Have you ever heard a song on the radio that just strikes a chord (no pun intended) within you, and you just can’t share it? That’s exactly what happened with me and The Zolas. From the moment I heard the beautiful and poignant “Knot in my Heart” on the radio I knew I had to find out more about them. I delved deeper into their latest release Ancient Mars and pretty soon I was hooked. The B.C. band are passing through Toronto tonight, and I managed to catch up with singer Zachary Gray to chat music, literature and our best addictions.
Here’s a kind of trite but necessary question: where did the band name come from? The writer in me is very much hoping for a literary answer!
Yeah it’s a literary reference. We named it after a French writer called Emile Zola, who was the first guy to really write about low-class people — prostitutes and grimy mining towns — and sell them to rich people. All the upperclasses looked down on his books as trash but were secretly devouring them at home.
I know it’s difficult, but if you had to classify or “name” your band’s sound and style, what would you say?
These days I’ve given up on fabricating a specific pretentious genre name and I just say we’re a pop-rock band. It’s tempting to try to impress people by coming up with some kind of distinctive sub-genre but who cares. We’re a bit arty and interesting but in the end we’re just pop rock.
You’ve now got two records under your collective belts. Can you describe the evolution from Tic Toc Tick to Ancient Mars? What’s new and different about this latest record?
When we were making tic toc tic we wanted to just sound like a band in a room kicking the shit out of their songs. I wanted us to sound like The Kinks and we totally failed at doing that part but we ended up with something new and different. Ancient Mars was meant to be more textural and more beats-based. We were listening to a bunch of Animal Collective and Gorillaz and we wanted to make really compressed guitary headphone music that makes people bob their heads.
In songs like “invisible” and “knot in my heart” you’ve managed to take completely universal feelings and experiences and express them musically. It’s incredibly relatable, and it’s what made me love your music from the first listen. This is a big question but how is it that you do that with seemingly no effort? What’s the process, if any, behind that?
My process is that I spend about a week going to coffee shops and libraries and sitting at home without writing anything good at all, becoming increasingly convinced that I’ll never write anything good again, and then on the 5th day the clouds parting and I get about an hour’s worth of creative avalanche where everything feels witty and fun and incisive and true, and then that dries up and I’m back to the salt flats of bad writing for another 5 days.
At Addicted, we like to shed positive light on the concept of Addictions. The magazine was founded upon the principle that an addiction can fuel you and drive you to accomplish great things. What would you say is one of your addictions (a positive one)?
I keep my house really tidy. Of all my roommates I’m the one who’s always sweeping the floor and wiping the counters. I’m not a neat freak or anything but if my house isn’t clean I can’t be as productive.
Be sure to catch The Zolas at Lee’s Palace tonight (opening for Mounties) and get addicted to some great new music.
*photo credit Kirsten Berlie