With their new record, Ancient Mars, The Zolas are set to bring an energy-packed show to audiences across Canada. British Columbia natives Zach Gray and Tom Dobrzanski have been making music together since they joined the same choir as children. The two friends started their first band, Lotus Child, while studying at UBC. Although the band released two albums and garnered a strong following in Vancouver, they broke up in 2006.
“It just wasn’t fun,” said Gray. “We weren’t having a good time and we didn’t think we were good enough.”
Soon after Lotus Child’s breakup, Gray and Dobrzanski started playing together again.
“[Dobrzanski] and I had given up on being in a band,” said Gray. “We just hung out as we used to, played music, drank beer around the piano and wrote a few songs.”
It seems that The Zolas was really born out of a desire to have fun. “The only reason that we exist is out of the spirit of asking ourselves what is going to be fun to do right now,” explained Gray. “We just use The Zolas as an excuse to get our best friends and favourite musicians in the room and just write music together.”
The Zolas’s debut, Tic Toc Tic, was released in 2009. Blending an upbeat pop and rock feel, tracks like “You’re Too Cool” and “The Great Collapse” featured heavily on the XM satellite radio station The Verge.
The Zolas released Ancient Mars on Oct. 2 and while the record reaffirms The Zolas’ ability to write poetic lyrics, it has a very different musical feel. The bouncy piano riffs and crisp notes are replaced with heavier beats, synthesizer reverb and dreamy, smooth vocals. In short, The Zolas are moving towards progressive pop.
“The music that we’d found ourselves listening to lately was the kind of music that makes your head bob on a subliminal level,” said Gray. “You don’t even realize that you’re listening to the song and then suddenly you realize that everyone in the room is nodding in time. We wanted to make music like that.”
The Zolas hired producer Chuck Brody, a veteran of the pop and hip-hop scenes, to bring a different feel to Ancient Mars.
“The way that people listen to music on headphones so much these days gives you an opportunity to really get into their brains,” explained Gray. The hefty beats in the album’s title track, “Ancient Mars,” are almost guaranteed to set your head bobbing and your feet tapping.
“This album is a lot more personal,” Gray continued. “It’s about how you can be so insanely in love with somebody and one day that will end as well.”
While this may seem like a cynical concept to construct an album around, The Zolas are convinced otherwise.
“I don’t want to say that it’s bleak or not-bleak; it’s not about that,” said Gray. “I’d rather look at it this way: some people stay together, most people don’t, but both are pretty much equally beautiful.”
The Zolas are greatly anticipating their cross-Canada tour that sees them bring their five-piece touring band to 25 cities in just over 30 days.
“Every time we play together it’s been so easy,” said Gray. “I’ve had really draining live shows where I felt like I was working so hard but with this group I feel like I’m watching a band and singing along.”
With the release of such a progressive, forward-looking album, The Zolas have cemented their place as a band to watch out for.
Trial Track: “Cold Moon”
The Zolas play La Sala Rossa (4848 St. Laurent) with Hey Ocean! on Wednesday, Oct. 17.