Q&A with the Zolas

The Zolas
Last week, the Zolas released their debut album Tic Toc Tic, a twelve-song collection of bouncy piano rock that’s equal parts catchy and heartbroken, ranging from apocalyptic love songs (“The Great Collapse”) to R&B-infused attacks on hipster culture (“You’re Too Cool”).

The Zolas are currently touring Canada in support of Tic Toc Tic with Immaculate Machine, and on December 18th will return home to Vancouver to play all-ages show at the Vogue Theatre with Hey Ocean!

I recently caught up with singer/guitarist Zachary Gray and pianist Tom Dobrzanski via e-mail to discuss the new album, the tour, and befouling the washrooms at an all-girls college dorm.

CH: Where are you as you answer these questions?
ZG: Between Waterloo and Windsor on the 401. Aaron is driving and Tom and I decided to sit in the back and be productive and then watch movies.
TD: We just dropped Aaron’s girlfriend Mary off at her all-girl residence at Wilfred Laurier where Zach and I snuck in and took shits in their bathroom. There was a piece of graffiti in the stall that read: “’I am really high, therefore I am.’ –Descartes”

CH: Why did you choose to rename yourselves the Zolas, rather than stick with the Lotus Child moniker?
TD: No. You don’t understand, it’s called The Zolas now.

CH: There are a couple of songs on Tic Toc Tic that criticize Vancouver’s hipster/Biltmore scene. As an indie band, do you have any concern about alienating your fan base?
TD: No, because I think even hipsters are beginning to realize how ridiculous they are.
ZG: Tom can say that pretty unhypocritically, but I’m about as much a hipster as anyone. A lot of this album is about being in your twenties and living in Vancouver, and being a part of what’s called a hipster scene is a part of that for me. These songs aren’t that critical of it either. I mean, yeah, what I want more than anything is for us to start behaving like politically motivated young people instead of just dressing like them. But when I was in high school it was cool to dress like a wigger and call girls bitches and not give a shit about anything. Now cool is to dress like a philosophy student who plays in a band and refuses to use plastic bags. It’s not enough, but it’s progress.

CH: There’s a lot of songs on the album that describe failing relationships. What inspired the lyrics?
ZG: It’s what you’d imagine, I guess. Over the last year and a half I lost a big love.

CH: Do you have any plans to expand the Zolas’ lineup beyond a two-piece?
TD & ZG: Yeah. Eventually there will be full-time bass and drums. It’s more about finding the right people. Like right now we’re on tour with Aaron Mariash, drummer of Will Currie and The Country French, who we met in the summer, and there’s talk of a civil union between us and Henry and the Nightcrawlers, whose album 100 Blows everyone should be waiting for. It’s like someone asked Elvis Costello to write the soundtrack to a Wes Anderson movie.

CH: You’ve toured Canada from Vancouver Island to St. John’s, Newfoundland. What’s your favourite place to pass through?
TD: To be totally accurate, we’ve never been to Newfoundland, and we still haven’t played at home in Vancouver or Vancouver Island, (ed: oops) but our favourite city to play is Montreal. Zach and I both have siblings living there, and they have two things I love: 1) excellent music stores, and 2) bring-your-own-wine restaurants. That’s all it takes for me. Plus we’re always well-received there.
ZG: My favourite place to pass through is any provincial border. I love traditions, and we started a tradition this tour of sharing a Cherry Blossom every time we cross a border. It began as a joke in a candy-laden laundromat about how nobody ever ever buys them, and how inappropriate it would be for three guys to share one. I wouldn’t call them our favourite, but they’ve grown on us.

CH: What music have you been listening to in the van?
TD: Mostly jazz today – Avishai Cohen, Brad Mehldau
ZG: Henry and the Nightcrawlers, Fiona Apple, Radiohead. But our jam this tour is “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus. We play that song at least twice a day. Tom just bought it on iTunes, actually, so that we can dispense with the MySpace version and fully appreciate the sonics. It’s playing right now as I type this. It’s perfect. The chorus hits so fucking hard.

CH: What’s your dream gig?
ZG: You know, we’ve still never played at home, so I’m going to say at the moment I think the dream gig would be an outdoor festival with all of the great bands we’re lucky to be friends with in Vancouver. Mother Mother, Dan Mangan, Said the Whale, We Are the City, Hannah Georgas, Henry and the Nightcrawlers, Hey Ocean!, Brasstronaut, and a lot more. As far as I’ve heard, our city has never really had a supportive, open-hearted music scene before, and suddenly here it is and we get to be a part of it.

CH: What’s the shittiest gig you’ve ever played?
TD: I think we played the worst by far in Halifax, but it only served to prove the mystifying truth about performing: people tend to like your worst show about as much as your best show.
ZG: Sudbury wasn’t great either. We’re on tour opening for our new friends Immaculate Machine, and they got super sick, and then we slept in the band room under the bar on naked mattresses and questionable comforters. We decided to sleep wrapped up, soft-taco-style, and personally it felt like having unprotected sex with my whole body all night.

CH: What’s next for the Zolas?
TD: Finish this tour and go home, play with Henry more, play our first show in Vancouver (an all-ages show with Hey Ocean! to be announced soon).
ZG: I have to practice piano for a musical I’m doing in February and March called Billy Bishop Goes To War. I also just moved into a special new house between whose walls I’m just excited to exist.
 
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