How The Ziggens Created a Cult Following With Their "Cowpunksurfbilly" Sound
Brad Conyers didn’t expect that his band would become fully entrenched in the fabric of OC’s music scene when he headed to Southern California in the late ‘80s with dreams of grandeur and rock stardom. Yet that’s exactly where The Ziggens are nearly 30 years after their formation.
Unlike other bands of their time, The Ziggens manage to remain active while being stagnant. Despite not having a batch of new material since 2001 or a release of any sorts since 2003, the quartet continues to perform at most a dozen shows per year, primarily to a dedicated OC fan base, which is far beyond what Conyers would have envisioned for the band at this point in their career.
In the years since they were last in the studio, the band members have managed to stay busy with their respective jobs. Since they’ve mostly eschewed the rigors of the road — outside of a few quick in and out gigs — due to their daily commitments at home, working as sound engineers and touring with other acts, The Ziggens can still draw a crowd, which is a testament to their catchy brand of what they label “cowpunksurfabilly.” Though they hold the distinction of being the first band of Long Beach’s famous Skunk Records (started by former member Miguel Happoldt and Brad Nowell of Sublime), The Ziggens never quite fell into the category of bands like Sublime that became heavily associated with the reggae rock rock label. They definitely had their own sound going from the start.
In the beginning, The Ziggens would generously draw around 50 people to their Monday night Doll Hut gigs, but the place was always full of wild energy that would demonstrate the best of the push-and-pull between the band and eager fans.
“With half a million people living in the area, you have to feel good about getting to 50 people in the place,” Conyers says. “[That’s] one over the [venue’s] capacity.”
Conyers — who is married to Linda Jemison, the former owner of the Doll Hut — has seen his band’s ascension over the years tied to the famed venue. The band often performs with fellow ‘90s rockers and long time pals Mr. Mirainga. Even as he calls the band’s Doll Hut history “millimeters in the cup compared to other bands attached to the place,” The Ziggens remain one of the few local heroes to remain closely entrenched in the venue’s illustrious history.
“You can’t help but rub elbows with pretty established people in the music business because where would they go in Anaheim if they were to see a band?” he asks. “Plus there’s still elbow room anyway, so you can’t help but rub elbows with people. Going back to the Doll Hut is like going back into a photo album and seeing a collage of all the great people to play the place.”
Joking that the band has been together “almost as long as U2,” Conyers says that despite their relative inactivity, The Ziggens remain close and there are no ill harbored feelings between band members, although they all cite each other’s busy work schedules as the deterrent from making new music.
“We’d all like to spend more time together,” Conyers explains. “It’s hard to get in a van anymore and hard to get away for any length of time.”
The Ziggens have always retained a cult local following, and Conyers hasn’t ruled out the band releasing new material in the future. But for now, they’re focused on continuing to enhance their legacy at one of the venues essential to their longevity.
“When I was 19 years old, the way I thought to succeed was have the biggest chrome drum set as possible but that changed because of The Ziggens,” he says. “We’re kind of the definition of the indie band of our time. We got a lot of help from a lot of our friends with every project and record we did, with the spirit of the indie times. We haven’t made a record in years, and it’s cool to know that you have a spot in the history of rock that people keep coming back.”
The Ziggens perform with Mr. Mirainga and guests Porkchops and Applesauce, The Walking Toxins, H.B.H at the Doll Hut on March 19. Doors at 7pm. $10 Cover. Always 21 and over. For full details, click here.
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