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May 8, 2020

Interview with The Homeless Gospel Choir

Interview with The Homeless Gospel Choir

​​We had the pleasure of interviewing Derek Zanetti of The Homeless Gospel Choir over Zoom audio!
​​Please share while we are #togetherathome ​🏠​
​​“Since 2009, Pittsburgh, PA-based musician Derek Zanetti has been making records and touring the...

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​​We had the pleasure of interviewing Derek Zanetti of The Homeless Gospel Choir over Zoom audio!
​​Please share while we are #togetherathome ​🏠​
​​“Since 2009, Pittsburgh, PA-based musician Derek Zanetti has been making records and touring the world as The Homeless Gospel Choir. The ever-evolving project has roots as a solo act with a deep yearning for community and connection, channeling singer/songwriter intimacy through a punk lens. But in the wake of personal upheaval and within the unrelenting turbulence of modern life, Zanetti felt driven toward reinvention, and aimed to create an album that reflected a communal spirit more explicitly than ever before. The result is This Land Is Your Landfill: a raucous, urgent, full-band record that finally captures The Homeless Gospel Choir as the punk rock family it was always meant to be.
​​From the very beginning, The Homeless Gospel Choir has been a search for belonging. “I always felt like a loner and struggled to make friends in school,” Zanetti explains. “But I found acceptance in punk.” After growing up in a conservative, evangelical family, he found a whole new world to explore in the music, camaraderie, and ideals of this subculture. “I didn’t know what I was doing, I just had a bunch of opinions and I could play a few Johnny Cash songs in a punk fashion,” he recalls. “But it was super inspiring to find other people who were interested in creating environments where everyone was welcome. It was truly revolutionary to find that.” The Homeless Gospel Choir began to take shape with only Zanetti and his guitar, and over the course of 10 years, five LPs, and countless shows, the project earned a devoted cult following. Then in 2018, Zanetti’s father passed away and things began to change.
​​“My dad and I had a hard relationship,” he says. “But he called me days before he died, I was on tour and said he was proud of me. Three days later I got home from that tour and he passed away, so I didn’t have closure with him and this interaction, which could have been the start of a whole other life between us.” Turning to songwriting as a means to process his feelings, Zanetti found that The Homeless Gospel Choir’s usual stripped-back sound wasn’t impacting him as it once had: “I just couldn’t sit there quietly by myself like I had in the past. I was listening to things like The Pixies and those big, noisy sounds gave me a lot of solace.” Zanetti decided to lean into the comfort of loud music, and assembled a gang of friends and co-conspirators to help realize a new version of The Homeless Gospel Choir.
​​Produced by Anti-Flag’s Chris#2, This Land Is Your Landfill features performances by a cavalcade of punk rock collaborators, including Matt Miller (Endless Mike and The Beagle Club), Maura Weaver (Mixtapes, Ogikubo Station), Megan Schroer (Boys, Kitty Kat Fan Club), Craig Luckman (Small Pollen, Belly Boys), Rick Steff (Lucero), Steve Sobosli (Punchline), and Billy Kottage (The Interrupters, Reel Big Fish). The album bolsters Zanetti’s witty yet unabashedly earnest songwriting with a wall of distorted guitars and pounding drums, creating a dynamic ode to the power of chosen family in the midst of a world that seeks to commodify our every moment. “I think even sad music should be a celebration of some sort and I couldn’t find a way to celebrate these songs until I brought other people along,” Zanetti says. “That’s when I felt that joyous feeling. I felt stronger about the feelings I was having instead of ashamed.”
​​The fuzz-saturated first chords of opener “Global Warming” make it clear that This Land Is Your Landfill is The Homeless Gospel Choir like you’ve never heard before. The song explodes into an ecstatic chorus where Zanetti’s voice is joined by his fellow musicians, the lyrics attempting to grapple with the sheer existential dread of the global climate crisis. This blend of uplifting melodies and direct lyricism defines much of This Land Is Your Landfill, through


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