w/ Valgeir Sigurðsson. $15, 9 p.m., Mar. 29. Spaceland Ballroom, 295 Treadwell St., Hamden, spacelandballroom.com
The image of the leaping child found near these words, we must clarify, is indeed a Zammuto who is important to Zammuto yet not the Zammuto who is most important to Zammuto. The boy you see is not Nick Zammuto, man-in-charge of the four-piece band Zammuto, but instead the eldest of Nick's three sons. The 6-and-a-half-year-old's image appears in lieu of Nick's for a handful of reasons.
The first is that Nick prefers to not represent himself directly because, as he writes alongside this photo, "the music is more about other people, places and things." (The alternate offer for art was a pic of his music studio after a big storm.) Keeping with this extolling of external sources of inspiration, the second reason is that family (and, come to think of it, his self-built studio, too) are crucial to him. References to his wife and kids frequently pop up in interviews. The Readsboro, Vt.-based Zammuto patriarch speaks of his photo-centric child in the glowing terms any steadfast father is wont to use, praising his son's "airtime, either in his imagination or [being] physically off the ground all the time" since Nick can relate to that and vicariously experience his joy in kind. Lastly (and realistically, probably most key), Nick just doesn't like seeing pictures of himself. "If I try to imagine myself looking at a picture of myself in a paper or something like that and I didn't know me, I would just immediately become uninterested," the 37-year-old says. "I'm just a white guy. I mean, what can I say?"
Using "white guy" in such a bland way is Nick being awfully hard on himself since he long ago staked his name in a band consistently opposed to blandness and normality. For some 12 years, he and Paul de Jong governed the Books, a New York City group fond of sound collages and aesthetic dares. Then, in January 2012, Nick emailed Pitchfork a cagey statement noting that they were splitting up. "It seems the air has gone out of the Books for the last time," he wrote without disclosing the nitty-gritty of the dissolution. (Its details remain foggy.) Since then, Nick has described the Books as "sort of a meta band" whereas his band Zammuto (who launched in the breakup's aftermath) is more rock-inclined. "I got kind of bored in the Books onstage because it started to feel a lot like karaoke [with] the way we would perform. There wasn't a lot of spontaneity in the show, and I feel like with this band, there is a feeling of unpredictability, like something different is gonna happen every night. Even though we carefully plan out these compositions, the venue and the audience really shapes the show," says Nick, who we should also mention is a fount of compliments for his drummer Sean Dixon. "'Rock band' has a lot of connotations to it as well. To play loud is important. To play at this level of saturation where it starts to take over your body as well as your mind is an important one for this band."
On its 2012 debut record, Zammuto's indie pop is fleet-footed, incandescent, squiggly and Pinback-like, with an emphasis on tempos and sources of instrumentation that both reside in states of unpredictable flux. If this music was a person, it would have a runner's body, ready to sprint a mile this instant without reaching for an unnecessary breath the entire route. Nick bristles at the word "experimental" being applied to his music because of that term's connotations ("The mind instantly goes to being experimented upon rather [than] becoming part of the experiment"), but he also says that it is in fact experimental in the way he doesn't know where the sounds will head when he goes into the studio. The man is only a vessel.
Elaborating on the record, Nick calls Zammuto "bright and jumpy and flitty and a little bit agitated," which was very in tune with his messy post-Books state of mind. With the players in place, he can focus on properly tailoring the group's performances and sound. "I want to make a record that's a little less agitated — one that you can live with a little more and [is] a little more horizontal for lack of a better word," he says. "There's still going to be a lot of drive to it, but it's gonna be more music to travel to rather than feeling like you're being beaten over the head with a lot of different ideas."