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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Graduate students at Wichita State start punk band Zuzu’s Petals

Combining their study of poetry and prose with punk, graduate students Kyle Hall and Jack Anderson created the band Zuzu’s Petals alongside their friend Emmalie Hurla in October.

Hall is the band’s vocalist, songwriter and guitarist. His professional and academic life revolves around poetry, so he often incorporates it into his music.

“Lyrically my studies in poetry have really informed my lyricism even without meaning to just by being immersed in poetry all the time,” Hall said.

Anderson is the band’s drummer. When balancing his work and band responsibilities, he finds the creative intersection between each helpful.

“Since we are immersed in such a creative community, it still does feel like we’re feeding that artistic monster a little bit,” Anderson said. “So I don’t beat myself up too much about it because I do get my work done. It just takes a lot of effort.”

Hurla is the band’s bassist. She’s a Kansas State University graduate and works at the Sedgwick County Zoo. She’s new to the instrument but has begun learning for the band. Her experience with playing instruments lies in her upbringing playing piano.

How Zuzu’s Petals bloomed

Chronicling the band’s origin, Hall and Anderson met as office mates on the sixth floor of Lindquist Hall. The two were both pursuing an MFA for Creative Writing in Poetry and shared an interest in music that inevitably sparked their connection.

“I knew of Kyle before I met him, and then I knew I wanted to convince him to play music,” Anderson said. “And that eventually came up, but it took a second. We became friends first.”

Hurla’s connection to Hall and Anderson is through her husband, Alexander, who works with them in the creative writing program. Hall and Anderson call Hurla an ‘in-law’ of the program.

The band’s name, Zuzu’s Petals, comes from the “It’s a Wonderful Life” character, Zuzu. The conversation came up during a band practice in Hall’s home regarding his “It’s a Wonderful Life” themed blanket. Zuzu’s Petals refer to a significant symbol in the film.

“At first, Kyle and I were very worried about … being too loud,” Anderson said. “And so we would have to mute the drums (by putting the blanket over them). One day, we were testing out names, and I looked at Zuzu (on the blanket), said Zuzu’s Petals, and we kind of started joking about that.”

Zuzu’s Petals’ music-making process takes a collaborative effort that honors their shared artistic vision.

“Kyle usually comes to the table with the song or enough structure of a song that I can play drums on it,” Anderson said. “Then we’ll work on it.”

They face occasional trial and error during the writing process but find that constructive input from each other strengthens their music.

“Some songs just get trashed. I write them, and they sound good by myself,” Hall said. “But when Jack and I sit down to try to really flesh them out, it’s like, ‘Oh, this one didn’t work.’”

Hall, Anderson, and Hurla find the time they’ve spent together for the band has solidified their connection.

“Chemistry is everything,” Hall said. “You might be the best musician in the world, but when you sit down to play together (as a band), it’s just awkward. It’s way more rewarding and fun to be in a band with people you’re friends with already. And then maybe your band sucks, but you have a good time working on it.”

Expanding the scope

During the end of the fall semester, Hall and Anderson balanced their first year of graduate school by playing Zuzu’s Petals’ first show at The Donut Whole and recording the band’s debut album, Roses & Thorns, which was released on Jan. 12.

Hall and Anderson found some difficulty with the workload the band had added to their lives. Both consider Zuzu’s Petals’ output rewarding and worth the struggle. The two help hold each other accountable when school gets hectic.

“The band is my excuse, like not to do things,” Hall said, jokingly. “Like, well, maybe I didn’t get as much writing as I wanted to do, but we wrote a song.”

Musical influences

Whether it be from film, music, geography, or the literary work and poetry Hall and Anderson absorb in their academic career, Zuzu’s Petals draws from multiple influences.

Hall cites indie-folk band The Mountain Goats as a significant inspiration. He also found that all the bandmates enjoy older music and bond together over artists like The Beach Boys, Neil Young and Eagles.

“We’re a very loud band, but the songs themselves are relatively simple and lyrically driven,” Hall said. “I think that there is a singer-songwriter sensibility to the music.”

While working harmoniously with Hall on the music’s rhythm, Anderson and Hurla’s sound is punk-influenced.

“The rhythm part, which Emilee and I do, is more punk-based,” Anderson said. “And that’s mostly just because Emilee and I just learned how to play these instruments.”

While Anderson and Hurla are both from Kansas, Hall has lived in various cities nationwide, which comes up frequently in their music.

“I think a lot of Zuzu songs are place-based, like Chicago comes up in almost all of my songs,” Hall said. “Boston and Los Angeles, just places where I’ve lived before. Quite a few of the songs are about Wichita.”

Moving forward

As of now, the band has multiple shows scheduled throughout January at local music venues, like Kirby’s Beer Store and MonikaHouse.

Considering the band’s future, Zuzu’s Petals seeks to continue making and recording music. Plans to tour the United States over the summer are in early discussion.

“I feel like there’s something appealing in being a midwestern band that makes it to the West Coast,” Hall said. “Anywhere (to tour) is fine, but I’m really a go big or go home person, just in general; I think the band is a lot like that, too. If we’re going to do it, we’re gonna do it all the way.”

Zuzu’s Petals can be found on Instagram, @zuzu.s_petals, for updates on shows and releases. The band’s first album can be streamed from Bandcamp for free.

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About the Contributors
Monique Bever, Reporter
Monique Bever is a first-year reporter and photographer. She is a freshman majoring in philosophy. Monique has lived in Wichita for most of her life. She loves film, fashion, and her cat.
Gavin Stephens, Photographer
Gavin Stephens is a first-year photographer with The Sunflower.

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