Worcester-based fusion band Zigmont fills a room, both sonically and in terms of concertgoers. That’s part of the reason the band will play a hometown concert at Ralph’s Rock Diner on Thanksgiving Eve, a traditionally popular night out. It’s a stage that bassist Nicholas Chiancola, guitarist Jacob Leevai and drummer-keyboard player Akiba Davis have stepped on many times, but next week’s concert will also serve as a special occasion: a release party for the band’s sophomore album, “The Thrill of the Chase.”
The album centers around the concept of chasing. Leevai describes the album’s opening track, “Burning it Down,” as the catalyst. It’s a song about loss that inspires the album’s subsequent chases that often lead the songs’ characters to unfortunate outcomes. Many of the tracks that follow focus on different objects of desire. In “The Chase,” the narrator pursues lust; in “WAYLA,” it’s material possessions.
“Return to Sender” sees Leevai chasing after a sense of self. The song opens with the lyrics, “I wrote myself a letter/ And it got returned to sender,” and reflects the lies we tell ourselves and how the truth often catches up with us. The lyrics continue, “I’ve been running/ Even when I’m sleeping/ I can hear them coming/ If I can escape it stands to reason/ That I can get some sleep.”
Leevai and Chiancola each bring a different vocal style to the band’s blend of blues, funk and rock. Chiancola employs a lyrical syncopation that allows him to flip between spoken word and singing. He sets the audience up for Leevai’s bellowing and expressive gusto, an effect Chiancola calls the “wallop.”
The band’s body of work teeters between serious and joking with lyrics that question the meaning of existence then follow up with an utterance of “better buckle up” and an oncoming crash of instrumental jamming.
Perhaps the best illustration of Zigmont’s dynamic range is its namesake. “The band is named after my cat,” said Leevai, noting that the little feline was also present for the phone interview albeit napping. “He’s a sweet boy. He’s also a little bit of a rascal.” Davis chimes in, “He encapsulates a lot of our energy.”
That is to say, the band’s music can be moody, playful and curious. It’s a sound that Chiancola calls “dark funk space blues,” a phrase pulled from lyrics on the new album. “We jam, but we're not really a jam band,” said Leevai. “We have funk drums, but we're not really a funk band. You know, we'll use jazz chords, but we're not really a jazz band. So there's so many different things that we do, and I think that dark funk space blues just sounds the best.”
Outside of Zigmont, Leevai used to perform weekly at Ralph’s as part of The Dirty Gerund Poetry Show, a long-running weekly open mic where Leevai led the house band for 5 years. He deftly improvised guitar backing to poets’ words, live-composing musical accompaniments that only a certain type of listener can achieve. On occasion, he’d step to the mic for a solo performance and sing with outstanding strength and control. Whether it's in his solo performances or as part of Zigmont, Leevai delivers lyrics with a clarity and impact that distinguish him as a singer among the underground venues in Worcester.
Traveling acts from Boston have expressed to Zigmont that Worcester bands tend to have an energy or, as one said, a “hunger.” Between the economic efforts of the city that some refer to as revitalization and others as gentrification, the DIY music scene in Worcester has engaged in the city’s larger conversation about what type of community Worcester is and tries to be. “I can't necessarily say it directly has influenced me to be like, ‘Oh, this stuff is going on in Worcester. Like, I'm going to write this song about it,’” said Chiancola. “But surroundings naturally — and without us knowing — influence us, you know?”
For Zigmont, the greatest musical influences come from the bandmates’ varied tastes. “If you looked at our Spotify recents, it would probably look entirely different for all three of us,” said Leevai, who cites Frank Zappa, Steely Dan and Queen as his most-listened to artists. “Right now, I'm listening to a lot of ‘80s metal concept albums like ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ by Queensrÿche or ‘Streets: A Rock Opera’ by Savatage.” Chiancola favors New Orleans’ gulf blues country musician Charley Crockett. Davis lists Yussef Dayes’ “Black Classical Music” and Greg Spiro’s Tiny Room Sessions.
The band has plenty to look forward to between the album release, the party the following week and more shows in the winter. With the work of recording this album behind them, the three bandmates reflected on what Zigmont is chasing next. “Chasing some new music,” said Davis. “I’m chased,” said Chiancola, and followed up with, “I'm still chasing the thrill. I'm chasing opportunity. Chasing growth.”
“Zigmont the band is chasing different ears – new listeners – every ear is a good ear,” said Leevai. “Zigmont the cat is chasing ghosts around my apartment and running around frantically at three in the morning when I'm trying to sleep.”