Growing up, music wasn’t forced onto Robin Zander, but since it was all around him, he really couldn’t avoid it.
“My dad was involved in a swing band,” Zander said. “They would rehearse at my house. That would put musical instruments around me at all times — whether I liked it or not.”
Luckily for fans, Zander would turn that into a career. The front man for the rock band Cheap Trick, Zander is bringing his solo group — the Robin Zander Band — to the Birchmere on Monday.
Zander said after learning how to play a few instruments by the time he was 8, he found an interest in it thanks to the British invasion by the Beatles and the Kinks.
“I hadn’t found my special place — there wasn’t really a band or artist that I emulated,” Zander said. “I think it was a combination of the loneliness of not having a place in music to really grab onto, coupled with Vietnam and the death of JFK … all that stuff. That made me know what I wanted to do.”
Cheap Trick, which has been around for more than 40 years, is well-known for their songs “I Want You To Want Me,” and “Surrender.” Success for the band, however, has come in waves. Zander believes the true talent of the band isn’t necessarily in their recordings, it’s in their live shows.
“We’ve had our ups and downs,” Zander said. “It’s been quite a roller coaster ride for us. … We love to record. … Sometimes we were good at it and sometimes we weren’t. Live we were always good. We knew from the first time we rehearsed what was going on. … When the four of us got together in one band, we knew it was a step above anything any of us had ever done before.”
While Zander does still perform with Cheap Trick, he enjoys venturing out on his own. The idea to form the Robin Zander Band came naturally. While living in Florida, Zander and his friends, who happened to be in the music business as well, would play charity events and social gatherings.
“I’d call my friends up and say, ‘Hey, this organization or this children’s fund needs some money, so let’s go play and raise some money for them,’” Zander said.
Zander’s solo work allows him to venture out of the shadow of Cheap Trick to play a different style of music. He’s written several songs, he said, and this band gives him the opportunity to play those tunes.
“It’s a way of playing things that are dear to me and that I think is worthy, but will never be on a Cheap Trick stage,” Zander said.
Fans of Cheap Trick, have no fear. Zander said the Robin Zander Band does incorporate Cheap Trick songs into their shows. For the show in Alexandria, Zander said there will be a little something extra for the fans.
“I’m bringing my son with me, because I’m just too scared to play by myself,” Zander laughed. “I haven’t done that in 40 years.”
More good news for fans of Cheap Trick — Zander said the band is working on a new record and will be back on tour, starting in Canada, in February.
“We’re going to do a proper tour all summer long and go overseas like we do almost every year,” Zander said.