New Squirrel Nut Zippers album in store


DETROIT -- The members of the reunited Squirrel Nut Zippers figure an album of new material is inevitable, if not imminent.

"We couldn't have (reunited) unless it was creatively alive," said drummer Chris Phillips, who organized the reunion. "Right now we're wanting to put more attention into the band and do some shows through the summer and make sure everything's cool. Then maybe in the fall we'll talk about some recording projects we can work into.

"That has to happen naturally," he continued. "There's all sorts of great plans we can conceive of, but it has to happen on its own. And we're comfortable to let that happen. We're not in as much of a hurry as we were before."

But singer/multi-instrumentalist Katharine Whalen says that she feels certain the group will begin working on its first new album since 2000's "Bedlam Ballroom" this year.

"We have been talking about it," she said. "I'd be glad to do it; I love making records. This feels comfortable and it feels expansive and it's a good creative place to be in."

The Zippers went on hiatus in 2001, exhausted from touring and frustrated by lawsuits with a former manager and bandmates. Whalen released two solo albums, while James "Jimbo" Mathus released six albums and toured with Buddy Guy. Phillips moved to Los Angeles, where he plays sessions, formed a band called the Lamps and co-wrote the travel guide "Dancing to Morocco" with bassist Stuart Cole. Trumpeter Je Widenhouse is also a member of the Firecracker Jazz Band.

Phillips says that the Zippers' "chemistry is still very much intact" and that everyone is getting along well. The group's creative appetite means that "we're not doing the old songs exactly the same way we used to," and Phillips says it's anyone's guess which direction any new music might take.

"Is the source material we're thinking about going to be '20s or '30s hot jazz?" he said. "I don't know. It could be Appalachian. It could be country. It could be blues. ... It'll still sound like us, but not like old catalog stuff. I don't think we're interested in trying to be the Squirrel Nut Zippers of 1997; it would have to be who we are today. If that can happen, it would be really good."