Zen Warship’s Got That Swing

by Jasmine Ward and Molly Guillermo

Coming to you live from WERA 96.7 FM and hot off the district’s music scene, Zen Warship’s unique blend of funk, rock, disco, soul, and pop are bringing sex and sax to Washington, DC via New York City.

Tyler Moselle, guitarist and founding member of Zen Warship relocated to the District in 2016 and teamed up with jack of all trades and master of all Phil Marnell, the lead singer, drummer, and keyboard player. Throw in Italian bassist Roberto Giberti; drummer Reuven Sussman; trumpet, guitarist, backup singer Ben DeVries; trombonist Richie Hertzberg; and saxophonist Michael Liss and you have the double entendre Zen Warship.

The name was chosen to represent the duality of life and music—according to the band, people seek condolence and truce, but also aggression. Zen Warship hopes the “Zen Clan” always wins, and they aspire to use music to help people pursue their “Zen Life.”

The ska influence in their three track EP Sonic Butter, is most prominent in their song “BDSM Blues”. The smutty lyrics are underscored by the trombone, which blasts as they yell out “make her twist and shout.” Their lyrics laugh at other bands, telling them you “ain’t got that swing.”

Zen Warship’s first EP, Sonic Butter, was recorded in 2017 at Blue Room Studios and the band had since had gigs all over the DC area. In late 2018 they released a new single, “Robins Calling”, in February 2019 and it since has been featured on several local DC, VA, and MD radio stations.

Zen Warship aspires to sharpen their craft and continue performing throughout the DC area. They recently performed at the Mardi Gras show, and have a new single called “Robins Calling”. The single was recently played on the radio station WERA 96.7 FM, giving them an underground local status.

They went on tour this year, and have a total of four singles on SoundCloud. Not only did they have two events this year, but they also had previous ones in 2018. A few of those events that were last year at Cosmic Romp at Pearl Street, and later at Bossa Bistro in DC.

Lyrically, the group addresses a range of topics: some of the songs explore relationships, BDSM, the poetry of Mary Oliver, and local DC figures like the controversial Mayor, Marion Barry, who was convicted of smoking crack. Their lyrics seek to entertain, inspire, and inform all at once.

The group has been interviewed by DJ Danny Griffin of Takoma Radio, and Bossa Bistros blog. Their musical influences are wide and diverse which inform their eclectic sound–everything from Miles Davis and Bill Evans’ jazz, to Ravi Shankar’s Indian music, to Nile Rodgers’ disco, to Bad Brains punk, and Fugazi’s post-punk. The band members listen to diverse sounds across the music spectrum that it’s difficult for them to define their style.

They are a DIY band, producing their own music and writing their own music. Their music can be found on Youtube and SoundCloud. The amount of positivity they get from fans is staggering. It’s just a matter of time until they are well known from Maryland to all over Virginia. It will be exciting once they come out with a full-length album.

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Molly Guillermo

Based in DC by way of San Francisco, Molly originally hails from southern California and has a background in English. She aims to explore music’s inextricable tie to pop culture and its evolving relationship with politics.

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