Over the past several months, rumblings of an all new all-star band were just beneath the surface. In early August, music fans were teased with a mysterious video featuring intriguing new music. The video posed the question — “Who is ZFM?” At long last, the cryptic group stepped out of the shadows! ZEN FROM MARS (ZFM) features vocalist Stephen Shareaux (Kik Tracee), drummer Mike Heller (Fear Factory, Malignancy), the legendary Chip Z’Nuff (Enuff Z’Nuff) on bass and backing vocals, guitarists Brynn Arens (Flipp) and Drew Fortier (Bang Tango), and Kate Catalina (The Showgirl of Rock) on keyboards.
ZFM joined forces more than a year ago and worked on a full-length record in secrecy until now. Ready to introduce themselves to the world, the band released a video for their debut single, “New Leaf,” which can be seen below. “New Leaf” will be available for purchase this Friday, August 12, 2016 on iTunes and Amazon through Thom Hazaert’s THC Music, a subsidiary of David Ellefson’s EMP label. The song was mixed by Matt Wallace (Faith No More, Maroon 5) and mastered by Maor Appelbaum (Faith No More).
As very few details are known about Zen From Mars, Icon Vs. Icon reached out to guitarist Drew Fortier. As a result, he offered insight on the formation of the band, their songwriting process and what the future may hold for them.
How did the members of Zen From Mars cross paths to form the musical force we see today?
All I can say for right now is that a whole bunch of different situations and circumstances lining up perfectly snowballed into ZFM forming over a year ago.
Where does the name Zen From Mars originate?
The name actually came from Stephen [Shareaux]. I remember when we first started demoing songs, I was at one of Chip Znuff’s shows in Chicago, and Kate [Catalina] was there as well. Stephen had texted me with “Zen From Mars … band name?” We all loved it!
The band worked in secret for more than a year. What made now the time to reveal it to the masses?
We all just knew it was the right moment really. We had actually shot the video for “New Leaf” back in January. With the way everything lined up and had been completed, we felt that there is no better time than right now.
When working together, what was the moment you found the chemistry and realized this would work?
The first time Stephen sent one of my acoustic instrumentals back to me with vocals on it. It was absolutely a surreal moment. Ironically, the first song was “New Leaf.” The acoustic demo still gives me chills to this day. I’d love to get it out there some day because I think people would dig it a lot. Also, the music I created for “New Leaf” actually dates back to when I was in high school! So, I guess technically “New Leaf” is 12 years old! The music for it at least. [laughs] But the way the songs came together was truly amazing and it felt so natural for everyone. The dynamic in the band is almost too perfect, especially when we’re in the same room playing these songs.
There is no shortage of talent with this project. What have the other members brought out of you in a creative sense?
Every member of ZFM has brought something absolutely unique and amazing to the table — Mike Heller’s brilliant drumming, Kate’s beautiful and otherworldly keys, Chip’s incredible Beatle-esque bass lines, Brynn Arens’ out of this world guitar parts, and Stephen’s beautiful lyrics and melodies. Combining all of these elements has just been the most amazing thing. It’s almost hard to explain, but you will hear the whole picture soon enough!
What made “New Leaf” the song to introduce the band?
It was actually the first song finished a little over a year ago now, and just the message in the song was perfect to make our initial statement as a band. Launching a new project is never easy.
What are some of the challenges you faced?
The challenges at first were the fact that the band is literally scattered all over the country, but we found the perfect solution to where we were all able to record our parts individually, so technically we all produced ourselves. Aside from that, everything has been unfolding naturally in the most perfect way.
What has the songwriting process and recording process been like?
It all starts with me and Stephen, I usually create a fully structured instrumental on acoustic, then I send it to Stephen, and he adds his words and melody to it, turning it into a song, then we send it to Mike to lay down final drums, then I lay down my final guitar parts, Chip and Kate lay down their bass and keys respectively, then we give it to Brynn to add his personality and character to the song, which is truly the cherry on top. Then BAM! A ZFM song is born!
As soon as I heard the song, I loved that “New Leaf” pulls from past eras but sounds fresh at the same time. This song is the sum of its parts and everyone’s past experiences. With that said, is that the overall vibe with the material you created or are we in for some surprises along the way?
Thanks so much man! I am so glad you’re diggin the tune! And let me tell you this, each ZFM song is a completely different shade of the band. True individuality as a cohesive unit. “New Leaf” is a cool hard rocker with some pop vibes to it. The next song we plan on putting out still gives me chills whenever I hear it. It’s called “Aflame.” The best way I can describe the song is if “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak made love to the music of “Waterfalls” by TLC while Type O Negative watched! [laughs] That’s the best way to describe it.
Fair enough! “New Leaf” is a taste of what you have planned. Where are you in the process of completing a full album?
We are close to finishing up recording, we are just taking our time with it and going at our own pace, and loving every single minute of it!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.