Zach Schork has been through a lot in the past few years and he wasn’t afraid to put all of it out there on his recently released solo album Bananarama! under the name The Robin Hood Chronicles. The album deals with his experience with addiction and the things that go along with that, and he doesn’t shy away from anything when it comes to lyrics, even things he isn’t proud of. The album is really relatable while remaining completely unique. Manifesto of Sound got to interview Zach about The Robin Hood Chronicles, what Banarama! means to him, and his plans for the future. You can read Meredith’s interview with him below. Check out one of the tracks from Bananarama! at the end of the interview (or the whole album on Spotify), and if you’re diggin’ it you can buy the full album here.
At first listen, I got a Brendon Urie vibe from your voice, and then maybe a little of a Modern Baseball feel. That’s a wide range! Who are your musical inspirations when it comes to your solo project?
Well, thanks! That comparison means a lot! My number one musical influence is definitely Anthony Raneri from Bayside. I really dig the minor, melodic sound of their music which has definitely influenced my songwriting. I feel like a lot of lyrics in popular music these days are very cliché and not very thought out whatsoever. In my opinion, every lyric written by Anthony is pure genius. They’re catchy, yet not cheesy. This is what I aim for.
Second would be Buddy Nielson from Senses Fail. Senses Fail has always been a band that is pop-punk, but with edge. Their music is melodic, catchy, yet at times aggressive. I don’t want to produce some teeny-bopper, copy and paste, All Time Low pop-punk. I want there to be that edge. I feel like “Peter Rabid,” and “Pathos” demonstrate this pretty clearly. I’m also a huge fan of the metaphors Buddy uses in his lyrics. It’s like, he’s never directly saying what he wants to say. He comes up with stories and comparisons in his lyrics that are both entertaining and get the point across.
Lastly would be Justin Pierre from Motion City Soundtrack, mostly in terms of lyrical influence. Justin writes a lot about his struggles with substance abuse and mental illness and has gone public with it. He just throws it all out there. As a former addict, the entirety of “Bananarama!” is about my struggles with addiction and the people I hurt along the way, including myself. I actually recorded an album a year before “Bananarama!” that was basically the same album but with half of the songs. I was ashamed. The songs I left out I felt were too personal. Then I realized that listening to Motion City Soundtrack has helped me tremendously throughout my recovery, and during my entire life for the past ten years for that matter. I figured if my songs could do the same, it would mean the absolute world to me. They inspired me to just throw myself out there. “Speedball,” and “Who I Am” really reflect on this idea.
Have you ever been in a band in the past, before you started The Robin Hood Chronicles?
I have! I’ve actually been in a few. In high school I had a band called “Sweet Remorse.” We were a pretty average high school pop-punk band playing pretty average songs that I had written. We played several gigs and it was a good time. Ultimately we disbanded as high school progressed as we all kind of just started doing our own different things. To be honest, I was kind of a dick in high school so I’m sure that didn’t help either.
The next band I was in is a local band called “Stratford” which I am really happy that I got to be a part of. After a really depressing summer in 2015, my friend Paul asked me if I wanted to join his band playing rhythm guitar and doing vocal harmonies. These guys are really awesome and I had the time of my life doing things I never would have done myself. We jumped off of a waterfall during one of our music video shoots. It was insane. Being in the band really cheered me up and I had a lot of fun with these guys. In the end, I realized it wasn’t really the direction I wanted to go with my music so we parted ways.
Most recently, I’ve been trying to turn The Robin Hood Chronicles into a full band. Unfortunately, being in a band isn’t as easy as it was in high school considering everyone’s schedules. That being said I’ve decided to just do it all myself. I’ve been writing a lot of thrash-punk, hardcore music. It’s like Bad Relgion (fast, upbeat, and minor) mixed with modern hardcore with the inclusions of breakdowns out of no where. The lyrics are very political, unlike anything in “Banarama!” I’m dubbing it “punkcore” haha.
I highly doubt I’ll stick to that genre. I want The Robin Hood Chronicles to basically be whatever I feel like writing at the time. Right now, it’s very political, old school punk, and I’ll record a few tracks of that. Then I might want to go to a more pop-punk route. Then maybe a more metalcore-oriented sound. I’m not really set in any specific genre. Hell, it’d be fun to play some blues, who knows. I just love making music.
What’s your writing process like? Where do you find inspiration?
The writing process is really weird for me. I can’t just sit down and tell myself “Okay, time to write a song.” Literally a melody or a line or two of lyrics has to pop in my head and then I construct an entire song with that small idea. Normally, I just sort of write stream of consciousness style. Just pouring my thoughts on the page. I usually find meaning in the song after the fact. Music is an emotional outlet for me so usually after writing the song my brain is like “OH! So that’s what I was writing about.” It’s very weird and hard to explain, honestly. Sometimes I’ll go months without any ideas and sometimes I’ll write three songs in a month. The inspiration just kind of pops its head up whenever it feels like it.
