It makes sense that the band Zack Mexico would play at Artsplosure.
The nonprofit organization, conducting its 37th annual spring arts festival this weekend in downtown Raleigh, has made it a mission to bring the works of the most celebrated and creative artists to the public. Artists from across all fields grace the booths and stages to introduce themselves to an audience hungry for something new.
So it doesn’t seem odd that Zack Mexico – which bills itself as psychedelic pop/indie rock – is traveling inland from their coastal hometown of Kill Devil Hills once again to grace a Raleigh stage. Yet according to John Saturley, vocalist and founding member of the band, it was only a few months ago that the folks at Artsplosure would have received some bad news about their booking inquiry.
“I actually left the band – or ended the band, I guess – four or five months ago,” Saturley explains. “I thought that we had a pretty good run, had a little fun, but we had taken it as far as it would go. I was happier just playing music at my house than dealing with a lot of the things that come from being in a band. It can become pretty stressful. The other members in the band pretty much convinced me to keep it going.”
It’s a little disconcerting to hear the frontman for a well-regarded local band plainly discussing turning off his amp and walking away, but speak to Saturley for a few minutes and it becomes clear that he isn’t what one would necessarily call a huge proponent of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. In fact, Saturley hints that the only thing keeping Zack Mexico a unit is his loyalty to his fellow bandmates.
“I was thinking about that today for several hours,” he says, when asked why he keeps performing. “Not the Artsplosure show specifically, but why do we play in live settings at all? Because we don’t make any money from playing live shows – not that I want to make money from playing in the band anyway – but I couldn’t figure out why I don’t just sit at home and use that time to create music. I finally came up with the answer – that I do it for the rest of the guys who play in Zack Mexico. I think they like going out and playing in front of people for the exposure.”
Saturley isn’t downplaying the contributions of the other band members in forming the sound of Zack Mexico. He makes it clear that each member of the group plays a part in defining each song, although he holds final say in the finished product.
“When I am playing a song to the band, and we are working on it, I sort of play the role of president,” the singer clarifies. “I will veto something if it’s just not working. If someone brings their own idea into a song, I have no problem putting it into a song, but if it is something that doesn’t work I tell them to keep working on it and try again.
“All of the guys that are in Zack Mexico with me are in other bands. They play jazz and other types of music without me. They have separate outlets to play any other type of music that I don’t feel would fit well with the Zack Mexico name.”
And so the band will grace the stage Friday (6:30 p.m., City Plaza) with each member collaborating to create the signature Zack Mexico sound. After years of playing small venues around the Triangle, including three appearances at the Hopscotch Music Festival, the group has built a loyal local audience.
And while it may sound like they could disband at any time, Saturley may also just be downplaying the importance that Zack Mexico plays in his creative life. When asked if locals should come out to see the band play this weekend, if for no other reason than it may be their last chance to do so, the singer backtracks.
“I guess it goes back to how it’s so hard to find a group of people that you feel comfortable playing with and who are into the same kind of music you are,” Saturley says. “We’ve already put so many years into what we know now, you know?”
What: A Raleigh festival with art, music and entertainment
When: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday
Where: Fayetteville Street and Moore Square in downtown Raleigh