Ceremony’s early output is catalogued on a pack of thrashed out 7-inches and albums. Their youthful frustration comes from a familiar place: the suburbs. In their early years, Ceremony was just one (if excellent) example of countless young hardcore punk bands trying to express malaise and listlessness in raging music. And, like all of those bands, they faced a crossroads when they grew up and began to experience emotions other than anger. But where many bands simply breakup when adult responsibilities take hold, Ceremony kept going, doing their best to evolve and adapt. “We’ve definitely lost a lot of people, but the turnover in the genre of music that we are a part of is very fast,” says guitarist Anthony Anzaldo. “It’s a young person’s world.” Comically illustrating his point, Anzaldo says he just returned from a long tour in Australia—not playing guitar with Ceremony, or even with another hardcore band, but with ’80s pop princess Taylor Dane.
In 2010, when Ceremony released Rohnert Park, an album named after their California hometown, they pivoted from the guttural to the gritty, like going from snuff to Scorcese—not abandoning the depths, per se, but finding style and pace. Rohnert Park featured tracks that not only echoed the complacency beating through a teenager’s heart but spoke with the dark timbre that only someone who’s survived it can construct. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, Ceremony recorded Zoo, their first release through legendary indie hub Matador Records. It’s a fuzz-driven piece, gleaned from the deepest reaches of CBGB’s spit and venom-filled ’80s. There’s still oomph, especially on stomping lead single, “Hysteria,” or “Community Service,” which starts brazenly but ebbs into lonely guitar strums. It’s this current of malaise that makes the album such a mature, but angry triumph.
If punk is still about not giving a fuck, then Ceremony, while grown up, may not have lost their edge. “We know we’re going to piss off some people and we know we’re going to make some people happy,” says Anzaldo. “But as long as we’re happy then that’s all that we can really hope for. That we’re proud of the music that we make.” That self-assured, comfortable pride echoes throughout Zoo. Singer Ross Farrar, whose onstage flailing has made the band legendary in some circles, has mostly exited the mosh pit, trading it for college English classes. Their bass player, Justin David, is a math major at UC Berkeley and the band has become such a professional enterprise that they had to look across the country to find the perfect guitarist in longtime Philadelphia hardcore scene staple, Andy Nelson. Still, it’s clear they haven’t gone soft. Zoo’s song “Nosebleed” features a droning lament from Farrar, who barks, My nose bleeds like my father’s did/ I’ll never be pure. And while he may be grown enough to look simultaneously backwards and forwards, it’s still pretty gross.
Stream: Ceremony, Zoo