Authority Zero has never been called “negative.” Even during a pandemic, they kept their collective chin up, put their heads down and wrote what could be called their career album.
Set for release in June, Authority Zero’s album “Ollie Ollie Oxen Free” takes a line from hide and seek to encourage fans to leave the COVID-19 depression behind and celebrate life. During the pandemic, singer Jason DeVore saw families torn apart by political views and COVID-19. Now that the divide has somewhat subsided, it’s time to come out and be yourself again.
“The phrasing in the title track stems from the idea of ‘come out, come out, wherever you are,’” says DeVore, who co-writes with bassist Michael Spero.
“It encourages a focus on the positive side of 2020, while still maintaining awareness of the hardships and detriment of it all. People have been trapped within themselves, depressed inside of their houses and otherwise. We’ve been separated both politically and mentally between the left and right, which is very apparent. It’s a focus of come out, feel free and feel a sense of confidence to live with an unheavy heart and mind again.”
The title track rattles those cages with DeVore’s encouraging lyrics, the frenetic blur of Christopher Dalley’s urgent drumming and Spero’s bass, coupled with muscular guitar licks true to the playing style of new guitarist Eric Walsh. Authority Zero brought along a few friends for the ride—Iagri Shuhei from Japan’s HEY-SMITH on “Ear to Ear,” while Pennywise’s Jim Lindberg guests on “Don’t Tear Me Down.”
For “Ollie Ollie Oxen Free,” Authority Zero broke from tradition and returned to producer Cameron Webb (Sum 41, Pennywise, A Day to Remember, Motörhead, Megadeth). Webb last worked with Authority Zero on 2013’s “The Tipping Point.”
“Working with a guy like Cameron is great because he’s just as invested in the writing process and the music in general as you are, the artist,” Spero says. “He was writing in there with us. It felt like having a fifth member for a little while.”
That “fifth member” enhanced the music and lyrics of Spero and DeVore, who hunkered down for three months during the pandemic’s grip to hash out the songs for “Ollie Ollie Oxen Free.” The two were committed to the lyrics, melodies and music — until Webb came along. That’s not a bad thing, Spero says.
“We ended up with different lyrical content than we had originally decided,” Spero says. “Jason sends a type of message that he’s always looking at the positive side of things and challenges his listeners to grow in that way. Cameron was able to go in there and push it further.”
Webb brought the best out of Dalley, too, by letting him unleash his inner Keith Moon, who, ironically, is one of his heroes. The song “Ollie Ollie Oxen Free” was written around one of Dalley’s drum ideas. Spero was so inspired that he penned the music overnight.
“I had been told by other producers to simply — keep it simple, stupid,” says Dalley, whose son is named after Moon. “He told me to play the weirdest stuff I could think of. He told me to go off where necessary. That was something I never experienced as a drummer before.”
Formerly of Pour Habit, Walsh is the latest addition to Authority Zero, having come into the band’s fold in February 2021. He’s never been far, however. Authority Zero took Walsh’s first band out on its first national tour. At age 18, he hung out in his van while Authority Zero hit the stage inside of legendary venues like Club Rio in Tempe, Arizona.
DeVore, Spero and Dalley knew Walsh was the one — right then and there — during auditions.
With its updated sound, “Ollie Ollie Oxen Free” fits in with Authority Zero’s catalog, DeVore says.
“It’s more of the times of 2020,” he says. “We really tried to focus more on the positive side of things that came from the pandemic, rather than the negative that came out of it.
“We inflect lyrics and music in an uplifting manner. We wanted to shine a light at the end of the tunnel.”