.LA Hardcore Band Zulu Returns to Cupertino’s X Bar

One of the best bands in contemporary hardcore, Zulu return to the X Bar

When LA hardcore band Zulu took the stage at Cupertino’s X Bar last July, few in the audience realized they were witnessing a pivotal moment for the group.

“It was the first time we had the line-up we have now, which is our line-up,” says Anaiah Lei, the band’s singer and founder. “That was the very first time we all stepped on stage together like that.”

Anyone who attended the show could attest to the band’s strength as a unit. The set kicked off with the explosive “Now They Are Through With Me,” from 2021 EP My People…Hold On. Within moments, Zulu had converted the room into a swirling mosh pit, burning through their set in an astonishing nine and half minutes.

“That show was amazing for a lot of reasons,” Lei says, noting that it was their first show back after the pandemic. “The chemistry was fun.”

This Tuesday, Zulu return to the X Bar in a highly anticipated show courtesy of Bay Area promoter The Hard Times. The stacked line-up includes a host of exciting young hardcore and powerviolence artists, including Move, from Boston, the Chicago band Buggin’, and Atlanta’s Playytime. All of the groups on the bill make hardcore music from a Black perspective.

“My goal is to reach out to other Black people who feel the same thing we’re feeling and make sure they feel comfortable enough to enjoy and come out to the shows and be a part of our community,” Lei says. “There’s a lot of intention with the Zulu song themes, and what the songs are about.”

Originally, Zulu began as Lei’s side band, a solo project separate from his role drumming in Orange County straight-edge band DARE (among other groups). “I was like, it would be fun to do vocals in a band. That was kind of where it started,” he notes, adding that it was originally slated for the “back burner,” until the strong critical and audience response convinced him to make it his main focus.

On the band’s first two EPs, Lei played all the instruments, stitching together short blasts of heavy, cathartic punk music with moving samples from Black leaders, activists and thinkers. Having been a drummer in most bands previously, early Zulu songs began from drum parts, lending the songs a refreshing unpredictability. “I found it interesting structuring a song drums first, as opposed to structuring it guitar first,” Lei says.

Zulu return to the South Bay fresh off recording their debut full-length. While the release date is still TBD, the album will be put out by Flatspot Records, a powerhouse of hardcore in recent years, having released albums by Bay Area breakout stars Scowl and Australia’s Speed, among many others. In previous interviews, Lei has hinted that Zulu’s new album will be more expansive than their already genre-pushing EPs.

“I’m very far past the idea of sticking to the rules of hardcore or powerviolence or whatever you want to call it,” Lei says. “Our influences range heavily, and this is the one project where I don’t want to be limited by anything. I always go back to past music from our people. I take a lot of influence from soul, jazz, R&B, reggae, stuff like that.”

This approach is apparent on tracks like My People…Hold On opener “Blackcurrant,” which shimmers with a soft spirituality as it clears space for Black women to speak right at the top of the record. Closer “Do Tha Right Thing (and Stop Frontin’)” devotes more than half its runtime to a sample of a Black mother’s advice. Her words follow a heartbreaking narrative of police violence which includes the stanza “What’s it gonna take / What’s it gonna be / For you to see / We’re human beings?” over a shredding blastbeat. 

After Cupertino, the band goes on a lengthy US tour with hardcore legends OFF!. All of it is a sign of the vitality of contemporary hardcore music.

“There’s a stepping away from the borders that have been put on us. It’s more colorful,” Lei says. “People feel like they can experiment more, step out of the bubble of this like tough guy hardcore. That’s why our scene as a whole is a lot more vibrant.”


Tue, 8pm, $20

X Bar, Cupertino

Mike Huguenor
Mike Huguenor
Arts and Entertainment Editor for Metro Silicon Valley. Musician and writer, born and raised in San Jose.


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