Mississippi-based electronic act Zoogma blends hip-hop and grammar 

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For the song "Hotel Crunkifornia," Zoogma mixed Biggie Smalls and the Eagles

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For the song "Hotel Crunkifornia," Zoogma mixed Biggie Smalls and the Eagles

When the guys from Zoogma were asked to play Arkansas' Wakarusa Festival a few years back, they were a pretty unknown bunch. Despite a win at a hometown battle of the bands, it's easy to see why the college-age electronic act was nervous about performing, particularly with a 12 p.m. festival time slot — one of the absolutely worst times to play. Still, they wanted to draw a crowd. Some bands would have turned to blasting a few effortless tweets into the ether to get the word out— not Zoogma. They preferred a more organic means to promote themselves: stickers.

"I'm not sure if you can print this in your paper, but we have these stickers that really helped our name get out there: 'What the fuck is Zoogma?'" guitarist and keyboardist Justin Hasting tells us. "We had a set at noon on a Friday, and if you've ever been to a big festival like that, you know you stay up all night and party. You're not gonna wake up before noon, and so we didn't think there was going be anybody there."

Hasting continues, "We got there Thursday, passed stickers out, and yeah — come Friday at noon, there were about a thousand people in the tent, and we were just blown away."

The Mississippi-based Zoogma is a four-piece band that uses live music, live sequenc ing, and hip-hop samples to craft electronic music. Their most downloaded song to date is "Let My Shorty Ride," a track that samples rapper Young Buck and R.L. Burnside, an old Mississippi country blues legend. The result: something the band calls "electro blues." Their most recent release mixes Notorious B.I.G.'s "Dead Wrong" with "Hotel California," a mashup they've titled "Hotel Crunkifornia."

Another track "In Ten" is a mashup of a Three 6 Mafia song with Zoogma's own live music to back it up. "Sometimes we'll play over a track we've made, and sometimes we're just sampling little bits like vocals or synths, which sort of adds to the electronic element of the band," Hasting says.

Hasting met drummer Matt Harris, guitarist Brock Bowling, and bassist Ryan Nall at the University of Mississippi. As fate would have it, a grammar lesson led Hasting and the gang to their rather odd name.

"It's basically because of one of my English lit professors at Ole Miss," Hasting says. "I did not get along with him very well, but he handed out a worksheet one day and it had the word 'zeugma' written at the top of it. We were learning about forms of grammar, and we were talking about syllepsis and zeugma — which basically means 'to join' in Latin — and that sort of stuck with me. We weren't even electronic at that point, but we decided to change the spelling and call ourselves Zoogma.

At the time, the Mississippi crew didn't know just how fitting the name would be. "What's funny is as time has progressed, it's brought on a whole new meaning, because in a more specific grammatical sense, zeugma means the combination of something tangible and something that's not real," Hasting says. "So if I were to say, 'I lost my keys and I lost my mind' — you can tangibly lose your car keys, but you can't technically lose your mind. The more I thought about it, it also describes our mixture of music. We combine the real with the unreal — the real for us being our instruments and the unreal part being the electronic stuff. So it's now brought on a whole new meaning."

Zoogma will perform during the Pour House's 12th anniversary bash that runs from Aug. 25-31. You can download Zoogma's music for free at zoogma.net.

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