MONTVILLE, NJ – Years of practice and hard work are paying off, as Towaco resident Zach Matari and his band the After Parti are opening for pop singer Andy Grammer at the Quick Chek Balloon Festival on July 27.
Matari told TAPinto Montville he’s been singing since he was very little, because he was shy as a child and his father thought it would be a good way to break out of his shell. Later, he said he hung out with kids who liked music and played the guitar, and in high school he sang in a talent show a cappella, he recalled.
“It was a high I had never experienced, although, looking back I don’t know how well I sang,” he said with a laugh.
Some upperclassmen approached him about putting together a band two weeks before a benefit concert, and “Valhalla” was born, named after the street in Montville. The band sang covers of Led Zeppelin and Guns N’ Roses tunes.
“We all went our separate ways after high school, so I started my solo career,” he said.
Matari met the members of his current band, After Parti, through William Paterson University, from which he graduated last year. Jon Caplan is the keyboardist, and Graham Orbe is the bassist, he said, and they have been playing together for many years. Orbe brought in his friends Mike Santacruz, who is the drummer for the band, and James Licata, who plays guitar. After Parti has been together for about six months, Matari said.
“It all came together organically,” he said. “We all play R&B, funk and rock, but differently, but it jibes.”
Matari is excited about how this summer has been going because the band has had many big gigs, and he’s also been doing a lot of writing.
“We’ve been doing a lot of festivals, like SailFest in Connecticut [July 14], and it’s been like nothing I’ve ever felt before,” he said.
Another success for Matari has been the popularity of his single, “Mirror.”
“Last summer some Instagram bloggers and fitness models from BiteSizedFitness had the idea to do a runway show to portray women of all different body types, to show that there are all types of beauty, and they got in touch with me and asked me to be the performer,” he said.
The fashion show was a type of anti-Victoria’s Secret reaction.
Matari said ideas were thrown around about whether to perform a cover, such as Katy Perry’s “Firework,” or his own song “Oh My Lord,” but he thought it needed an “anthem.”
“I wanted to write my own song to explain and deal with positive body issues,” he said.
He collaborated with friends Tai and Ito to come up with a “one word concept to describe the song,” he said.
The concept took a bit of time to come up with, until…
“After hours of thinking, Ito used the restroom, and came out and said, MIRROR!” Matari said with a laugh. “And we were like, ‘Yeah!’”
At first the song was slow, but the trio knew that they needed something for the models to walk to so they increased the tempo. They then added the melody and lyrics, “and then it all fell into place.”
Last fall, the video went viral, with 15 million views, according to Matari. It was featured on Yahoo!, Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan and other sites. On July 16 of this year, “In the Know Beauty” re-shared the song on Facebook, and once again it went viral, with 17 million views and 250,000 shares.
“It was cool putting something positive out and getting positive feedback,” Matari said. “Women were direct messaging me on Instagram, saying, ‘This song helped me get through a tough day,’ and ‘This song made me feel good.’ It’s one of the most – or the most – rewarding thing for an artist to feel like the message is coming across. We close most shows with it because it’s such a positive note to end with.”
The song has also affected Matari and the way he writes now.
“Mirror has definitely changed the way I write now,” he said. “It has pushed me to write songs that are more impactful. It has made me re-think how I write. I don’t just write, like, ‘oh, there’s a girl.’”
Matari is very excited for the band to be opening for a big-name artist like Andy Grammer at the Balloon Festival.
“This is a big one for us and we’ve worked hard for it,” he said. “I’ve gone to the Balloon Festival many times since I was a kid, and we’ve wanted to play it for a while. We submitted our [video to the organizers] and were finally invited to perform. We’re ecstatic. I think we’re starting to do something that’s resonating with people.”
Tickets for the festival can be found at: balloon.
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