About six years ago, I was in St. Louis to play the last show of a two-week tour with my old band, and it would’ve been your typical burned-out, ready-to-be-done-with-this, why-did-we-do-this-trip-anyway? kind of last show of a tour if not for sharing the bill with some friends from home, in this case Telegraph Canyon. I remember going on a walk around the block to rip a pre-show bowl and returning to the green room, and there was Bobby Zanzucchi sitting amid the piles of Telegraph’s gear cases. Bobby had recently joined TC on keys, and he had held that role in Pablo and the Hemphill 7 for a while before that, but actually I knew Bobby from the early 2000s, when he had this band that seemed to be the only non-jazz combo I ever saw at the old Black Dog Tavern. I hadn’t seen him in a long time, and the first thing I said was, “What’s up with Sleepy Atlantis?”
Sleepy Atlantis was Zanzucchi’s band that played at the Black Dog way back when, 2003 to be precise, in which he sang and played guitar with an assembly of some Denton-based string players, Pablo and the Hemphill 7’s drummer, keyboardist, and guitarist (Damien Stewart, Justin Pate, and Steffin Ratliff, respectively), and multi-instrumentalist Rick Nelson. Sleepy Atlantis’ sound was sort of proto-dream pop enlivened with lush orchestral textures like ELO, and they took this show on the road with various lineups and configurations. Around the same time, however, Nelson got a gig playing cello or some such with the Polyphonic Spree, and the more involved he became with that circus, the less inclined he was to play with Zanzucchi and his rotating bandmates. Sleepy Atlantis fizzled out, but Zanzucchi still played those songs in his head, even as joined bands like Telegraph, Pablo, and Son of Stan.
It took nearly two decades, but Zanzucchi revived his project this year, working out new arrangements for his old songs with drummer Austin Green (The Cush, Son of Stan, Telegraph Canyon) and a string trio composed of violinists Olivia Bruce and Channing Hooper and cellist Kourtney Newton. The group convened at Electric Barryland in Justin to track one of Zanzucchi’s old songs with producer-engineer Jordan Richardson. Where its former incarnation bore the acoustic hallmarks of its singer-songwriter origins, the new “Strangest Place (Strangers Mix)” has been remade as synth-forward mid-tempo pop, sort of like Death Cab mixed with the Rentals and imbued with a satisfying melancholic urgency.
Zanzucchi put the single up on digital platforms near the end of last month, and he said he plans to track more for a full-length as his time permits — in the 17 years since Sleepy Atlantis was last a band, he got married and had a family, and he and his wife own and operate a small business related to the medical field. But the band did play a show at the Twilite Lounge in September, so it stands to reason that there are indeed holes in his schedule to flesh out more songs. Good thing, because this song is pretty great. — Steve Steward
Contact HearSay at Anthony@FWWeekly.com.