5 minutes with … Zombie Schoolboy

Past successes, talent lead Zombie Schoolboy to Chicago’s Metro

Chance encounters and random reconfigurations are not unusual stories for band members. Nor are bands rising from the ashes of other bands. What is unusual about Zombie Schoolboy, however, is that within a year of forming, they’re getting a chance to play one of the year’s biggest local shows at one of Chicago’s most-revered music venues.

That’s a testament to the level of support the members bring from their experiences in bands Danger Is My Middle Name, The Fall Four, Third Times A Charm and The Fastest Kid Alive, which is in itself a testament to the level of talent the rockers bring to Zombie Schoolboy.

We spent a few minutes with Craig Miller, lead vocals and guitar for Zombie Schoolboy, preceding their Friday, April 27, show at Metro with Lucky Boys Confusion, The Linden Method and Take the Reins.

Band members: Craig Miller (Joliet), Billy Cox (Hobart, Indiana), Zane Spiegel (Naperville), Rob Hlavka (Darien)

Why the name Zombie Schoolboy? I know a lot of people always want a band name to have a special meaning, but this is a name that doesn’t have a ton of significance. To an extent, the whole Zombie theme was kind of a nod to the fact that we were all coming from older bands that had “died,” but also the fact that we were resurrecting our old sound that we used to have. But mostly, I’m a ’90s kid, I liked random cool band names that bands had when I was growing up like Green Day, Limp Bizkit, Bowling For Soup and Alien Ant Farm, etc. There’s a ton of bands with similar sounding names these days so we wanted to stick out, for better or worse depending on who you ask.

What started you along your musical path? Personally, I could give that credit to my dad mostly. He was a huge music lover with zero musical abilities. But his record collection, like I’m sure many people usually say, is the main reason that I play. He was a huge Scorpions fan, so I was exposed to awesome and huge guitar solos when I was a kid that made me want to play guitar. My dad also got me my first guitar lessons with his high school buddy’s son who was in a late ’80s metal band called Big Trouble. There I learned how to play the cool guitar solos that I listened to growing up.

What’s one song off “Flashlights in a Dark Place” that really speaks to you? So the title of the album kind of answers this question. Each song is its own little glimmer of light in a dark place, so it’s really hard to pick just one, so I’ll pick two. First I’d probably say “My Favorite Catastrophe,” which to me is probably musically the best song on the EP, and I think lyrically it’s pretty relatable for most people who go back and forth with someone who is ultimately toxic. As humans, I think we like to feel pain, so this song pretty much documents that sentiment. But I’d also say the last track called “Between Sunday Mornings,” which I wrote right after my dad passed away last year. It’s a very stripped-down song and is only a couple takes, so it has a raw vibe to it, and I think it’s the perfect song to end the album.

What has been one of your most memorable shows to play? I think one of my most memorable shows has been Zombie Schoolboy’s headlining show at Bottom Lounge this past January. It wasn’t sold out or anything, but the people that were there had a blast, and being the fact that it was only like our sixth show as a band, it was so awesome to see people singing along and wanting an encore when we finished. We were so unprepared for playing an encore that we ended up playing a brand new song that we had only practiced together once before. We played it terribly, but no one cared or could tell that we had no idea what we were doing, and I think that’s the way shows should be … just live and raw, no backing tracks or anything. If you make a mistake, who cares? If you play it too fast, so what? It was the epitome of what rock music is/was.

Aside from shows you see when performing together, do you guys go to concerts together? We actually do. Never really to national shows, but we want to support the local scene as much as possible. It’s a bit more divided than when we played in bands 10 years ago, and we want to be on the forefront of bringing it back to a tighter knit unit. The whole every man for himself mentality doesn’t get you far when the whole music industry seems to be out to get the indie artists these days. Just like LBC used to do with “Songs From A Scene,” we want to help bring back unity. But me and Rob were just at the 7 Minutes In Heaven/City Mouth show two weeks ago, and Billy and I were at the Marina City show over this past weekend, so we try hard to help support local music.

Upcoming: We have a few shows coming up … namely our CD release show for “Flashlights in a Dark Place” on Friday, April 27, at Metro with Lucky Boys Confusion, The Linden Method, and Take The Reins. 17+ show.

We are headlining Evolution Music in Downers Grove on June 2 with Eternal Boy, Talk To You Never, Bad Planning and Paper Towels.

And July 28 we are playing at Tivoli Bowl in downtown Downers Grove with a really cool band called Radar.

Aside from that, we just released our new music video for our first single off the new EP called “Lipstick or Concrete.” You can check that out on our YouTube channel. And of course you can follow us on Snapchat, InstagramFacebook and Twitter at @ZombieSchoolboy.

• Zombie Schoolboy is the featured band on this month’s local music playlist, “2018 Chicago Sound Check vol. 4,” now streaming on Spotify. Give it a listen and check out some of the other Chicago and suburban musicians we’ve included recently in the Daily Herald.