The Crawler recently caught up with Zepparella guitarist Gretchen Menn and bassist Angeline Saris to talk shop, chops and “Misty Mountain Hop” before the band’s July 17 Iron Horse engagement. Here’s some of what went down:
Crawler: How did the band get started?
Gretchen Menn [Drummer]: Clementine and I met in an AC/DC tribute band, and were eager to play more shows and expand musically. She mentioned she had always wanted to learn the music of Led Zeppelin, and I told her I would love to as well, if she wanted to make it happen. The next thing I knew, we had a 15-song setlist to learn in eight weeks because she had booked our first shows! Ha!
Angeline Saris: I believe the band has been together for about nine years, but I joined three years ago. When their other bass player left, Gretchen had reached out to me and asked me if I might be interested. Initially, I was considering moving to L.A., so I refused. About a week later, I had a dream that I had taken a pair of white jeans out of a bag that I was going to donate to Goodwill. [Zepparella wears all white.] That dream, in conjunction with a follow-up text from Gretchen that evening asking me if I was absolutely sure I didn’t want to join the band, made me reconsider my initial decision.The fact that I even remembered the dream seemed like a sign. I jammed with the girls and the rest is history.
Crawler: You have gained many fans since the band’s inception. And it appears Kiss and Weezer are amongst them?
GM: Zepparella opened for both bands—KISS a few years back, and Weezer maybe two years ago. It was an incredibly cool experience, and Weezer actually came out and watched some of our set, which was quite an honor. We didn’t intersect much with KISS, but that’s sort of how it can go at such big shows.
Crawler: What’s the thinking in regard to the Zep catalog? I’ve seen other tributes capture studio versions perfectly. Some dip into Plant’s solo work or always opt for live options from Song Remains The Same.
GM: We keep the lineup to four members, and aim to learn and deliver the music in a way that feels authentic to the spirit of Zeppelin. Honoring a band that was so fundamentally improvisatory presents an interesting challenge. I think of it almost like translating poetry into a new language—you can opt to stay true to the exact meaning and go for a word-for-word translation, but in that case you’ll miss the music of the language.
AS: John Paul Jones really added so much texture to the band by being a multi-instrumentalist. As of right now, we’ve mostly been playing tunes that aren’t acoustic and don’t use keys. “Kashmir” and “Trampled Underfoot” are a few exceptions, where I’ve crafted some pretty interesting bass lines in lieu of the keys. Once we return from tour, our plan is to start adding some more of the tunes with keys.
Crawler: Did I also hear you got a thumbs- up from Jimmy Page himself?
GM: It was awesome! [Singer] Noelle [Doughty] is longtime friends with Robert Plant, and she was at the premiere of Celebration Day. That night I got a text from her saying something like, “‘Give that Gretchen my love’ from Jimmy Page himself!” I was immediately reduced to 15 years old.
Tix for the Zepparella show are $15 in advance (available at iheg.com) and $18 at the door.
In semi-related sonic news, Holyoke’s Crazy Diamond, Albany’s High Voltage, Enfield, Conn.’s Sharp DreZZed Man and Lee’s Who Are You have risen to the top of Rock 102’s (rock102.com) Ultimate Tribute Band contest. The four finalists will battle it out again at a free concert at the Pearl Street Ballroom July 19 at 7 p.m. An opening slot for Zep tribute Get The Led Out and Rush-reproductionist Lotus Land at Mountain Park Aug. 2 hangs in the balance.•
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