Some longtime residents may remember the days when the Los Angeles Police Academy was overrun by the filming of T.J. Hooker. Those memories may be a bit hazy for Zack and Dylan Zmed, who are too young to remember their dad Adrian as Officer Vince Romano, but the stories have no doubt been family fodder for years.
Now an Echo Park resident, Dylan Zmed finds himself just a stones throw from those locations that made his dad part of the TV lexicon; and it is there where he and and brother Zack are storming another artistic endeavor.
As frontmen of The Janks, the Zmed brothers have been weaving both eloquent harmonies and folk-rock together. With elements of The Everly Brothers and Jimmy Page, The Janks tell raw tales of the human condition set to the type of gritty, soul-searching sounds that will have you wondering when Laurel Canyon moved east. Now with their new EP, “Meet The Janks,” out, the band has traded their torrid L.A. playing schedule for a month-long residency at The Satellite in Silver Lake. Each Monday in August, they will be giving fans exclusive access to their brand new material.
I recently had the chance to chat with Dylan about the new EP and so much more.
How was the first show of your residency – that was also your album release party for “Meet The Janks”, right?
Yeah. Our 6-song EP. We’re selling the album exclusively at these shows. There were 350+ people there. It was a really good show. We just want to keep building that energy.
With a couple releases already out there, why “Meet The Janks”?
We did that because the album that we made called Hands of TIme in 2010, was a different lineup of people. We had to reconfigure [the band]. We have been playing nonstop the last year as this new configuration – over 250 shows. The sound, the core – Zack and I – are still the same … but it’s a new band.
Your first album was very thematic and incorporated elements of musical theater. Is that something you continued on the EP?
Hands of Time was a collection of songs that had been written over a five-year period. They came to tell a story of a kid going from adolescence into adulthood – very autobiographical in a way. But these recordings are done in a very different style. We did it all in a room in one take. They’re still in that theme of facing our fears and still living in denial in some ways. But I think all the things we do have an element of musical theater because Zack and I grew up in that world. But this album is more separate songs than telling a story.
Did you like this approach of doing it live in one take?
Yeah. There are so many ways you can approach making an album. We’ve spent the last year just playing and playing and playing, and I think the energy that we have is a really special thing. We wanted to represent that as best as we could. There’s something powerful about committing to something and just saying “It is what it is.”
Can you talk a little bit about the formation of the band, when did you and Zack start playing together?
Zack has been playing a lot longer than I have and I didn’t start playing with him until about three and a half, four years ago. We started singing together because our voices are so similar that we can do these kinds of harmonies. And the other guys, it was about a year and a half ago – Paul Kilmister on bass and Leon LeDoux on drums – we found them through some mutual friends.
The mandolin playing, that came later?
Someone just gave me a mandolin and that piqued my interest, and so the mandolin just kind of became my instrument. And I don’t think a lot of people are really doing that – playing electric mandolin in a rock band.
You had a successful Kickstarter campaign to help fund Hands of Time back in 2010. Do you see more of your contemporaries moving in that direction?
That campaign was for a music video and it was an awesome video. The music industry right now is like the Wild West in a way. There used to be a specific formula, but now we can take a lot of the business into our own hands. But there are so many ways in which it can be done. The bands that we’re connecting with have a bunch of different avenues that they’re approaching as well.
What’s the strangest venue you’ve ever played?
Zack and I did a duo show. We played the Century City Westfield Mall, in their courtyard, and it was just very strange. We played for three hours and thousands of people are passing you… and babies are crying, and dogs are barking, and people are just chowing down. It’s this weird environment. It’s all good – good for building tough skin.
Kind of like playing dinner theater.
Tell me one thing you wish you could change about the LA music scene.
There are a lot of bands that when you see them, they’re just standing on the stage, playing a song. As opposed to when you go see a band and there’s something so genuine and they’re pushing to their max. It’s a lifestyle to them. There are just a lot of weekend bands out there in L.A.
Are you planning a tour in support of the EP?
We have plans of touring and plans of an Indiegogo campaign to record the full-length album. Once this residency is over we’re going to keep the momentum going. That’s our biggest goal right now.
Marni Epstein is a freelance writer and music journalist who has also worked in both the film and digital media industries.