“…Being fake is so unpunk.” An Interview with Ryan Zombotron of Flesh Panthers

Talk to any music savvy Chicagoan, and it’s almost a guarantee that they’ve heard of Flesh Panthers. The rockers have become hallmarks of the city’s music scene through immense dedication to their craft, and are undeniably set apart from the rest due to their impressive work ethic.  Not only does the band work hard, but they don’t stop working hard. After releasing a self-titled EP in 2014, the record was updated and re-released in early 2015 as an LP with several additional songs.

They didn’t stop there.

Just four months later, Flesh Panthers released another LP, Ngc 2632, that features upbeat hits such as “Elevator Girls” and “VooDoo Shang-A-Lang.”2016 bought the release of yet another killer LP, Willows Weep, which was released this past October. The tracks on Willows Weep provide a sound that is more relaxed in contrast to the band’s previous work, but the energy behind it is equally as palpable. I had the opportunity to speak with guitarist/singer Ryan Zombotron about the band’s creative process, how their sound has evolved over time, and what’s coming up next for Flesh Panthers. Read on to learn more about this truly exceptional band.


AMPLIFY: You guys have a great sound. How has it evolved from your first EP to your most current release, Willows Weep.

RZ: I always knew I would play more than power chord punk rock. I just wasn’t gonna wait around to get good enough to play what I wanted to play. So punk was natural expression of what I could do at the time I started the band. After a while I could do more and express myself with other styles; it seemed sort of fake to just play punk when I didn’t really want to anymore. And anyway, being fake is so unpunk. I’m just an impatient asshole. Probably because I was raised by television. There’s still some of punk vibes in Willows Weep, but it’s not overt. There has always been other music influences in Flesh Panthers stuff. “Help me” (Ed ‘m) on Ngc is basically just a punk rock gospel song.

AMPLIFY: As a band, what aspect of your work are you most proud of?

RZ: That’s hard to say  because I’m always chasing the next thing and I’m never satisfied. But maybe that’s something to proud of. I am proud of the development of our sound.

AMPLIFY: How has Chicago’s DIY community shaped you as artists?

RZ: In the beginning we were playing mostly parties And I think our early stuff represents that vibe. We were just rocking basements and there was beer flying all over. But we eventually worked our way up to “better gigs” and wanted to fill those spaces as well.

AMPLIFY: Your live shows are incredible. Do you have any special pre-show traditions or rituals?

RZ: Drink lots of beer and smoke lots of weed.

AMPLIFY: As a band, it must be so exciting to have your first release come out. What was that  like?

RZ: I’ve never been excited for any release. A lot of people talk about how happy they were to hold their records when their first slabs of wax arrive, but I never felt any of that. Maybe some relief. For me it’s always like  “oh that’s nice let’s get back to work.” For me it’s all in the creation of it.

AMPLIFY: Your music seems like it would be just as fun to create as it is to listen to. What is your creative process like when working on new material?

RZ: The creation process is where all my joy comes from. I like playing shows and touring-also because it’s fun and you get to party. But writing and recording is what I love. It’s like an addiction, and playing like and releasing records is just the hustle so I can keep on doing it. I guess if it’s fun to listen to then that’s just a byproduct of the enjoyment of songwriting.

AMPLIFY: The music video for ‘Last I Heard’ looks great, and I read that it was shot on an iPhone. What was that experience like, and how did you come up with the concept for it?

RZ: It was fun. We just got drunk and ran around the farm. Nothing was planned out at all. I think originally we wanted to drop and go to the botanical gardens or something. My girlfriend’s parents own the farm. I can’t remember who’s idea it was to shoot it there.

AMPLIFY: Do you have a favorite memory from any of your live performances?

RZ: It’s always a lot of fun when ppl get on stage and sing a cover song with us.

AMPLIFY: What emotions or feeling do you hope people experience when listening to your music?

RZ: I hope that people feel that they want to buy the record. lol please support my music habits!

But seriously I hope that people can connect with the songs. More so with the songs on Willows Weep. So much emotional energy was put into those songs and into the lyrics. They’re all very genuine. I think I always mention Motown music in interviews and this one will be no exception. Marvin Gaye is a hero  of mine and his music influenced our song “Let It Die” I once read a quote from him along the lines of  “I make music so that maybe people can feel good.”  That’s not a direct quote, I tried to Google but I could not find it. Basically I hope that people can listen to our music and feel something positive. Even if it’s a sad song maybe they can feel like they’re not alone. I’ll admit that’s pretty fucking corny tho!

AMPLIFY: Lastly, what’s coming up next for Flesh Panthers?

RZ: Well unfortunately our bassist Lucas has departed from the band. But the show goes on. We’re thinking of changing the band name as well but we haven’t settled on anything. We have a whole bunch of new songs that just blow our old material away.

-Interview by Lindsay Teske

Flesh Panthers is Ryan Zombotron (vox/guitar), Nick Dehmlow (guitar), and Frankie “Mars” Gunner (drums).  The name of the new bass player will be added here when known.  To learn more about Flesh Panthers and listen to their music, click here, here, and here

{Special thanks to Ryan for taking the time to answer these questions!}.





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