Cap N’ Jazz, Make Believe Guitarist Reveals Secret Behind Trippy Riffs

Sam Zurick was born pre-1975. “It sucked,” he says. “But it was what it was and there I was.”

His favorite piece of clothing: a Van Halen themed painter’s hat covered with more than a dozen Van Halen themed novelty buttons.

Sam’s grammar school teachers kept saying he was a math prodigy. All he did was memorize answers. He excelled at math tournaments, but quit due to paranoia he’d get caught cheating.

In an eighth grade General Music course, he met longtime bandmate Victor Villareal. On the first day of school in ninth grade, Sam’s locker was right next to longtime bandmate’s Tim Kinsella’s.

They later formed seminal post-emo band Cap N’ Jazz. His mom bought Sam an acoustic guitar for Christmas sophomore year. Cap N’ Jazz gained local notoriety.

“Junior year of high school Vic and I thought it’d be a smart idea to sign up for the Beginning Guitar class so we could blow off the course and practice original tunes,” Sam recalls. “Problem being the class started at 8:30am. It was when Vic and I were heavy into smoking marijuana before-school, during-school, and of course after-school. So, Vic and I both flunked Beginning Guitar because we were too busy hanging-out outside of the classroom doing things like watching the movie Lawnmower Man.” The three still play together in bands, like Joan of Arc, Make Believe, and Owls.

When writing music, Sam’s world and his place in it suddenly makes perfect sense. “It may take 5 hours or 5 minutes, but goddamn what a nice feeling.” His practice routine has evolved.

“Back in the day we’d get as much weed as possible and sit around and smoke and jam for hours. When I wasn’t around friends I’d stay as physically fit as possible to offset all the sitting around & zoning out.” Practice tricks are a bit more nuanced today. Don’t use the guitar for small-talk.

For your zoning out pleasures

“Use it to uncover the rejected parts of your mind you’ve been forced to suppress due to fear of being viewed as a social outcast,” he imparted. “If the world makes even a wee bit more sense after you put the guitar down then you are officially an amazing guitarist.”

He also professes the importance of both hands. “The hands work together and should be treated as equals when considering the singular sound a guitar makes when being played.” To what does Sam credit his bizarre style?

“Not having formal musical training means I have zero frame-of-reference for what makes a time signature odd or not-odd,” he told [your publication here]. “If you showed me a time signature and asked me to explain it I’d kindly request you pause for a moment while I Google, ‘what is a time signature?’.”

Unlike his many fans, Sam doesn’t consider his playing unique. He is aware why people might think this to be so.

“I play with my fingers (no guitar pick); I play in stupid-tunings (e.g., low to high, E F C G C F); I play through a broken amp (usually something’s mechanically wrong with the amp I’m using hence I’m often left with the ‘good enough’ tone). The biggest contributing factor to my supposed uniqueness is the fact I’ve never used effects pedals. I’ve never had an interest, too expensive, too many 9 volt batteries to concern myself with. I’d rather be walking around a foreign city trying not to get mugged looking for a beer store.”

His conclusion? “My style is heavily influenced by the fact I’m a broke drunkard.”

Sam’s music activity is on hold while he works on a book for Featherproof Books. Joyful Noise Recordings recently released Make Believe Live in Cologne, Germany along with singer Tim Kinsella’s Make Believe tour diaries.

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