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Embracing now, track by track

by Jessica Romera October 15, 2013
Embracing now, track by track

The Zolas – Press photo.

Nostalgia comes in different forms. There exists the nostalgia filled with warmth that takes us back to a particular blissful moment in our lives, but there also exists the kind of nostalgia that leaves us feeling lonely and longing for the past. The latter form can often disable us from moving forward. Instead of dwelling on a moment or waiting for new ones to arrive, The Zolas have decided to seize the now and release their music as it comes to them without the restrictions and obligations of a full-length album.

“We started really enjoying the idea of writing songs, recording them and releasing them immediately,” said Zachary Gray, vocalist and guitarist for The Zolas. “We as people in our culture, or in all cultures, I don’t know, we only seem to really appreciate a really great moment when it’s sort of in the rear view mirror when we’re looking back at it,” said Gray, “you only feel it really all the way when it’s not with you anymore.”

After releasing two studio albums since 2010, Gray and bandmate Tom Dobrzanski have decided to put the release of a full-length album on hold—at least for the time being—despite having booked studio time for some point in December.

“For people who like, really want to hear cohesive albums from us, they might be waiting a little bit. But for people who just want to hear what is exciting to us right now, what we want to say at this very moment, it could not be a better time,” said Gray.

While their previous albums Tic Toc Tic and Ancient Mars had a more dreamy, psychedelic, alternative feel, their latest single “Invisible” offers listeners a catchier pop tune. “It’s weird; we’re getting at the same time more pop-y and more experimental. With this band, I just wanna write catchy songs,” said Gray, “I guess “Invisible” is a good example of that because that is just, like, straight up pop,” he said.

Gray maintained that The Zolas are not overly concerned with having their sound be classified under any specific genre. “I’m okay being a pop-rock band. That’s the niche, that’s the kind of music we play well together,” he said. “We set a precedent where we can be pretty crazy if we want to be, but we also could write just like a three minute pop song.”

“I don’t think people are going to notice too big of a transition, except we’re a lot more interested in rhythm and about writing that comes out of drum and percussion and I think that’s sort of the way music feels right now. If you listen to any act, it’s all very rhythm based, more so than ever before.”

Initially a two piece band, the Vancouver natives have recently been veering off into new creative territory with fellow musicians James Younger and Cody Hiles, who is deemed by Gray to be “the best drummer in Vancouver.” While Gray and Dobrzanski met at the early age of 13 at choir, Younger and Hiles were introduced to the duo later in their musical careers through other bands.

“This is the first time the four of us have ever really been writing as a team. It’s always been either me, or me and Tom […] we’re having a really good time,” said Gray. “It’s a real blessing to be working with people who have better taste than you,” he laughs.


Despite all the flowing creativity that came along with their first album Tic Toc Tic, Gray and Dobrzanski were at a stand-still when it came to picking the name of the album, or the name of the band for that matter.

“We came up with it because Tom and I never agree on anything,” said Gray, “and when we recorded the album before the band even existed, like our first album, we didn’t have an album title or a band name.”

In order to solve this situation, they engaged in what Gray calls a “no-compromise compromise.” Essentially, Gray would pick the band’s name, while Dobrzanski would pick the name of their first album. Gray decided to pay homage to French writer Émile Zola with their group name.

“The band name is good! It’s short, it’s got a ‘z’ in it which is an interesting letter to start with […] it’s phonetic.”

When they’re not recording or touring, each member is busy on other projects. Dobrzanski owns Monarch Records, a successful studio back in Vancouver, where a number of other bands have spent some time recording (Said The Whale, We Are The City). Gray spends his free days “thinking about music all the time and I travel, and I play as much sports as possible.”

While in school, Gray indulged his athletic side and played for the ultimate frisbee team.

“It’s a really fun sport,” he said, “it’s a total cult, if you’re not part of it you won’t hear about it.”

Given the chance, he would travel to Central Asia. “It’s a part of the world that’s the crossroads of three major civilizations,” he said, “it’s gonna get rough over there and I’d like to see it.”

If he ever decides to retire his guitar, Gray says he would go back to school and get a degree in education to become a high school guidance counselor. “I still might one day,” he said.

“Music is fun but it’s a really selfish thing to do,” he said. “I don’t know, you just travel around the world burning fossil fuels[…] it’s just very narcissistic.”

“I believe in the roller coaster of life where you take the crushing lows and the exhilarating highs and it averages out to about the same as a normal life…I like the extremes.”

No stranger to Montreal—his mother is an Outremont native and his brother went to Concordia—Gray has already compiled a list of things he would like to do while in town.

“I don’t want to say something super cliché like eat a smoked meat sandwich… but it’s actually something I want to do.”

The Zolas play le Cabaret du Mile End on Oct. 18.

Photo caption: Zachary Gray, Tom Dobrzanski, James Younger and Cody Hiles just released their latest single “Invisible”

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