Donny Zuzula
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Donny Zuzula

Bay City, Michigan, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2010

Bay City, Michigan, United States
Established on Jan, 2010
Solo Rock Americana




"Donny Zuzula, Chemicals, Self Released"

Donny Zuzula has been one of my favorite Michigan songwriters for the last decade. Scratch that. Donny Zuzula is one of my favorite songwriters. Period. For the last ten years he has fronted, or maybe more accurately co-fronted with his brother Zak, a trio called The Tosspints based out of Saginaw, MI. The Tosspints are usually lumped into the celt-punk category, but the truth is, they’re just a damn fine punk and roll band. I knew that Donny occasionally did solo acoustic shows, so when it came time for his first solo album, that’s what I anticipated. Little did I know that Chemicals would be another full blown, full band album in the tradition of The Tosspints. Don’t get me wrong - I’m not complaining. It’s just not what I was expecting.

Zuzula writes songs that are painfully personal. The kind that expose his greatest hopes and fears. The kind that acknowledge the death of dreams. The kind that force the listener to take a personal inventory. He puts depression, anxiety and self doubt into words in a way that few others can. The irony is undeniable. He writes unbelievably confident sounding songs about his lack of confidence. The music and lyrics are the voice for the words he is unable to speak. It’s so emotionally raw that it might make a squeamish listener turn away.

I could never get into emo music. I’ve always found it whiny and mostly insufferable. Still, here I am inspired by Chemicals. It is undeniably emotional. It makes me feel things. Sorrow and joy, victory and defeat. Maybe this is emo for the 40 year old crowd. Obviously, musical preference is a matter of taste. It’s a matter of how we relate to certain songs and how they make us feel. I can’t guarantee that Zuzula will elicit the same response from you, but for me, lyrically, he consistently strikes all the right chords. Musically too. Here he takes the formula that he established with The Tosspints and adds bits as diverse as new wave and country.

Chemicals is not a concept album in the strictest sense, but it’s definitely a cycle of connected songs with recurring themes. “Alive” starts things off on what I might describe as a bitterly optimistic note. It’s a relatively upbeat song, with contrasting, melancholy guitar leads. While the mood of the record is fairly consistent, some songs are definitely darker than others. Like Many of us, Zuzula has a love/hate relationship with the bottle. “Another Shot” is next in a long line of excellent drinking songs. Two tracks later, “Empty and Gone” puts an outlaw country twist on his classic formula. There are a handful of songs about alcohol as a coping device. It’s not treated as something that’s bad or good, but rather just as something that is.

Zuzula deals with PTSD from his time in Afghanistan. Some of the references to it are subtle, but songs like “Any Other Day” deal with it directly. “Turn Away” is the most heartbreaking song on the record. It’s plainly worded song about trying to break negative cycles and be a better dad than the one you had. It’s about not being able to stop pushing away the only things that you really care about. The title track wraps things up on a note that is somehow both depressing and hopeful. That might be Zuzula in a nutshell. Each of the nine songs on Chemicals is excellent, and together they make something even more potent.

Tosspints records were able to break up the achingly personal songs by injecting tunes about pirates, cowboys and war history. On Chemicals, every song is a gut punch. Chemicals is one of those rare albums that present me with the great paradox of my “punk journalism career”. In some ways, I hate writing about records like this, because I feel my words can’t do them justice. In other ways, shining a light on little records like this is the thing that makes this gig most worthwhile. Chemicals was a leap of faith for Zuzula. It’s his first record without his brother/musical partner, and his first in many years without his longtime label. I don’t know that this is going to be a commercial success, but I can say, without a doubt, that it is an artistic triumph. Do yourself a favor and give it a listen. -

"ALBUM REVIEW: DONNY ZUZULA- ‘Chemicals’ (2019)"

Donny Zuzula has worn a lot of hats and walked a lot of miles.

Having spent a decade as the guitarist, singer, songwriter for the Michigan based Celtic-Punk trio The Tosspints, Donny Zuzula’s debut album takes us through every aspect of his life. Dark, sad, heartbroken tunes, poetically sung from the soul and layered with guitars and harmonies.

