Zach Bellas began his music career early, after sending a demo cassette tape of his High School band to legendary Washington, DC record label Dischord in hopes of getting a deal. To his surprise, he got a response! They weren’t exactly eager to sign Zach and his band right away but, on the back of a post card that would change his life forever, Melissa informed him that he shouldn’t be wasting his time looking for a record deal but instead should start his own label the same way that Ian Mackaye and Jeff Nelson did with Dischord in 1980 and release his music himself. He felt a little disappointed in not getting a deal, but the letter would stick with him and it’s true impact would not be felt until many years later.
In December of 2009, Zach would go on to found SMB Records. That same month his band at the time, the popular punk rock/reggae trio, Groundscore, would release their debut album ‘Healthy Children’ on the newly formed label. Recorded in Baltimore, MD by former Jawbox singer and Dischord alum J. Robbins, ‘Healthy Children’ is a perfect blend of smooth, dance-able reggae followed by intense moments of fervent punk rock. Often compared to the Bad Brains or Sublime, Groundscore found a wide and diverse fan base among fans of reggae, punk and psychedelic rock.
The guys in Groundscore toured endlessly for the next two years, all up and down the east coast and across the midwest, often performing two or three shows a day. They would catch a big break in 2010 when Jean-Paul Gaster, drummer for the world renowned hard rock band Clutch, agreed to play drums on one of the songs off the second Groundscore album ‘Speed Kills’, also recorded by J. Robbins, and take the band on tour supporting Clutch all across the United States.
Success would be short lived for Groundscore however. Exhausted from touring and the realities of life on the road, bass player Nick Graves and drummer Chase Lapp would exit the group at the end of 2011. Without a band and rapidly falling out of love with the white-boy-reggae-rock ‘scene’ filled with a never ending supply of the same, stale songs and obvious marijuana anthems, Zach retreated to Jamaica for the better part of the winter of 2012. It was during this time alone in the warm embrace of the Caribbean air and sea, living on nine dollars a day, that Bellas would contemplate his next musical endeavor.
In the Fall of 2012, Bellas would team up with producer and engineer, Frank Marchand (Bob Mould, Nils Lofgren, Pasadena) to create his most ambitious album to date. Featuring nearly a dozen of the Washington, DC areas finest musicians playing a variety of instruments including everything from piano to flute to a string quartet and even a guest guitar solo from Junior Marvin of Bob Marley and the Wailers, Bellas creates lush sonic landscapes and dense arrangements on his solo debut, ‘Whatever You Want’. Sounding more like a cross between Neil Young and the Red Hot Chili Peppers than a Sublime album, Bellas's new sound was fairly far removed from his work with Groundscore and definitely had more of a straight-forward rock approach to it. Shortly after releasing his solo debut, Bellas delivered ‘Shoot The Messenger’ an acoustic album recorded at the same time as, and featuring six songs off of ‘Whatever You Want’ as well as six new tunes.
In 2014, after a full year of solo acoustic tours spanning the nation from coast to coast, Bellas put together a group of touring musicians and Zach Bellas & The Company Band was formed. After coming off a long nationwide tour, Bellas felt like the band had a group of songs exactly the way they wanted them and that they would sound best performed live in the studio. So, he returned to work with producer Frank Marchand and recorded seven tracks with the new band in two days, done almost completely live in one room. The result, ‘Let Me Out’ is 33 minutes of pure Rock ‘n’ Roll bliss. Big Drums. Loud Guitars. Solid Melodies. Good, simple and honest songs performed from the soul, with a great deal of integrity.
Since beginning his journey as a professional musician in 2006, Zach has released five full-length albums and several singles on his label, SMB Records. He has performed over 800 shows in 27 different states, toured in support of great bands including Clutch and Corrosion of Conformity, and has performed at SXSW. He has also recorded with many amazing musicians such as Junior Marvin (Bob Marley and The Wailers) and has shared the stage with the likes of Rock n Roll Hall of Famer Donovan. In 2013, Zach was nominated for four Washington Area Music Awards, including Artist of the Year.
Bellas has come a long way since receiving that fateful post card from the Dischord offices on April, 26th 1999. From recording sessions with his personal heros to sold out shows with some of the greatest musicians to ever grace the stage, but Bellas has barely begun to scratch the surface of his potential if you ask him.
“There’s so much great music here in DC. It’s about time the world heard it.”
- Zach Bellas