The Nearly Deads have some big news for their loyal herd of zombies. The band will be announcing a big surprise on March 4th for their fans via the Substream Instagram Takeover, giving out clues all day about their latest plans. We got to talk with lead singer TJ before their upcoming takeover, about their upcoming touring plans and their unique ways they approach making music.
Substream Magazine: So why do you call your fan base The Zombies?
TJ: Basically, because of our “Never Look Back” video. “Never Look Back” is a zombie music video that went viral that we released almost two years ago, so a lot of our fans just started calling themselves that because we got so many people to watch the video just because they liked video or were looking up zombie videos. That’s how a lot of people discovered us, so it just kind of happened. Now we’re starting a street team when we go on the road that’s called Zombie Nation.
SM: You’re about to go on tour with It Lives, It Breathes in March. Are you guys ready?
TJ: We’re excited about it, we think they’re awesome. They’re a great band it’s going to be fun.
SM: Are these new cities for you?
TJ: There are a lot of new cities on this tour. A lot of them are smaller cities, like we’re not playing Baltimore, we’re playing White Marsh. We’re hitting a lot of these areas that not a lot of people go to that often. We’re getting a lot of buzz about some of the shows already because people are really excited because bands don’t really come to these towns. We’re going outside major markets and hitting up places we’ve never gone to before.
SM: Where are some places you want to tour that you haven’t yet?
TJ: I’m really excited for the whole tour, honestly. But the Milwaukee show is going to be at a skate park and I have a lot of family there. Allentown too, because I have a friend there who is going to bring the party.
SM: What’s your favorite part about being on the road?
TJ: My favorite thing is getting to play music every night and getting to meet people every night, too. It makes me kind of feel like I’m doing something with my life, like I’m making an impact. I’m living the dream.
SM: You’re also one of the few girls who will be on this tour. Do you enjoy being the only girl out there?
TJ: It’s not as bad as it seems. I do miss having a girl around just to help me pick up my outfits, hang out and put makeup on. It’s kind of weird with the guys, but they’re all my best friends. I don’t hate being the only girl, but it’s always nice to have like one other girl like a merch girl or a girl friend. It gets kind of rough being the only girl.
SM: Any advice for girls who are going out on the road and want to do what you do?
TJ: I really want girls to stay true to themselves and stay who they are, because I’ve experienced a lot of people coming at me and saying things like if you do this or that, you’ll be really successful. I just want people to keep their integrity and their dignity, because it is tough. People treat me sometimes like I’m just a groupie or a girlfriend, and I have to explain, no I’m the lead singer, I’m supposed to be here back stage, I’m supposed to be loading in. As long as girls are determined to be themselves and get out and not let anyone try to change them, pretty soon, it won’t be an issue.
When people call us a female-fronted band, it makes me laugh. No one ever says male-fronted band. They never say that. One day, I hope we’re just referred to as a band. There are some amazingly-talented women out there and I feel like we get narrowed down. It feel like a belittling, so I hope we can change that.
SM: What are some of the pros and cons of working with so many guys?
TJ: I love my guys. It’s all pros, we’re all best friends, they’re goofy, they love to hang out, they’re amazing musicians, and we have the best time when we’re playing. I think the only cons are they can smell, they can snore, they can sweat in the van and make it smelly, stuff like that. But my guys are very respectful of me, so they make sure I have my own little space. We just built bunks in our van, and I have my own. Everyone else has to sleep on one big one together, and they made one separate for me so I can be away from all of them. They let me have my time, they let me take a shower first, they let me get ready and do my makeup and don’t give me crap for it.
SM: What are your other summer touring plans that we can expect from TND?
TJ: We are working on some stuff for summer, but we’re kind of in the beginning stages of that. We’ve played Warped Tour in the past and would love the chance to play it again. We’ll see if that works out this year, and if not, we’ve already been talking to other bands that we might try to go down to Florida with and visit more of the South East again and we just got confirmed to play a festival in Milwaukee called Pride Fest and it’s on June 7th and we’re playing one of the main stages, which we’re super excited for.
SM: Have you been working on new music?
TJ: We have, actually. We’ve been working on this new full-length album and it’s been really exciting. We are getting ready to release some new stuff very soon.
SM: What’s the best thing for you about creating new music?
TJ: There’s so much I love about it, everything, I guess. I write music all the time. I sit down at a piano at least once a day and come up with new ideas. My favorite part is when I get with our guitarist, Steve, and we write songs together. I think it’s when the two of us sit down together and really hash things out and finish the structure, finalize the lyrics and have a completed song. We kind of do that before we even bring it to the band. We kind of have an idea in mind and you can feel something just coming together.
