The Zells - Ant Farm

"Hell Car" Music Video

Photo by Victoria Miller

Bio

Having released projects titled Failure to Slide and No More Heroes, The Zells were already fluent in despondency before the storm of 2020 hit — so for once, something went right for these guys. The Pittsburgh quintet’s sophomore LP, Ant Farm, is not just their best, most refined, transfixing, and emotionally seizing project yet, but a uniquely articulate statement about our generational plight. Twelve songs that capture the nihilistic bleakness of toiling in an era of historic social inequality while the very institutions we’re indebted to crumble into the dusty terrain of a world that's burning toward its apocalyptic conclusion.

The band — guitarist trio Frank DiNardo, Jackson Rogers and Phil Kenbok, bassist Roman Benty and drummer Tyler Gallagher — take turns singing about the dejected purgatory of struggling to get out of bed while simultaneously losing the capacity to dream. It’s the sort of downwardly mobile existentialism that could be yelled with a hardcore fury or strummed beneath mawkish folk coos, but The Zells use indie-rock as their medium, flipping a genre that's historically been a playground for well-off kids to opine about their dorm-room insecurities into a microphone for working-class ennui.

Building upon their singular mesh of sounds — slumped-neck indie-rock, fizzy garage-rock, defiant post-punk, and puffy-white shoegaze rips — the gang drafted a personnel sheet of basement indie who’s who’s that doubles as a useful RIYL list. Adam Reich (Titus Andronicus), Jordyn Blakely (Smile Machine, Bartees Strange, Stove, Maneka), Davey Jones (Lost Boy ?) and RJ Gordon (Baked, Titus Andronicus) make musical cameos, while Gordon engineered and mixed the whole shebang and Big Ups’ Amar Lal mastered it. The Zells have been and always will be proudly lo-fi like their idols in Sebadoh and Guided By Voices, but the songs on Ant Farm sizzle, pop, thrash, and moisten the eyes in a way their previous recordings didn’t, and that's largely thanks to the sleeker, roomier production.

Most crucially, it’s the elevated songwriting maneuvers that make Ant Farm feel like the album the band have spent the last half-decade working toward. - Eli Enis

Photo by Victoria Miller

Notable Mentions

“From the off-kilter twang of guitar to the husky, but welcoming vocals of its members, The Zells deliver on one memorable ode to the worst part about brunch — the people” - The Grey Estates

“After a few tour tapes and a teaser single, the band’s debut burned with thirteen slacker punk and power-pop anthems, rooted in accessibility but built on big overdriven fuzz melodies. There’s some pop-punk and shades of ramshackle emo in there, but it’s a fun album that feels as though you should indeed be shouting along with the band in some sweaty basement.” - Post-Trash

"New & Notable: A new EP of lo-fi, laid-back indie rock from this Pittsburgh band.” - Bandcamp