The British are coming! The Zombies, among the rock bands of the 1960s British invasion, will return to the Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center on Sunday. Vocalist Colin Blunstone and keyboardist-vocalist Rod Argent started the band in 1962 in St. Albans, north of London.
The Zombies’ hit 1960s songs included “She’s Not There,” “Tell Her No” and “Time of the Season,” and Rolling Stone ranked their 1968 album, “Odessey and Oracle,” at number 100 on its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Through the years, the band has separated and reassembled, toured as a group and individually, and produced six studio albums. On March 29 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, The Zombies were inducted into the 2019 Class of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Their visit to Rockville on their tour celebrates this belated recognition.
The current lineup features Argent and Blunstone as well as Steve Rodford on drums and percussion; Tom Toomey, guitars and vocals; and Søren Koch, bass guitar and vocals.
Colin Blunstone answered CultureSpotMC.com’s questions about himself and The Zombies.
Congratulations on being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. How do you feel about it?
Above anything else, I feel honoured and humbled that we had over 328,000 votes in the public vote and that our fellow professionals felt us worthy of induction into this most revered of musical institutions.
Did you come from a musical family? It’s only recently that I remembered that when I was very young, I used to listen to my mother’s five brothers playing their many instruments and singing wonderful harmonies whenever our family got together. Perhaps sub-consciously this very early introduction to the joy of playing music and singing together influenced me later in my teenage years? Sadly, the family broke up when I was about 10 when many of my relatives emigrated, some to New Zealand some to Australia, Canada and The States.
Have you had formal music instruction? No I haven’t had much formal musical training, though I did study for a short time with a wonderful singing coach in London. He taught me a little of the “mechanics” of physically singing, and showed me a set of singing exercises that I still do to this day.
How did you get together with original members? I joined The Zombies as the rhythm guitarist, but at our first rehearsal, and quite by chance, Rod Argent heard me singing and suggested I should be the lead singer. Basically, we all went to school in a town called St. Albans, which is just north of London. It was just a “word of mouth” thing……I was asked if I had a guitar (which I did) and that basically was my audition. It’s incredible that with only one change the five (almost) strangers who got together for our first rehearsal became The Zombies.
Why did you start composing? I was incredibly impressed by Rod Argent’s and Chris White’s progression as writers and felt encouraged to try and write myself.
How has your music evolved? Over the years, we have all tried to hone our crafts. I think we are far better performers and writers than we were in those far off days in the ’60s.
What songs will you perform? We will be performing with the current Zombies’ line up a selection of songs recorded over the last 50 years including all the big hits, a selection from “Odessey and Oracle” and at least one brand new song that has only just been written.
Of course, fans love to hear “the hits” but we are greatly encouraged that our new material gets a very strong reaction too!!!
What are your favorites? I’m very lucky that even the songs that were written many years ago still sound fresh and are still fun to perform. “She’s Not There” will always be a firm favourite as it’s the song that changed all our lives way back in 1964!
Are your new songs true to the original spirit? In terms of writing (and recording), we have never followed trends. We simply write and record to the best of our ability with little or no thought of the charts or critical acclaim. So, in that sense, I think our new work is true to the original spirit of the band.
Do you write most of the new songs? Traditionally Rod has written the majority of The Zombies recordings and I write more for my solo projects.
How do the newer band members function within the group? How did you choose them?
Rod Argent, Steve Rodford, Tom Toomey and I have been playing together for over 10 years. Soren Koch joined us about 18 months ago when the much-missed Jim Rodford sadly passed away. Band members have always been chosen through personal recommendations rather than countless auditions. We function as a band in a way that we always have — as a keyboard-based band that features extensive three- and four-part harmonies.
What kind of music do you listen to? I don’t listen to as much music as I should, but when I do, I usually return to the favourites of my youth, singer songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Judy Tzuke and Duncan Browne.
What inspires you? Beautiful music performed from the heart.
You performed at MC’s Parilla Center in 2013 and 2016. Will this show be different?
All shows are different to the performer! There will be one or two brand new songs and otherwise the set is always subject to subtle changes. I’m often not completely sure what we’re going to play even when we’re actually on the stage.
What did you think of the crowd? I remember playing at the MC’s Parilla Centre very well and have always found the audience to be incredibly supportive. It’s a venue I very much look forward to performing in again!
Are your performances & the audiences different in the U.K. and the U.S.? In the U.K., we would probably play more of my solo material as it is much better known over there. I think U.S. audiences are more openly appreciative, which can be very exciting for any performer. In the U.K., in general, the audiences are a little more reserved even though they may be enjoying the performance just as much!
What are you proudest of in your career?
Most definitely being inducted into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It was a magical night in front of 17,000 fans and many of the good and great from the music industry. Susanna Hoffs gave a wonderful induction speech for us and then we all got the chance to play together on the musical finale. Breathtakingly brilliant, a night that will be treasured forever!
What are your plans for your professional future? In the immediate future, I’m working on a new solo album and a new Zombies album. I will be taking my solo band to Europe in November and The Zombies are going to Spain in December. Otherwise, I want to go on writing, recording and performing for as long as I possibly can.
The Zombies will perform at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29, at Montgomery College Parilla Performing Arts Center, 51 Mannakee St., Rockville. Special guests Rogers & Butler will open. Tickets are $55, $50 for faculty and staff and $45 for students. Call 240 567-5301 or visit cblogs.montgomerycollege.edu/reppac/the-zombies.