The Tosspints are a strange band within the Celtic-Punk scene. Not only are they the only trio in the scene, being made up by the Bros. Zuzula, Donny and Zak accompanied on drums by John Johnson, but they are also not really much of a Celtic-Punk band in that they have no Celtic instrumentation. It is true though that they somehow manage to convey the feel of a Celtic band better than most with just bass, electric guitar and drums. Donny who is the main writer for The Tosspints is a singer-songwriter in the old school meaning of the term. Not some pampered puppet singing achingly of experiences they have never or will ever know. Celtic-Punk is dominated by several themes that cross from continent to continent especially among the children of the diaspora- Loss and emigration, heavy drinking, heavy working and death, solidarity, religion, class pride, an gorta mór (the great hunger) all bleed into the modern day working class Irish-American experience. Donny had a knack back then (a must listen to album is The Tosspints excellent album The Privateer from 2015) of capturing this way of life and here on his debut solo album he continues in much the same way. Donny chose to record a solo album rather than another Tosspints album because

“this solo venture is more of an exercise in writing alone to explore more versatile styles that wouldn’t normally be courted along with the band. A little more folk influence and a little more explorative of personal topics than when writing is done with the band, this album is just different enough to be something new, but just familiar enough that fans of previous work should feel right at home.”

Donny served time in the military overseas and these experiences alongside growing and living in Saginaw, until recently the most dangerous places in America! Once a thriving and successful town by the late 20th century, industry and its once-strong manufacturing presence had collapsed leading to increasing unemployment and crime. This hard nosed, working class background runs through The Tosspints music. It’s also an area of America with long historical links to Irish emigration with Irish emigrants responsible for building the areas many canals and even the areas connection with Irish nationalism has always been closely linked with the Labour movement in which Irish-Americans were among the earliest organizers and leaders. As the band say about themselves

“living through the school of hard knocks, brought to bear from war, loss, degradation, and hard drinking. A band created entirely by a family who has had to make it through life the hard way and use their experience to create songs about the more distressed side of being human”

Donny Zuzula first album is Chemicals, the much anticipated follow up to The Privateer and as ever Donny draws from not from cliches but from the very life of a man who has seen and experienced things we can only dream about. From being a war veteran to fatherhood, Donny takes us on a ride that incorporates Folk-Rock and Punk as well as honest to goodness blue collar working man’s music. Introduced to music through his fathers love of Neil Young, Donny takes a harder edged route and while stopping short of Punk it has the same appeal as The Tosspints and will I am sure be welcomed by fans of that band.

The album begins with ‘Alive’ and the Neil Young comparison is still OK but also crossed with the great Bob Mould. Donny’s vocals still rock and his range is extraordinary and conveys the emotion of the songs perfectly. This is no guy going through the motions. The song is catchy as hell as can be expected and sets the scene for an album that continues to impress me on each play. ‘Another Shot’ veers into that 80’s Post-Punk sound that saw Punk’s not afraid of complicated guitar riffs and more elaborate set ups.

“I crossed a line today
I marched to battle and on my way
It’s just a memory
But feels like it’s all happening again”

The words here seem so personal that it kinda feels funny to attempt to make sense of them from the outside. They speak in such a way that I would recommend looking up the lyrics on Donny’s Bandcamp page. ‘Never Go Back’ slows things down akin to a rock ballad but no cheese while ‘Empty And Gone’ comes up with a delicate Country-rocker. ‘Nothing Left To Say’ takes us back to Mould territory and an excellent rocking tune that gives Donny amble opportunity to show off his vocal range.

Catchy as hell and a guaranteed favourite that leads nicely into ‘Any Other Day’ and if the words here don’t strike you in the gut then there is nay hope for you.

“It’s getting awful late
And my urge to medicate
Has surpassed my will to use the skills
That keep me from the bottom of the bottle”

The final three songs of Chemicals show Donny in reflective form as he turns again to the influence of Country music though wrapped up well in punk attitude. Slide guitar on ‘Turn Away’ makes it the more obvious tune but on ‘Sleep Is For The Weak’ the influence is just as great but more accessible.

“I tell that bottle
all my hopes and my dreams
I tell that bottle
all that’s happened to me
I tell that bottle
the way that I really feel
that bottle understands me
in a way you never will”

Leading the way to the albums closing tune and the albums standout song, ‘Chemicals’.

I would compare Donny in a lot of ways to Bryan MacPherson who has featured on London Celtic Punks pages perhaps more than any artist. Like Donny, Bryan’s life has seen ups and downs and his songwriting draws you right into his soul. We are not voyeurs in their life and they neither hold up their experiences as a vehicle for their music it is much more the other way round and the music becomes the way to express themselves. Where others may play up to events in their lives Donny, and Bryan too, has that ability to draw you into his life through their music. It is something incredible and a talent that very few have and many more think they have but don’t! Chemicals is many things. It is gritty and heartfelt as well as passionate and inspiring and the words are powerful. Chemicals deserves to be heard… - London Celtic Punks

"Donny Zuzula, Chemicals, Tosspint Goes Solo"

When Andy Reed sent me the rough mixes of Donny Zuzula’s first solo record, Chemicals, I was torn for a couple of reasons. First, though I dabbled in the Ramones, Replacements and Husker Du in college, I was no punk. I was not sure I had the vocabulary to do this record justice.

