Adventurous musicians don’t rest on past successes to cement their future. They evolve, create and, most important of all, play. Does this mean these artists are immune to occasional sojourns to their past? No.
Case in point: Niagara Falls-born singer/songwriter Zak Ward. The former frontman of Buffalo’s Son of the Sun has kept plenty busy since the band called it quits in 2014, most notably with his jangling and exquisitely trippy “That’s What You Get” EP of that same year. But on Dec. 23, Ward will rejoin with his former SOTS mates, team with fellow reunited local acts Last Conservative and CPX, and take the stage at Mohawk Place (47 E. Mohawk Place) to raise money for the New York chapter of Variety Children’s Charity. (It's a $5 donation at the door, which open at 7 p.m.)
The night will act as a proper send-off for Son of the Sun, who quietly exited Buffalo’s music scene after making plenty of melodic noise after forming in 2007. As for Ward, it’ll be another night on the mic for a guy with no plans of slowing down. I caught up with him earlier this week to talk about the upcoming Mohawk show, solo work — and sipping tea with Jeff Tweedy.
Hometown: Niagara Falls
Years as a musician: Nearly two decades.
Musical influences: The Beatles, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, The Band and Stephen Sondheim.
First Buffalo-area show: Probably at Showplace Theater, circa 1996. Nobody bought our tape.
Favorite album in high school: “The Downward Spiral” by Nine Inch Nails
Favorite album this week: “Come Together: Black America Sings Lennon and McCartney”
If you could have a drink with any musician, who would be, and why? All the musicians that come to mind are/were addicts. Maybe Jeff Tweedy and I could talk about analog recording over some herbal tea.
Back in the late-aughts, Son of the Sun was a Buffalo band on the rise. What factors led to last year's decision for you guys to say goodbye? Because we went from “Please Please Me” to “Let it Be” in two years.
How did the plan to reunite for your December charity show at Mohawk come together? I play in a '90s tribute called Kurt and the Loders with Jeremy Franklin, also from [Son of the Sun]. At a recent rehearsal he mentioned that CPX and Last Conservative were playing a big show at Christmas. Seeing TJ Zindle (of Last Conservative) play live when I was 15 was the catalyst for my music career. Son of the Sun has a long history with the guys from both bands so it seemed like a great show to glom onto. I asked TJ if we could play and he graciously said yes.
Your 2014 solo EP "That's What You Get" was a tremendous addition to the music now being created in and around Buffalo. Has the local scene changed since you started with Son of the Sun and, if so, how? I think the local scene was great in our heyday and it’s only gotten better and more diverse. The biggest difference I think is more venues. Nietzsche’s and Mohawk will always be local institutions but now you can see shows at art galleries, breweries, Larkin Square, Canalside and many more bars, hotels and clubs. The best part about Buffalo is that on any given night you can see a killer band in just about any genre—and Sonny Baker is in every single one.
What's next for you on record; and when's your next show after the Mohawk reunion? This month I start rehearsals for “Ring of Fire: The Johnny Cash Musical” opening Jan. 27 at Musicalfare (at Daemen College). I play gigs three to four nights a week for a living. My calendar is always up at my website zakward.com. I’ve been hammering away at the follow up to last year’s EP. Hopefully I can get it out sooner than later. Oh, and I’m going to be a father in a few weeks. So… not that much.