Zep Boys have been carrying the Led Zeppelin flame for 30 years, playing the famous rock band’s music, and playing it damn right. Starting out in Adelaide and then conquering the country, they’ve even enlisted orchestras to play at their backs. And if that’s not epic, then we don’t know what is.
Zep Boys are: Tzan Niko on guitar, Warwick Cheatle on bass, Bradley Polain on drums, and they’re fronted by Vince Contarino whose vocals are indescribable. Now, it’s not just that Zeppelin songs are absolute timeless classics, it’s that these four men have carved out a special place in fans’ hearts when they play such a revered catalogue of songs from back when rock ‘n’ roll was king. And they make it so again, with just a bit of symphonic grandeur.
TEO: How did the Zep Boys start?
Vince: The short story is: a bunch of guys from different bands, with a shared love of Led Zeppelin music, deciding to get together and have a jam session playing Zeppelin songs. That was something that we regarded to be the ultimate rock music. We thought it might be fun to put on a show, a one off for the fans of Led Zeppelin, because John Bonham had passed away six years earlier and they were never going to see Zeppelin play live again.
So in our own little town of Adelaide, we put on a night of Led Zeppelin! That was way back in 1986 and it was very, very successful. We had three shows and they were just huge. But we all went back to our own bands afterwards, and we said if we can find some time down the road, we’d do this again because it was a lot of fun!
And one thing led to another – opportunities arose interstate when an agent, manager and promoter started talking to each other and by the end of 1988 we were a national touring band doing it all, from little old Adelaide!
And now you’re playing sold out shows with a full orchestra behind you, what’s that like?
Oh it’s wonderful! But the song writing is essentially starring – the melody line and the rhythm to it. When you’ve got good composition, the songs really translate well to orchestration because it’s the texture of the music and intricacy.
The music is quite epic, and they’re not just simple rock songs, they’re complex and there are time changes. So the orchestra loves playing them because they’re challenging. The arranger loves arranging them because they’ve got all these ingredients to work with.
I watched a video of you playing with the orchestra, and it was all very precise. How do rehearsals work?
I was a bit surprised with that myself! I thought the first time we did it, back in 2004 or 2005, that it was going to be an epic mess. But these musicians are so talented that they read their scores and they get it right straight away.
Where we once used to have maybe three or four rehearsals with an orchestra (which is something I used to push because I was paranoid it wasn’t going to work), now, the last lot of gigs we did with the orchestra at the Sydney Opera House, we got together with the orchestra once! We listened to them go through their paces, had a chat with the conductor – little tidy up stuff, nothing major. And on the day of the show, at rehearsals, we went through bits and pieces with the orchestra. And then that night we performed. We did two shows at the Opera House with one rehearsal, basically!
For the younger generations who may not be as familiar with Led Zeppelin, which album would you tell them to start listening to?
I would suggest the one that the critics slammed the most, and that’s Led Zeppelin III. Because to me, Led Zeppelin III showed what they were going to do, and the critics didn’t quite understand it, although the people loved it. But it’s got lots of beautiful acoustic tunes, it’s got some great blues tracks and some great rocking tunes.
By the time Zeppelin got to Led Zeppelin III, everyone was saying, ‘that’s it – it’s over. It’s no good, there’s no ‘Whole Lotta Love’ – it’s all finished.’ But they just got better and stronger; after Led Zeppelin III there was Led Zeppelin IV with ‘Stairway To Heaven’, ‘Black Dog’ and ‘Rock And Roll’.
So yeah, I reckon that one. If you’re young, I’d get into that – it’s got everything of Led Zeppelin!
STAIRWAY to HEAVEN Led Zeppelin Masters will be playing:
Saturday, July 2: Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre
Friday, July 8 and Saturday, July 9: Melbourne’s Hamer Hall
Find Zep Boys on: