Zoo Riots win opening gig for Finger Eleven in Sidney

Victoria-area band won contest seeking out local talent.

Cayman Burke

On Halloween night, Victoria-area band The Zoo Riots will open for Finger Eleven’s Fall of the Hammer Tour at the Mary Winspear Centre.

The band were the winners of a contest seeking out local talent and will get the opportunity to perform and meet the band.

Three of the five members, Justin Campbell, Liam McLaren and Cayman Burke sat down with the PNR to talk music, goals and their exciting opportunity. They describe their live shows as incorporating blues, R&B, progressive/psychedelic rock, jazz and spoken word poetry.

Forming the band in 2012, most of the members attended high school together on the Saanich Peninsula. All have been involved in music some way or another throughout their lives. The other two members of the band are Kevin McKay and Liam Moes. For McLaren, his love of song writing came when he was able to play guitar.

“It was the only real way I was sort of able to express myself. I just feel that music affects me in a really deep way so if I’m able to do that to someone else then that’s fantastic,” he said

Campbell grew up listening to music and later took piano and then drum lessons.

“I kind of found that I wanted to write songs a lot later than you guys,” he said looking at his band mates. “I remember always being like ‘ugh those guys, they’re so good, why am I not doing this?’”

And he is now one of the main vocalists.

Burke started playing in high school when he broke his leg and said he had nothing better to do.

“I started playing guitar and I made loops on Garage Band and decided I didn’t really like the bass loops that they had, so I just bought a bass guitar and just started playing that.”

The band plays around Victoria and a few small festivals and gigs.

“With the local Victoria music scene, when you’re starting out it’s really easy to get into certain bars over others or certain venues,” said Campbell.

Their big break will be when they hit the stage, opening for Finger Eleven, who are touring with Head of the Herd. As soon as they found out about the band’s contest to search out local talent, they decided to enter.

“As a band you just kind of apply for everything you can,” said Campbell.

He added it’s a huge opportunity for them career wise and he is excited to perform that night for a band he’s known since he was a teenager.

“I mean, I remember being what, 15 or 16, watching Much Music and seeing their videos all the time and so it’s kind of surreal to think like, ‘oh my god, we’re playing with those guys?’ he said. “Yeah I think 15 year old me is pretty excited … and 23 year old me.”

“They’re very, very established too, I mean they’ve been around since the mid-90s. It’s just really good even to meet them, it’s just solid,” added McLaren.

The Zoo Riots are currently working on their debut EP which will have six or seven songs that they’ve had since the band formed.

The album will be called Arbutus Skin Lady, which is supposed to be sort of like Mother Nature, with overlapping themes in the album of domination of humanity over nature.

“We’re really not a west coast folk band at all but the place we live definitely impacts us and our music,” said Campbell.

“I generally just love the image of it,” said McLaren.

The band will be coming full circle as they perform at the Mary Winspear Centre, where they recorded the drum tracks from their EP.

At 8 p.m. on Oct. 31, they will take to the stage in their biggest show to date.

The band is hoping to release their EP in the spring, followed by a tour of western Canada.

“It’s been a long time coming for us so we’re pretty excited to actually get it out there,” said Campbell.