The song just kind of comes together in my head, both lyrically and instrumentally. I took six years of band in high school and know a decent amount of theory. The funny thing is, I use absolutely none of it in my writing. I’m just like “Oh, that melody or chord progression sounds really good in my head, where are those chords on the guitar? What sounds best with this lyrical melody that I already have? Oh, that note sounds gross, let’s try something else.” I think it’s muscle memory. Being in the band program so in-depth has just kind of ingrained that musical ear in my head.
Most of the inspiration for “Banarama!” came from my battles with drug addiction and all of the things that went along with that journey. Relationship problems, self-esteem issues, shame, anger, angst, that sort of thing. I basically consider the album a diary of the past three years of my fucked up life in music form.
What was the recording process for Bananarama?
The recording process took place at Moonlight Studios over the course of three eight hour sessions. Eric Tuffendsam owns and runs the place. We had done recording in the past with “Sweet Remorse.” Eric is extremely talented and knows what he’s doing. He’s not a lazy producer who just wants to copy and paste and auto-tune everything. He pushed me to hit the notes, vocally. He wanted to make sure every little guitar note was perfect; every vocal harmony on-point. I respect him a lot for this. He wants to produce genuine music, so we were on the same page there. That’s another reason why I am so proud of this album because it’s not just some copy and paste, auto-tuned piece of crap. It’s a 15 track album that him and I worked our asses off to perfect every aspect of every track.
What’s the story behind the name “The Robin Hood Chronicles?”
The name “The Robin Hood Chronicles” was inspired by the character, Robin Hood. I told myself that if this thing takes off, I’m not going to forget where I came from. If there ever is real money, you’re damn right the first thing I’m going to do is take all my friends to the bar on me. I’ll be treating my family to a nice dinner. I will support anyone who is close to me who is financially struggling and make sure everyone in my life is living comfortably. I don’t care about the money. I’m not in it for that. I just want to play music. I get random messages on Twitter from people in other countries, France, Russia, Japan, you name it, telling me that they like my album; that they can relate to it. That means the world to me. That is why I do it.
Do you play all the instruments featured on Bananarama?
Yes, I play all the instruments and do all of the vocals on the album. We just recorded multiple guitar and vocal parts over each other. This album is MY baby. Haha.
Any plans to tour or play any local shows in the near future?
I would absolutely love to tour and play shows as much as I physically can. What I’ve found is that most venues would rather book bands than acoustic acts, which is understandable. That’s why I have been trying to get the band thing going. Playing live is such a rush for me; I absolutely love it. I would play a gig every single night if I had the ability to.
That being said, I’ve been trying to utilize social media and the internet in general as much as possible. This is a tool that our generation has that is so key in the music industry. If you know what you’re doing, you don’t need a record label, and it is all thanks to the internet. Obviously if I was approached by a record label, that would be a different story. What I’m saying is, it is very possible to write, record, promote, and sell your music on your own.
What are five songs or artists you’ve been listening to lately?
My go to band right now on Spotify is State Champs. I absolutely love “The Finer Things” and “The Acoustic Things”. Second would be Neck Deep. I’m in love with their new album and have looped it in my car dozens of times. I’ve been listening to a lot of Motion City Soundtrack lately, but that’s always been a thing. Senses Fail, Silverstein, Taking Back Sunday, New Found Glory, Beartooth, Bad Religion, A Day to Remember, Bayside, Green Day, Real Friends, The Story So Far, and The Wonder Years. I know that’s way more than five but that’s basically my gauntlet of regular go-to music. I’m also into some 90’s rap. I like how raw and real it is. I strongly dislike most modern, popular rap and hip-hop. The only modern rappers I like are Kendrick Lamar and Hopsin because their lyrics are meaningful and their song structuring is actually interesting and not just the same beat for three and a half minutes.
What’s your biggest dream when it comes to TRHC?
My biggest dream when it comes to The Robin Hood Chronicles is simply just to get myself out there. I just want to play live. I want to write music that connects with and helps people. I couldn’t care less about being “famous.” The money, not going to lie, would be great; that being said, I couldn’t give two shits about fame. All I care about is people listening to my music. I simply appreciate the time that they invested listening to something that I created. The dream would be to become more well known, tour with my best friends, see the world, meet new people, and spread the music. My music and performing live is what I live for. If I could do that as a career, I wouldn’t need anything else. That is my biggest dream.