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Having just wrapped their West Coast Tour 2012, Culprit is back in LA and ready to chat. We sat down with the indie rock band’s bassist, Zach Blumenfeld, to discuss all things music, tour life, and of course, tattoos.
We met at Starbucks on Ventura Boulevard around noon on Sunday, and Zach grabbed an iced coffee before we sat down in the comfy chairs near the front window.
Having just returned from tour, Zach said that while he didn’t get tattooed on the road, it is not something he’d be opposed to doing in the future. His second tattoo— the blend of a coy fish and a sparrow— he acquired in Barcelona in 2006. Visiting the city for only a few days, the decision to get inked was one of pure spontaneity.
Before that, he got his first tattoo on his 18th birthday. This one, though, was previously planned out with a drawing all his own of a rose with a stem that extends into a bass clef, which he designed at the age of 17. This marked the start of his now finished sleeve, which took five years to complete.
The forearm was first to finish, then the state of California, poppy flowers, waves, clouds, cherry blossoms, topped with art from Dr. Seuss’ “Oh The Places You’ll Go!"
“It’s always interesting, always encouraging. I found a particular page that I really liked with the hot air balloons and different colors,” Zach said about the Dr. Seuss storybook portion of his sleeve. He also noted that the content goes much deeper than that of the surface story meant for young children.
The elbow was the last part of the sleeve before it was complete, although you would never know by looking. Everything flows together flawlessly, most of which was Jeremy Lifsey’s work at Tattoo Subculture, Body and Soul, and then his own studio, which you can read more about at www.jeremylifseytattoo.com.
“The best part of getting tattooed was that we became buddies, too. It was always a very chill environment,” Zach said about getting inked by Jeremy, who recently relocated to Hawaii. “I’m looking for a new artist to start my second sleeve, and he recommended a few to check into, so we’ll see.”
When asked if any of his tattoos were dedicated to songs, lyrics, or specific musicians, Zach started to talk about his tribute piece to Thrice on his shoulder blade. Then he pointed to the Bob Dylan lyrics that circle his wrist, and spoke of plans to get more tribute pieces, including one for Glassjaw with a friend from Back Pocket Memory, the band with whom Culprit just finished touring. He wants to get one for his own band, as well, which has progressed at an impressive rate since having formed almost five years ago. It all started when Zach was just 15 years old.
“Even though I was young, I was very ambitious and wanted to do more with music. I went searching online for bands that were looking for a bass player and found Travis’ band from nine years ago called, “Miles Ahead.” I started playing with them, a group of 18 and 19 year olds, and I was 15. That band broke up, and they all went their own ways, but Travis and I reconnected soon after and started Culprit,” he said.
Fast-forward a bit, and Culprit acquired a new drummer, Jason. A year and half after that, the new guitarist, Brian, was brought into the mix. All have now been with the band steadily for over a year.
With a name as dominant as Culprit, we were intrigued to know more… and why.
“We used to be a very tongue-in-cheek, a very pop-rock band, but Culprit has post-hardcore-ish roots. We’ve sort of meshed those two things and found a spot where we really enjoy writing these more ambient soundscapes that have a pop-rock vocal pattern layered over them,” Zach said.
The name specifically came from an Underoath song, ‘Everyone Looks So Good From Here,’ where the lyrics read, “I am the culprit,” and it has stuck ever since.
The Beatles, Thrice, Brand New, Circa Survive, As Tall As Lions, Envy On The Coast, and Rx Bandits are a few of Culprit’s main influences. They’ve shared the stage with Everclear, The Higher, The Dangerous Summer, Sherwood, QuietDrive, and The Cab. Zach’s favorite band to have toured with was called, Happy Body, Slow Brain.
Having a look at upcoming shows, three dates to mark on the calendar if you are on the west coast [or looking to travel in this direction] include:
[This Friday], Oct. 5 – at El Cid on Sunset Blvd in Silverlake, CA, Michael McCarthy Presents: Culprit, The Goodnight, What Hands Are For, and Barely Blind. $10 cover; show starts at 9.
Friday, Oct. 26 – at Red House on Botelho Drive in Walnut Creek, CA: with Deities, Common Crooks, The Great Work, and The Most Sad. “Halloween Bash” in the Bay Area hosted by PinUp Productions, $10 presale, $12 at the door; starts at 7.
Saturday, Nov. 3 – at the Pride Festival in Palm Springs, CA at the Palm Springs Stadium Sunrise Park.
Culprit will then go back into the studio in early November to finish up an EP that will be set to release in February or March of next year, followed by another tour. Stay up to speed with the band by ‘liking’ them on Facebook, and following on Twitter and Tumblr, as well as Youtube, Myspace, PureVolume, and Reverbnation.
Photo by Ian Flanigan; see more of his work at www.ianflanigan.com.