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"I had a record called Cake and Pie, and to promote the record we invited a chef to do a pie-making demo, like a serious food demo onstage," Loeb explains, casually dressed in a gray-and-white striped shirt and jeans, with a pink-and-white scarf around her neck.
"We did it sort of as a joke," says the bright-orange-clad Zappa. But, he adds, "People ended up enjoying it and asking questions more than we thought they would."
They approached the Food Network--home to cult chef babe Rachael Ray and "Bam!" populist Emeril Lagasse--about continuing the chords 'n' cooking trend on an existing show. The network bettered their proposal, asking them to create their own program.
"A lot of people who watch Food Network are like us," Loeb says. "We travel a lot, we eat at a lot of restaurants, we cook a lot at home." The program, in the end, became something "that emphasized how we were similar to everybody else--as well as how we're different, the fact that we are musicians and we get to travel and tour around and hang out with interesting friends."
The series' sense of normalcy permeates the "Comfort Food" episode, airing March 19. It draws heavily on Dallas for its inspiration, covering Neiman Marcus popovers and El Fenix Tex-Mex, along with the cookie recipes of Loeb's mom and the chess pie at Loeb's alma mater, Hockaday.
"It's weird and cool at the same time to be able to go into these kitchens at restaurants you've eaten at, or the school cafeteria where I ate for 11 years, and actually make the food with the people who have been making the food there," Loeb says. Sometimes, she adds, "like at the school cafeteria, you don't get to be friends with the people who work there, but you see them every day. It's weird how there's boundaries set up between people.
"But we learned with the show you can just ask anybody a question. You can usually go into anyone's kitchen--even places that we hadn't planned on going into. We were able to just ask, and for the most part they would just invite us back and we could learn things."
The duo similarly pushes their own musical boundaries with their current tour. Loeb's intricate compositions get additional oomph with backing by Zappa and a three-piece band. At their recent Boston show, extra squiggles of riffage fleshed out "Do You Sleep?" And an encore version of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" built outward, one musician at a time, from Loeb on acoustic guitar into a full-band freak-out.
In between Loeb's selections, Zappa shows off some impressive technical fireworks of his own, courtesy of a blazing instrumental medley of his dad's songs, random snippets of covers--"My Sharona" and "Beat It" appeared this night--and his own work.
"I worked out things on guitar that were never meant to be played on guitar," he says. "Steve Vai, who was in my dad's band, played some of these same parts on records, and Frank credited him as playing stunt guitar, or impossible guitar parts, as they were written for horns and keyboards that have different interval leaps that are easier to accomplish--still not much easier, but on guitar it's definitely a challenge."
"Your father's music doesn't get played out, because it's so complicated, it's hard to play," Loeb says, turning to Zappa. "So for a band to be able to play it is really cool, and then for the son of Frank Zappa to be playing it, that's really cool. It's not an easy thing to do.
"This show is different than any of the shows that we've played together before, because we put a band together," Zappa says. "[But] we've done a lot of things as a duo, so it's not strange for us to mix our two styles of rock. She adds a lot of rock music in anyway, but people never think of her as that for some reason."