Up-and-coming bands sometimes list purchasing a van as a goal, but local indie hip-hop group ZEALE was born in one.
Valin Zamarron and Kellen Courtley Chumley were fellow ice cream scoopers for Amy’s Ice Creams when the spark that led to the creation of the hip-hop group was lit.
“I remember the first time [Zamarron] and I ever kicked it: We were in the Amy’s van leaving ACL,” Chumley said. “We didn’t know each other, we were just in the back of this van and I started beatboxing and he starting freestyling over it.”
After that fateful day in the back of an ice cream truck, the two started “kicking freestyles” on a semi-regular basis, Chumley said.
Zamarron and Chumley have since traded in their scoops for microphones and turntables in hopes of pursuing professional careers.
Zamarron was born and raised in Austin. Throughout high school, he expressed his creativity through poetry slams and acting. It wasn’t until his sophomore year at Texas State University that he first started creating music.
“It just sounded like a very stripped-down version of the kind of stuff I do now,” Zamarron said. “It was me and my roommate. He didn’t really make music. He just kind of had fun watching me do it.”
Zamarron put his advertising degree on hold in order to dive into music. For now, a career in music is Zamarron’s first priority. He also works as a social media consultant for a Houston- and Los Angeles-based company, despite having left his advertising degree unfinished.
“I haven’t officially graduated,” Zamarron said. “I took all of my upper-division classes … The only thing keeping me from graduating is Spanish.”
Before working for Amy’s, Chumley was in the Marines, which is where he first began spinning on turntables.
“I was in the military and the base got locked down, and it was something I always wanted to do when I was in high school,” Chumley said. “When the base gets locked down, you can’t do anything for like months at a time, so I bought some turntables and learned how to do it.”
Chumley has his own job as a DJ and DJ instructor for the Dub Academy on East Fifth Street, but he said his work with Zamarron has helped his solo career.
Zamarron recently snagged an opening spot on the AWOLNATION and Imagine Dragons tour with the help of his manager, who also manages AWOLNATION. Although Chumley was not with Zamarron on the tour, the two are working and performing together again.
According to Chumley, the group, which also includes drummer Gibran Nassif, gives a very dynamic performance, which can be different each night.
“He actually lets me break down certain parts of the song and manipulate it live while he’s playing,” Chumley said. “He gives me solos and I use that time to make solo performances.”
According to Zamarron, the modern music industry doesn’t necessarily demand extensive recorded work. The limited number of recordings Zamarron has released are more of the indie hip-hop beats that artists such as Childish Gambino have been releasing in recent years.
“If I never had to be in the recording studio, I wouldn’t be,” Zamarron said.