Alibi V.27 No.44 • Nov 1-7, 2018 

Music Interview

Evan + Zane = Rock

Jamming with Evan Rachel Wood and Zane Carney

Zane Carney and Evan Rachel Wood
Zane Carney and Evan Rachel Wood
Courtesy of Meow Wolf
I tell ya, this rocanrol music critic stuff is getting ill. After achieving consciousness for about the 17,000th time in this lifetime on Monday, I could think of nothing else to do but to read my email. There was a missive in the inbox from heroic Alibi intern Adam Wood. He wanted to tell me all about a series of messages he received from Santa Fe avant-garde collective Meow Wolf.

In these transmissions, an agent of the collective mentioned a musical act that would soon be orbiting above their Santa Fe facility on Wednesday, Nov. 7, spreading love and music to the gathered masses. The phenomenon they spoke of is something called Evan + Zane. Well, shazam and abbracadabra!

And really, I don’t have to put some sci-fi shine on that news to make it interesting to our beloved millennial readers. Evan Rachel Wood is a damn fine representative of her generation, creatively and politically, after all. She reps the best of what comes next.

And Zane? That would be 30-year-old guitar sensation Zane Carney, one of this planet’s hottest session men, a dude who has jammed with the likes of the Edge, John Mayer and Stevie Wonder while creating a stunning solo career that is all about sublimely jazzing his axe.

Together, as a collaborative unit, Evan + Zane are driving across America to sing, jam out and resonate with audiences seeking a hopeful connection to culture through forms of music that defy description and dare to make postmodernism fun again.

Each night the duo presents a different theme. Carney’s immense melodic reach is balanced by Evan’s intricate, encyclopedic knowledge of popular music. The theme at Meow Wolf will be psychedelia. Throw in a luxuriously knowing and sultry voice combined and killer instrumentation built around singular arrangements and you can indeed get there from here, digging it all the way, dear reader.

Expect hope, expect the ecstatic; dig some damn fine singing and guitar playing while you’re at it. And while you’re waiting the full effect, ch-check out this rambling frolic of an interview with the brains behind that brilliance.

[sound of phone ringing]

Weekly Alibi: Hey, is this Zane Carney?

Zane: This is indeed Zane Carney. I’m here with Evan right now.

Evan Rachel Wood: Hi!

Hello, Evan. How are you?

Evan: Good, How are you?

Well, I’m really excited to talk to both of you about your musical project.

Zane: Same here.

So let’s start with how Evan + Zane came to be. Evan, of course you are a world-renowned actor, who has, it so happens, taken on a lot of social and political significance of late. And Zane, you’re like, this fantastic, up-and-coming guitarist with jazz stylings; you’ve worked on a slew of projects from composing for Broadway to session work with John Mayer.

Zane: Ha!

Evan: You are correct, sir!

So how did you two end up touring the country in a rocanrol van, trying to turn young folks on to this newfound, musical sense of wonder that you get from working together?

Zane: That’s a good question!

Evan: I think that there is so much joy in this, for us. We get along because—this is so cliché and silly—but we just love this music; we love each other.

Zane: Yes.

Evan: We’ve been thinking about this for a long while. I think we both got to a point where we thought we’d just start doing this. And then it just started happening. It was kind of a snowball effect.

Zane: Yeah, it was organic. I also think that neither of us had this angle where we thought, “We’d like to break out as a band” or “we really wanna cause this commotion.” It’s more that we really enjoy making this music. But it’s building now—not against our will, but sort of accidentally. “Oh, we got booked into a bigger venue?” Well that sounds great.

Evan: I think more people are coming, more people are interested because we do a different show every night. We’ve brought our own kind of style to things and audiences are hearing songs in an entirely new way. That’s fun for the audience; they get to unwrap each song. We take really ambitious compositions and songs and turn them into something that can be realized by two people and a guitar.

So you two must have learned hundreds of songs. I can only imagine what you’ve got in your repertoire! What are you playing lately, besides covering OK Computer in its entirety, like you did a few weeks ago?

Zane: Evan is the best DJ/playlist maker of all time. She has a rolodex in her head filled with all sorts of unlikely tunes. Like for the Meow Wolf show, for psychedelia, I’d likely choose late ’60s and early ’70s. But the songs Evan chooses span four or five decades.

[Evan laughs in background]

She’s kinda the mastermind behind the story of each program. My role is, essentially, to arrange it, to make it feel like a full band when it’s just the two of us. We leave space for the two vocals to be the stars of the show.

How’s that going so far?

Zane: Really really badly!

[everybody laughs]

So it’s horrible? Are you two really suffering under each other’s intense creative weight?

[more laughter]

Really, I get the impression from your tone that this tour is a helluva lot of fun!

Zane: It is so fun. It’s like going to the playground everyday.

Evan: It really is. And you’re right, we do have hundreds of songs. Every genre and every era.

Zane: From 1920 to 2015. Yeah!

Evan: We’ve covered and we’ve played it! It’s something we could do for ages, as long as we want.

Zane: Both of us have full-fledged careers, multiple creative projects, but we both have passion for this music. We make time for it because we love it so much. This is a pet project that is becoming, potentially, an actual thing. We’re grateful that people appreciate our music. Last night, at our Halloween show in San Francisco, we had an encore, but we didn’t have a song picked out. Three minutes after the curtain fell the audience was still stomping their feet. We ended up ripping out “Creep” by Radiohead.

With chops like that, I can’t really see this as a casual undertaking.

Zane: Exactly. We call it casual but it’s not. I’m like, oh, crap.

Evan, how is performing as singer different than performing as an actor?

Evan: I started in musical theater as a child, so the two go hand in hand to me. I think that’s why I can’t help but act out the songs as I sing them, give emotion to them. It’s not my goal to go on stage and sing a song perfectly. I want to tell a story as a song. So there is a theatrical element that comes with these shows.

Yeah, I noticed some costuming and dramatic lighting going on in the photos you guys sent me.

Evan: We take different characters to each show, related to that night’s theme. That’s been really fun, too.

Zane: We both have deep wardrobes to draw from.

[Evan laughs uproariously]

The more I explore your work together, the more I come to the conclusion that it’s a sort of performance art. Discuss.

Evan: Totally!

Zane: I’d absolutely agree with that. The first show we did, in February of this year, the day after Valentine’s Day, we did some songs that struck me as feeling like cabaret. I think performance art is an appropriate term, not for what we’re trying to do, but it’s actual. The fact that some of it is happening at Meow Wolf sort of cements that idea.

And it’s just you two on tour, no sound guy, no production staff?

Zane: Yup. I’ve been touring for about 14 years, so I’m basically like, “we don’t need a sound guy or a monitor guy.” We both love improvising, that’s what it comes down to.

Evan: Exactly. We’ve been giving each other one night of rehearsal for each show, so the performance itself stays spontaneous.

That makes it even more awesome, more like an art project.

Zane: That’s the key to making this not feel like karaoke night or like we’re a cover band.

Evan: It’s like a real jam session. The audience is a big part of the show. We need the audience to be with us and for us to feed off of them in a good way.

How important are good music, good feelings and positivity—hope—in today’s cultural environment?

Evan: I feel strongly about that. It’s the reason I do what I do. I believe in lifting people’s spirits and going out into the world with hope. For the psychedelia show, I feel like a lot of those songs are relevant now, today. I think we need to be reminded of the voices of the past, what they had to say, especially given where we are now. That gives me hope, for sure.

Evan + Zane: “Goodbye Blue Sky”

Evan + Zane at Meow Wolf
Wednesday, Nov. 7 • 7pm
$20 to $40 • Tickets at meowwolf.com