Named after a brand of cheap shoes that guitarist and singer Jed Maheu and drummer Bobby Martin were both wearing when they first talked about starting a band, the two friends began writing material together in 2010. Initially both were on guitar, but by the time they started recording their first single, it became obvious this lineup wasn't going to work for long, so Martin moved over to drums, and Zig Zags played a handful of shows as a duo. Patrick McCarthy met Maheu and Martin when he did sound for them at one of their first gigs, and he quickly became a friend and a fan; when they asked him to join the group as a bassist, he quickly said yes, even though he hadn't played the instrument before.
After releasing a pair of digital singles on their own, Zig Zags released a vinyl 7", "Monster Wizard," on the Tubesteak Tuesday label, and four other singles for indie imprints like Mexican Summer and In the Red followed between 2012 and 2014. The Zig Zags also collaborated with Iggy Pop for a special single to honor Light in the Attic Records, with the band backing the punk pioneer on a cover of Betty Davis' "If I'm in Luck I Might Get Picked Up," and Burger Records put out a cassette-only collection of rare and unreleased recordings titled 10-12 (fittingly, it was recorded between 2010 and 2012). In 2013, Segall, a friend of the band's, offered to help them record an album, and the band cut its self-titled full-length debut at Segall's studio; it was released mid-2014 by In the Red Records. By the time Zig Zags released their second album, Running Out of Red, in May 2016, Jed Maheu had given the band a thorough overhaul. Bobby Martin and Patrick McCarthy were out, with Caleb Miller as their new bassist and Dane Arnold taking over on drums. Following a handful of singles, splits, and side projects, the band returned with another full-length outing in 2019's hard-driving They'll Never Take Us Alive. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi