Wave goodbye: Michael Barrow talks leaving town and putting St. Pete rock outfit Zulu Wave to bed

A reunion/farewell show is set for June 16 in Ybor City.

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click to enlarge Zulu Wave (with Barrow second from left). - Brian Schanck
Brian Schanck
Zulu Wave (with Barrow second from left).

Michael Barrow was fresh off of a divorce and looking for a new start when he moved to Tampa Bay in 2011.

He found it in Zulu Wave, a St. Pete rock outfit which leaned on sonic lessons that Barrow, 29 learned back home in South Africa.

Watch Zulu Wave's version of an endless summer in a new video for "So Cool"

On June 17, Barrow will hop on a place to London to chase more music with an ex-bandmate. Along the way, Zulu Wave — which managed to go through four drummers and four bassists in six years — played seemingly every area festival and even travelled to NYC’s CBGB music festival where they shared the stage with bands like The Hold Steady and Superchunk. Zulu Wave will play one final show on the night before Barrow flight, and we caught up with him to reflect on his time here and the possibility of ever seeing him again.

Read our Q&A below, and see video from a 2015 live session, too.

Zulu Wave w/BAET/DieAlps!/Sun Signs
Fri., June 16, 8 p.m. $5-$10.
New World Brewery, 1313 E. 8th Ave, Ybor City.

Your Bay area origin story is interesting. Mind sharing how and why you landed here, when, etc.?

Previous to Tampa I had been living overseas between South Africa and Zimbabwe both working and studying. I showed up here in May 2011 primarily to play music and experience what that was like here in the U.S.

What parallels are there b/w your arrival and departure? When are you leaving, why, and where are you headed?

Oh it’s super scary when comparing both how I showed up and how I am leaving. I showed up here with the intention of throwing my musical experience into a place I had no experience in, and it was definitely extremely intimidating but at the same time exciting and inspiring. I had played music in South Africa for about five years prior in a fairly prominent band "The City Is the Desert" which was the groundwork for Zulu Wave and a lot of its sounds. In some small poetic way, part of my inspiration for leaving is to make music again with my old band mate from (TCITD) based out of London.

Another part of moving on is the opportunity to travel and experience life and music outside of what has become very normal to me here in Tampa and St Pete. Later in the year I am schedule for Vietnam as well as a few other locations. The exciting part is I fly out June 17, so once again it’s conveniently placed right day after our final show.

This video is from 2015. Can you remember where ZW was as a band then? What does the video make you feel?

Our GNC video I can say personally is one of my more favorite Zulu Wave moments. In the constant struggle between balancing emotion and musical proficiency I feel like we might have come close in this performance (or as close as we ever could come). As a band, we were nearing the end of or run after a busy few years of various members and tours.

Which lineup is going to be playing this show? Any plans to have Dan or Ryan there?

We managed to go through four drummers and four bassists over five years in Zulu Wave so it’s always interesting to look back and see how our sound changed. Each member added a unique sound as well as approach and you can hear that across the music we released, but for this final show we have Josh on drums as well as Brian on bass which was the final line up. I would have loved to have them here for it as both Dan and Ryan contributed a huge amount to this band, however Ryan is in Uganda as far as I know and Dan in North Carolina.

You've played some interesting shows and traveled to some cool places on the name of this band. Talk about closing the chapter on it and the memories you made.

Our band kicked off at just the right time in my life (and possibly all of ours), I had just got divorced and I was ready to uproot and tour as well as travel the U.S. to play music. Small opportunities turned into larger ones and because of that we got to play some great spots at some huge festivals like CBGB fest and Coastline. We all have a wealth of amazing stories and experiences with fellow bands and bandmates alike, some of which we have vivid memories of and some definitely not so much but then there is always social media to remind us.

I think all of us in this band are guilty of looking back at the last few years with a fair amount of nostalgia and that’s partly why we did want to do a final show. While it’s great to play for the people that want to see us, it’s also exciting to end this band as energetically and emotionally as we started it. Lots of the songs meanings hold some strong relevance even now in some of our lives, perhaps more than ever. With a very contrasting new chapter ahead, it’s going to be great for one last night appreciate both what we made and the people who were kind enough to care about what we made.

Will you ever come back to visit Tampa Bay?

I can’t see a reality where I don't come back and at least visit Tampa and all my friends in it. I ended a band around six-and-a-half years ago in Johannesburg South Africa, now all these years later we are about to make music again, so it’s hard to rule anything out. No one ever likes a stagnant art form, so it will be exciting to travel the world and get some new and needed perspective. Zulu Wave was especially influenced by travel and the various cultures I grew up in (including Tampa) so it’s extremely exciting to be able to experience that again.


About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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