When the Basilica Block Party kicks off its 17th annual event this weekend, a local band with a soul-stirring sound will make its St. Mary debut.

Zoo Animal is a Minneapolis trio, made up of singer/songwriter Holly Newsom, bassist Tim Abramson and drummer Thom Burton. Their sometimes tender, sometimes grunge appeal has a wide range, moving effortlessly from intense to sexy smooth.

Lead singer Newsom said that’s all part of their sound.

“I’ve been saying it’s minimal grunge pop,” she said. “We’re really particular about the idea that if one note says it better than three, we’ll use one.”

Newsom actually started as a solo artist, but after getting a call to come and play in the big city of Minneapolis — she had been living in Cokato, Minn., population 2,750 — she thought a band might be a better idea.

She said she was always interested in performance art and both her parents were in theater, so music just seemed to fit. But when she bought her first guitar, like many parents, they thought it was just a phase.

“I think that motivated me to make sure it wouldn’t be a phase and prove them wrong,” she said, with a laugh.

She learned quickly that cover songs and copying other artists wasn’t her thing. Instead, she found the power of creating her own music to be extremely enlightening.

“I just thought it was really empowering to have this tool to create art with,” she said.

Newsom and her band, Zoo Animal — why Zoo Animal? Newsom said quite simply, she just really liked the phonetic sound of it — will take center stage on Friday to perform in their first Basilica Block Party.

She said she and the band are really looking forward to playing for a fun, outdoor crowd.

“Being in a local band, we are used to playing late nights in a bar and I don’t think that’s the only crowd that would enjoy our music,” she said.

Beyond the crowd, Newsom said she’s a fan of the other local bands that will be playing, not to mention the atmosphere of the whole event — live music for a jubilant crowd, an audience that can expect a “light-hearted, intense and honest performance” from Zoo Animal.

To learn more about Zoo Animal, check out its website. Zoo Animal will play from 5 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. on the Vita.mn Stage on Friday, July 8. For tickets and more information about the Basilica Block Party, click here.


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