SM: When should your Zombies start to expect new music from you?
TJ: It’ll be pretty soon (laughs.)
SM: In the mean time, your YouTube channel is full of cool stuff you post about yourselves, covers and your music videos. What’s your favorite cover you’ve done?
TJ: We do a lot of covers, just for the fun of it and not all of them are posted. A lot of people really like that My Chemical Romance cover we did. There’s a terrible video on the internet that I don’t think we posted. I like doing that “I’m Not Okay” by My Chemical Romance live and people really like that. We also did “Sweetness” by Jimmy Eat World, and there’s a video of that floating around somewhere on video that I really like. There are a couple more that we’ll be putting out, but we wanted to space them out.
SM: You all posted funny videos of yourselves answering fans questions. What’s one question no one’s asked you yet that you hope you get asked?
TJ: I’m a classically trained vocalist, which is something I talk about, but not really often. We all went to music school and we’re all educated musicians formerly. I took four years of theory and have a major in music composition, but what we do in our rock music, the whole classical realm is entirely different. When I get with someone who knows about classical music, it’s kind of hard to turn off that conversation, or music theory. I get so excited because in pop music, you don’t have those in-depth analysis of music because people just enjoy it and it’s entertaining. That’s why I don’t talk about it a lot because I feel it makes me sound a bit snobby.
But I love those conversations I have with other people who also went to school. Unless you’ve done it, it’s kind of hard to understand. One day, I would still like to pursue that. I want to write for film. The first thing I ever wanted to do was write music for movies. Steve is really into that as well, so who knows, maybe we’ll do a movie one day.
SM: Favorite classical composer?
TJ: I really like Debussy. I like singing his music.
SM: Can you give all of your zombies a hint about your Substream Instagram Takeover?
TJ: Are you ready to meet Bertha up close and personal? (laughs.)
SM: What’s your biggest accomplishment with TND?
TJ: We have done so much and come so far from where we were I feel like our biggest accomplishment is the “Never Look Back” video getting six million views. That’s insanity. I don’t think any of us thought when we were filming it that it would get that huge, and because of that, we’ve got so many more opportunities, bands are finding us and fans are finding us. It’s done more for us than anything else and we’re very proud of it. It was a very natural, organic process creating that video. It came to us and we had a blast doing and it felt like this was exactly how it was supposed to be. When you’re not trying too hard and you’re having fun with your friends, all dressed up in zombie makeup filming in your basement, look what you can do with that. We’re extremely proud of that and that we were able to achieve that success with honest, minimal effort.
SM: What is your ultimate goal with this band?
TJ: I just want recognition, and I feel like that biggest way to get recognized is to win a Grammy. I’ve thought about it since I was a child, because to me, that’s what someone give you when they say we respect you as an artist. You know, paying the bills with it, that would be another form of success to me because then I can say, this is how I make my living. Being able to do music full-time.
SM: Are you excited for the Instagram Takeover?
TJ: I just wanted to thank you guys to interview us and do the Instagram takeover. I remember we met you guys at Warped Tour. You guys were one of the first magazine we were in, my Mom has three copies of it. We just wanted to thank you because you’ve been there for us and we’re excited for Tuesday.
SM: Thanks for talking with us TJ! I’m excited for Tuesday!
TJ: Thank you guys!
Check out The Nearly Deads Substream Instagram Takeover on March 4th!
Mar 07 – Chicago, IL @ Fearless Radio (Live Acoustic, 4pm CST)
Mar 08 – Milwaukee, WI @ Cream City Skatepark**
Mar 09 – Steger, IL @ Another Hole In The Wall*
Mar 11 – Muskegon, MI @ Port City Tavern*
Mar 13 – Dillsburg, PA @ The KRUX*
Mar 14 – Allentown, PA @ Planet Trog*
Mar 15 – Sicklerville, NJ @ JumpZone*
Mar 16 – Baltimore, MD @ House of Rock*
Mar 17 – Springfield, VA @ Empire*
Mar 18 – Newark, DE @ Mojo Main*
Mar 19 – Harrisonburg, VA @ The Blue Nile*
Mar 20 – Elizabethton, TN @ Bonnie Kate Theatre*
Mar 21 – Aiken, SC @ HIC Skatepark & Warehouse*
Mar 28 – Nashville, TN @ Cannery Ballroom***
*w/ It Lives, It Breathes
**w/ Lost In A Name
Interview by Stephanie Roe