Pause & Play

Protein’s steady diet

Josh Zee’s candor is refreshing: Congratulate the Protein lead singer-guitarist on the band’s resounding writeup in a recent Billboard magazine review and he says a polite thank-you, but he wants to know if anyone will read it.

The San Francisco-based rock trio garnered a critics choice rating in Billboard for “My Blood,” the taut and tuneful first single off the group’s WORK Group debut album “Ever Since I Was a Kid” (due Feb. 25).

Zee appreciates the reviewer heaping praise on “My Blood,” but he wants to know why the writer says the song borrows from a few classic George Thorogood jams.

“Nothing against George Thorogood,” Zee said recently, “I mean, I like George Thorogood a lot, but we don’t sound anything like that. I can’t find one instance when we sound like him. Maybe it’s the drums, the classic shuffle beat. I don’t know.”

No matter, Zee said, he does like how the reviewer lauds the band for not giving in to temptation and “duplicating the alterna-rock sound of the moment.”

“We didn’t set out to fit into a category,” Zee said. “We just went with what we do best: play some solid guitar rock.”

Zee and drummer Dan Thompson have known each other since their rough and tumble days at San Rafael High School and have played in several bands together, all of which Zee admits stunk. Things didn’t start clicking until they set out on their own, recruited bassist Russ Violet and began playing the Bay Area club circuit.

Word spread quickly after a lively performance at last year’s SFO2 Showcase, and the labels swooped in. After barely a year together, the trio had a deal and went to WORK.

“I don’t believe in fate or destiny,” Zee said. “It’s just a roll of the dice, and I think we got lucky. Some people think maybe that we didn’t pay any dues, but the experience you need is the kind you can only get when you get out there and play and live it day to day.

“As a unit, we bonded together musically, and we’re great friends, and I think the fans and the label people can see that. That’s all they needed to know about us.”

On “Ever Since I Was a Kid,” Protein takes energetic rock excursions through “Obligations,” “Road Rash,” “Refrigerator” and “Slightly Bitchy Philosopher Dream Chick Meets the Insecure Martian Prophet.” Elsewhere, notably “Maybe I Will,” Zee’s personality comes out: “A thing I always wanted to do but I never did/Is drive my car and turn my car to the right going 90, laughing and yelling as my head explodes/Things that I wanted to do just for fun/Things that I wanted to do, but never done.”

“Most of the songs are about being a child,” he said, “but I didn’t consciously set out to write about those things. They’re songs about growing up. They’re somewhat autobiographical. Some true, some dreams, some lies. They’re not totally to the letter of my life.”

Protein has shared stages with Silverchair, Failure, the Breeders, Primus, and more recently, the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow. Zee is living a lifelong dream and says he’s aware that there are kids out there now that are looking up to him.

“Growing up in San Rafael,” he said, “I followed a band there that never made it big (Psychefunkapuss). Everybody looked up to them. There was something mystical and magical about them. But now that I’m older and supposedly now on their peer level, the mysticism is gone. It seems strange to me that there are kids out there in the audience who feel the same way I did years ago and are feeling that way about us.

“All I know is, I’m always the same person, and always will be. There’s nothing poetic about my life. It’s just rock ‘n’ roll.”

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