The second thing, as I relayed to Reed, is writing a review of this album was going to feel like I was critiquing another man’s soul. I wasn’t sure I had the vocabulary for that, either.

Finally, weighing largely to the fact that Donny dug down within himself to make this record for us, I decided that I owed it to the music to give it a rip myself.

Many will know Zuzula as one of the visceral forces behind the Celtic-inspired punk outfit, the Tosspints. Others might know him as one of the most interesting follows on social media. Musician. Craftsman / inventor. Doting dad. Owner of the uneasy mantle of modern American war veteran. He’s worth getting to know and through Chemicals, Zuzula allows us to inside his world.

Zuzula is pretty clear in his musical influences. The first was his father, who introduced him to classic folk rock, like Neil Young. It was the type of entry that allowed him an easy portal to the world of punk rock as he developed his own musical tastes.

His wheelhouse, on full display on this recording, is a hard edged, folk influenced rock that is probably too accomplished to call punk at this point. Story telling trumps rhyme scheme, for one. There’s also an honesty in delivery that can only be achieved when you are speaking about the truths you discover through experience.

The album opener, Alive, sets the tone for the disk. With thick layers of melodic guitars, it reminded me immediately of some of my favorite Bob Mould moments. You might also start to guess that Zuzula and Dave Grohl probably had some similarity in their teenage record catalogs. In what is probably a first among all the albums I have reviewed for the magazine, I actually hooked into the energy of this song so quickly that I literally pumped my first when it hit the chorus.

“Another Shot” displays something that was characteristic of the second generation of punks that was somewhat absent from the first. These guys were actually good at their instruments. Fact is, you play along with enough records, suddenly you don’t suck and it comes in handy when writing songs. This song has a killer guitar riff, one of several moments on this record that is going to appeal to fans of aggressive, gut pumping guitar sounds.

If Chemicals has a “concept” it would seem to be a guy working some things out. Mostly with himself. Sometimes with a friend, probably named something like Jim or Jack or Johnny.

On songs like “Never Go Back”, “Empty and Gone” and the title track, Zuzula dials it back a gear, channeling an eerier more ethereal side of folk music. And occasionally drinking your issues into submission.

“Nothing Left To Say” and “Any Other Day” are both driving melodic rockers, which display another trademark of Zuzula’s work, that that is backing harmony vocal parts. Zuzula points to Bad Religion in this regard as an influence. It is an underrated part of many of the classic punk bands, dating back to the Ramones. The backing chant or “marching line” call and response are natural partner for the rhythmic cadences of punk rock.

The album continues to roll along with the Richard Thompson meets Warren Zevon epic “Turn Away” and “Sleep Is For The Weak” will remind you why cow punk was one of the coolest ever genres. (Certainly the one with coolest name)

In all, Chemicals is a figurative Tour De Force. It’s a beautiful statement of melodic noise. A life’s work about the work of life. If we gave ratings, this one would get seven stripes.

Chemicals is available in limited edition vinyl, CD and digital download via all the usual outlets. - The Review Magazine


Chemicals - Album, 2019

Green Shores of My Home - Single, 2021



Songwriter, Singer and Guitarist for the Michigan based punk trio The Tosspints, I cut my teeth writing and recording with a heavy DIY mindset that got more attention than I ever thought it would. Touring across the United States earned me some good friends, we played some really cool festivals Like CBGB’s Fest in New York City, and Muddy Roots in Tennessee, Summerfest in Milwaukee and I got to do some direct support shows for some of my favorite bands even picked up some awards and recognition like from local stuff to the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. That would make an excellent lifetime career if I were to hang it up, but I’m not done.

Now here I am a 40 year old dad, a disabled war veteran with a service dog and I love to get up on a stage with a guitar and my dog and yell at strangers about my problems once in a while because it makes me feel good. For the most part, people seem to like it. I always write from my own life and about my own problems and insecurities, and even though you can’t necessarily dance to it, and it’s not marketable to everyone, the people it does strike a chord with it hits home so hard that they feel a deep connection. As Tom Trauma from put it; “He writes unbelievably confident sounding songs about his lack of confidence. The music and lyrics are the voice for the words he is unable to speak. It’s so emotionally raw that it might make a squeamish listener turn away”.

I feel pretty ok about all that. My current goals are to just write as much and as often and my body will keep up with and to play whenever someone will give me the mic, and me and my service dog, Harbaugh will make a good showing until there aren’t any songs left to sing.

Band Members