Zeroed Hero pours a classic blend of '70s rock and '90s alternative that’s more Muhammad Ali than Mike Tyson, featuring tight, riffy guitars and smart, thoughtful lyrics presented with sweet, memorable harmonies. Their high-energy live shows built on visceral rhythms, immersive grooves, rich melodies, and powerful harmonies showcase the strength of their songwriting and have earned them the title of the Madison Area Music Association's 2020 Breakthrough Artist of the Year.
- Chris Franczek - bass & vocals
- Dean Kesler - vocals
- Katrina Harms - keys & vocals
- Stefan Truesdell - guitar
- Tony Kille - drums
Hometown: Madison, WI
Sounds Like: Foo Fighters, Rival Sons, Royal Blood
Chris and Dean have been collaborating for decades; music, home improvement, bartending, even dabbling in an online cooking show. They have the kind of chemistry that can only be concocted when best friends fuse with blood relatives. While both are steeped in a broad tincture of rock and roll, they each bring their own ingredients to Zeroed Hero; Chris seasoned his bass chops through cover bands and blues, and Dean extracted his vocal style from powerhouse classic rock and musical theater.
With a pent up need for a creative musical outlet after the demise of their previous band, Chris and Dean shifted their attention to a new endeavor and swung for the fence. The ambitious blue-collar duo set out to write a full-length self-funded album at time when most of their peers choose to crowdfund budget EPs.
After a particularly rough patch of significant loss, Dean turned to writing letters as a means to process the disarray. Never intended to be sent, these one-way communications became metaphorically referred to as “love letters to a mannequin” - a concept that would become the foundation for and title of their first full-length album.
Enlisting the creative firepower of long-time collaborator and former bandmate Chris, Dean set a course for an ambitious journey turning captivating stories into compelling songs. Chris explains, “We take a very riff-based approach to writing. One of us tosses a chunk onto the anvil and we alternate swinging our hammers until it finds a shape we like.”
Dean carried the letter approach over to lyric writing for the album. “The idea of trying to communicate with someone or something no longer available to you provides an interesting creative vehicle,” says the singer. As the writing process transitioned into recording, the pair released their collaborative DNA and reached out to several local musician friends to contribute fresh elements to the project. Chris recalls, “It was a lot of fun and deeply fulfilling to work with a bunch of great musicians who are also really cool people.” Collaborators came from a variety of genres: funk, jazz, blues, americana - nearly everything except rock. The results are an infusion of flavor and texture rarely found on a band’s first release.
Fitting the diversity of influences on their debut album Love Letters to a Mannequin, the live lineup is infused with an array of badass talent packing more natural flavor than an artisanal ice cream shop. Stefan forged his guitar skills in alt-metal and tempered them touring nationally with reggae and funk groups. Providing the tock to our tic and anchoring our rhythm section is americana and rock veteran Tony on drums.
Like your favorite pair of worn jeans, slide in and wrap yourself in the black and blue-collar rock & roll comfort of Zeroed Hero.
"This. Band. Rocks. Watching Zeroed Hero win fans with great audience interaction, handing out glow sticks, having them sing in the mic, and with ZH's overall stage antics and great talent made me proud to be there. It really was a terrific demonstration of how music brings people together . . . "
- Teri Barr, 94.9 WOLX and Maximum Ink
"If this is the future of rock, we are all in. Smart songwriting with incredibly crisp and dynamic recordings, Zeroed Hero is exactly what the genre needs right now."
- Bob Minter, Code Zero Radio
"In a world obsessed with genre-splicing and overly-hip categorizing, ‘Mannequin’ focuses squarely on populist, blue-collar guitars and hooks. This isn't indie rock, alterna-bluegrass, alt-folk, or post-black-metal ska-core . . . this is straight-up, '70s/'90s-styled, no-bullshit rock. It's technically a debut album, but these songs betray some long years honing some serious chops."
- DJ Hostettler, Martian Dance Invasion
"Many of the songs have a tight riff-y sound from a careful interlocking of the rock n’ roll standard guitar, bass, and drums, but that’s important because it exposes the lyrics before they open into powerful and dramatic choruses. Kesler’s voice is sweetened by Margaret’s female harmonies."
- Mike Huberty, Maximum Ink
"Kick-ass songs, great arrangements, great mixing, great performances . . . everything! Love it!"
- Beth K.
"Lyrics are great. Harmonies are frigging sweet. And that B3 plugged in here and there really ties the room together. Good stuff."
- Brian W.
"You guys did a super job putting these songs together. They’ve all got a little kick to them, they have good lyrics, they’re melodic, & they all make me want to jam!"
- Matt R.
"Sounds fantastic! The energy, the approach, the musicality, and the emotion are all top-notch.”
- Mike M.
"It’s been far too long since Archimedes has been referenced in a song. Strong work guys.”
- Mike V.
"Love the new disc. It rocks with a capital "R". And it plays well loud."
- Tony C.