Get ready to embrace the summer by throwing on some Ray Bans, switching to flip-flops and turning up the volume for Vancouver’s very own indie-pop duo, The Zolas. Emerging from Vancouver’s vibrant indie scene—not too long ago—was vocalist Zachary Gray and pianist Tom Dobrzanski who put a label on their West Coast summer jams, under the band name The Zolas. From the early days of recording in a self-made basement studio, The Zolas have now produced two full albums, one E.P., and are now on a Canada-wide tour with East Vancouver’s Mounties band. In between trips, Zachary Gray took time to talk to us about the band’s accomplishments, his home city Vancouver and what to expect next from the band.
Where are you guys as we speak?
Sault Ste Marie. My phone’s at 14 per cent. . .just know I didn’t deliberately hang up on you if the line cuts.
What’s the future for the Zolas, given your fan base is growing rapidly these days?
I don’t know man, we want to tour like crazy. We want to release a new album and release music consistently over the course of the year, and not have to wait. Lately it has been tough, because there’s been a lot of time between our albums. And, that’s just sort of frustrating and annoying for us and the people who want to hear our music, so we’re going to be releasing more music more often.
So more singles or another album coming down the road?
Singles, EPs, albums. We have an EP coming down the pipe soon.
Is there a date we should be expecting to hear it?
No, I don’t know, it would be a mistake to try to get a date from me. (laughs).
Did growing up in Vancouver influence your music in any way?
Living in Vancouver definitely influenced our music because our scene is so good right now. There are so many bands that are doing decently, that are from Vancouver, and all of us are friends and have known each other for years before there was any success to go around. We all know each other, see each other at the same parties and have each other’s phone numbers. So it’s nice. Everyone plays a lot of different types of music. Although now I think it’s the pop scene that’s rising up right now. There are a lot of, sort of, ‘prettier’ bands than ours. Like, Said the Whale, Yukon Blonde and Dan Mangan are all good examples.
Give us one thing you hate and one thing you love most about Vancouver.
Hold on. I’ll take a poll with the guys in the car. What’s one thing we love about Vancouver…?
The scenery! We love the scenery. I live close enough to the beach that I can portage an aluminum canoe to the beach and take it out… and I live in the city. That’s pretty cool. But that comes hand in hand with something that I don’t like about Vancouver. We have a really puritanical and provincial attitude to having fun and trusting our citizens to behave like adults. It’s kind of embarrassing to know how much money our government spends on having cops run around with ATVs to pour out peoples’ beer on the beach. That’s just an example. We have a very puritanical by-law system that aims to criminalize people at all times, so they have an upper hand at all times. That’s probably not an answer you were expecting. (laughs).
Tell us about the name of the band, what does The Zolas derive from?
We named it after a French writer from the 1800s named Émile Zola. He was kind of one of the first people in that era to write about really low class people, like hookers and beggars, and sell those books to rich people, all of whom would scoff at his books, but equally devouring them.
What song do you have the closest attachment to?
I think Knot In My Heart. It was a song I wanted to write for a really long time, and it came together in a really great way. Yesterday we played in Toronto, this guy came up to me who didn’t look overly sensitive or anything, but he took me aside at the club and he just gushed about how he heard that song after his divorce and immediately sent it to his ex-wife and she cried… and it was pretty dramatic. I could tell he wasn’t just bullshitting me, the song really meant something to him too and helped him cope with that. Not that I’m Dr. Phil here or anything. But at the same time, clearly we did something right with that song.
The music video came together greatly, too! The stop-motion turned out really cool.
The music video turned out really well (laughs), but I definitely wouldn’t do that again. It was really tedious doing frame-by-frame stop motion, and we didn’t have proper lighting so we had to do three to four second exposures.
So, you guys are performing at the Squamish Valley Music Festival this year, I bet you are all looking forward to that!
This ones going to be quite big and s**t just feels good for our band right now. So Squamish is exciting because we’re sharing a stage with bands that we would pay to see at a festival. And we just get to play for that crowd. I think it’s going to be a great time for people to hear us.
Anything you want to say to your Vancouverite homies?
I run to people all the time now in Vancouver who know our band and it’s a really weird feeling. We’ve always been this obscure, really nerdy, like, pop band. It’s really nice how people in Vancouver are so supportive. There was a time where being a local musician was a strike against you, but now, especially in Vancouver these days, people have a lot of interest with what we’re doing.
Written by Vancity Buzz contributor Behdad Mahichi.