Squirrel Nut Zippers crack Springfield Summer Arts Festival lineup

Squirrel Nut Zippers. Contributed photo

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Squirrel Nut Zippers. Contributed photo

You’d be barking up the wrong tree to call the Squirrel Nut Zippers’ latest incarnation a reunion.

Band leader and founder Jimbo Mathus prefers the term revival.

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“It’s a revival of the material and also about new music,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun and has multi-generational appeal with energy and spunk you could bring children and grandchildren to for a joyous presentation.”

Squirrel Nut Zippers will swing into the Springfield Summer Arts Festival at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 12, at Turner Pavilion in Veteran’s Park. The concert is free and presented by the Springfield Arts Council.

The Zippers hit it big in the mid-1990s as hipsters adopted a swing revival and the band fit the profile. Although it got them noticed, Mathus won’t classify the band just as swing, but blends hot jazz and cabaret among its influences.

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The band’s 1996 album “Hot” was well named, spurred by the single “Hell,” which got MTV airplay and was a staple on alternative radio stations, launching them into the mainstream. The Zippers soon performed on numerous television programs, at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and at President Bill Clinton’s second inauguration.

Five more albums followed but what was once hot cooled by the early 2000s and band members moved on to other projects, with Mathus doing a lot of producing.

It picked up again in 2009, but the 2016 Zippers, of which Mathus and drummer Chris Phillips are the only original members still involved, have him enthused it’s back to stay.

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“The quality of the band is fantastic. The talent each member brings is high caliber and the crowds have been over the moon,” he said.

Mathus said the addition of the new members brought fresh ideas, resulting in new material.

The group has been writing and recording again with a new album set for release in early 2018. The Zippers have cranked out 19 new tracks so far, helping him discover the current band’s strengths.

The band will play several of the new songs in Springfield. This renewed excitement has translated to energy onstage,

Mathus said.

“We’ll play in a swimming pool if you want us,” he said, laughing. “We’re ready to make a lot of new friends and see old fans.

“Ohio has always been very strong for the Zippers, each region has cool quirks and the fans are extremely supportive,” he said. “Expect some fresh energy and bad jokes and something we can all be inspired by, which we could all use these days.”

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