I end up babbling on way too long, talking in incoherent circles and gibberish that never seems to get the point across. Exactly the way you feel after a few Mexican Lickerishes!
Tell us about your live show…
PSM: High Energy Rock ‘N’ Roll + Drunken Song Banter = Good Times!
W: Energetic, loud, tight. We try not to fuck around, just get up there and blast out some tunes, have a good time, maybe a few laughs, and hope people like what we bring.
B: A hard & fast, rock ‘n’ roll knuckle sandwich! We do our best to deliver a relentless attack of energy and attitude. We don’t really have any ballads or buzz-killers in the set, so it’s one 2 – 3 minute package of power and hooks after another for 45 minutes.
How does your songwriting process work?
PSM: I usually come up with the framework for a song and then bring it to practice to play it for the rest of the band. Sometimes it may just be a riff or a chorus section. Sometimes I just come up with the name of a song or a lyrical phrase and then go from there. Other times we might just be tuning up and a song section or idea may come out of that. Then everyone adds their respective musical sections to it: let’s put a lead guitar riff here, the drums should build up here, etc. There’s no shortage of ideas, the songwriting process is constant with us.
What influences the band lyrically?
PSM: My personal world view, personal politics. Just what I see around me, good and bad. Real life situations of love and loss. I have a bad commute to work? That becomes a song (“B Train”). I have a cold? That becomes a song (“Snot Rocket”). Sometimes a song might be in more of a fictional character’s own headspace, like “I Was A Teenage Sickid”, which references one of my fav old Philly bands of legend, Sic Kidz.
B: The character of Philly is very present in almost all of our songs, both lyrically and in overall feel. I’m not talking about Rocky-and-cheesesteaks Philly, but the darker, more urban (and urbane) side.
If you could pick any time to travel back to for music, where would you go and what year would it be…
PSM: Hard to pinpoint one specific year, but anywhere between the timeframe of 1977 – 1979. You’ve got the New York scene in full swing, the London scene is intense, and the LA scene is exploding as well; each one a hotbed of great music and art.
JL: Late 70s/early 80s England. Loads of great punk, metal, rock ‘n’ roll, and glam.
W: I’d travel back to October 1975 and do whatever it took to be in the small crowd invited to Los Angeles Record Plant Studios for the recording of Tom Waits’ Nighthwaks at the Diner.
B: Early 80s. NYC, East Coast in general. Just a time of great change. The 70s already had a massive impact on rock & roll and music in general. The next few years after that seemed like a time where everyone else was trying to figure out what to do with it, where to go, who fit where, etc. I suppose I could say the same thing about L.A., but I’m an East Coast guy a heart, so…
What tunes are currently on heavy rotation for you…
PSM: New Born Loose record, newest Night Birds record, The Professionals box set, the latest Lovesores single, Vexx, Neighborhood Brats, Hex Dispensers new album.
JL: Local bands like Legion 76, Dive in the Box, and Up Up Ups, newer national/international bands like Assault & Battery, DDC, and Booze & Glory, older/established acts like Doc Watson, Descendants, and Cock Sparrer.
W: Oh shit, this is the part where musicians start shuffling through their ethereal Rolodexes to try to out-underground each other. I ain’t gonna lie to you – been listening to the new Slayer, I’ve been on a Killdozer kick recently, the Caesar Demos from Ween. I never go more than a week or two without subjecting my neighbors to an obscenely loud song or five from Harvey Milk. And this band from Philly called Duders.
B: The Humpers – Live Forever or Die Trying
If you could tour with any band right now who would that be and why?
PSM: Born Loose. Absolute best live Rock ‘N’ Roll band around right this minute. An atomic blast of Stooges riffage, great songwriting, and an anything-can-happen-and-probably-will live show thanks to frontman Larry May!
JL: Cock Sparrer. They seem like fun dudes with years upon years of experience. I would love to hear their old stories but also they play awesome shows so that would allow me to see and hang out with other bands I love.
W: The Meatmen. Uncle Tesco has been making me laugh and rock for more than half of my life. Great music, sense of humor, always entertaining stage show, even if it’s only on stage, but I get the felling those guys are as much fun off stage as on. Not much taken seriously with those guys, I like that.
If you could only bring ONE record in the tour van/bus/plane what would it be?
PSM: The Jerky Boys. That’s all we listen to when we are on the road to or from a show: prank calls. The last thing you want to listen to after playing a loud show and see a bunch of loud bands is more music. Plus, laughter keeps everyone in a good mood in the van.
W: Doug Stanhope – Something to Take the Edge Off
When you’re not playing and have some time off, where could we find you…
PSM: Hanging out with my family and friends, or at home listening to music, reading, or watching movies.
JL: Hanging with the wife and kid doing fun stuff. running business editing video (Suburban Home Productions), selling scarves (Working Class Hooigan), and making buttons (Suburban Home Buttons). You can also find me at almost every punk and oi show. Places like Kung Fu Necktie, Second Empire, Union Transfer, Underground Arts, and Bar 13 (formally Mojo 13 in DE). Promoters like Hostile City Class War Productions, Philly Soul Syndicate, and Skinvested Productions.
W: Watching shitty horror/exploitation/b-movies, documentaries. Listening to shitty music and podcasts, perhaps sitting at the Locust Bar having a few Mexican Lickerishes.
What’s up for the rest of 2016?
PSM: Hopefully playing more shows, meeting new people, writing more new songs, and more rock ‘n’ roll fun!
B: Fishing. Spending time with my family. Or at the dojo.
JL: Shows, shows, shows… both attending and playing. Continuing to support the scene personally and through my businesses. Playing music with one of my 3 bands.
W: Chaos and calm in alternating peaks and valleys.
Photo by Rob Giglio