Gimme Your Answers: An Interview w/ The Zolas

The ZolasVancouver, BC’s The Zolas will soon embark on their upcoming tour with Hollerado across Canada. The band will be playing Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall on September 13th, and I cannot wait to hear and see their hook-laden pop tunes come to life on stage. Before the tour madness, The Zolas’ Zachary Gray took the time to have a chat with me over the phone. So dig in as we spoke about strategic plans for world domination, using his coined phrase “cray-dar” in a sentence, the upcoming tour, and a girl throwing a My Little Pony up on stage.

AMBY: What’s the band been up to lately?

The Zolas: Yesterday we mostly recorded a new song. We’ve been getting ready to start a tour for way too long starting on Sunday.

AMBY: [laughs]

The Zolas: And so we have a song that we had written and just wanted to kind of record, so we just decided to do that. We sort of abandoned any idea of creating any strategic plans for world domination or anything. So when a song comes up and we want to record it, we’ll just do that and never think about any of the other stuff. Something our label hates, but we’ve been enjoying it [laughs].

AMBY: And there you mentioned the tour! We know that starting September 13th, you guys will be embarking on a tour with Hollerado across Canada.

The Zolas: Right!

AMBY: So what are you most looking forward to?

The Zolas: I’ve had the chance to get to know those guys a little bit. I mean, I think we first met five years ago at one of those— where are you based?

AMBY: Toronto.

The Zolas: In Toronto, yea. And we met at one of those sort of places on the 401, that are always the same stores. There’s always a Tim Hortons or Wendey’s. So we met at one of those places and ran into them. When you look at a group of guys you can kind of just tell that they’re in a band. We just sort of approached each other like a scene from West Side Story. And they were like, “who are you guys?”, “Well, we’re the Sharks and you guys are the Jets.” But the only original difference of West Side story is that we ended up becoming huge friends instead of having a rumble and killing each other.

AMBY: [laughs] Well, I’m actually attending the show in Toronto, but have yet to see The Zolas live. What can fans expect from your live shows?

The Zolas: People have asked me that before and I have no idea what to say. I think that when we play our songs, I feel there’s a lot of musicians who go on stage and after a while end up as if they are covering their own songs. They don’t think about where they come from, and it becomes kind of showbiz. And it’s really the opposite; we’ve never been able to be like that. So when we play our songs, we’re always in part thinking about the first day that we wrote that song. That’s all I can think of, I don’t know. We’re going to play a whole lot of our new songs and a few old ones. And I don’t know, we’ll probably jump in the audience [laughs]. I have no idea.

AMBY: Well I’m sure it’s going to be a fun night of music, so I look forward to it.

The Zolas: Yea, we can’t really predict it. That’s the thing about playing live is that the only way that a show can go badly in my books, is if nothing goes wrong.

AMBY: You have to be spontaneous!

The Zolas: Yea, my favourite shows are the ones where things happen that you can’t predict.

AMBY: Alright, great. And speaking of shows and touring, what’s the funniest thing to happen to you at a gig?

The Zolas: A girl threw a My Little Pony up on stage once. I think I mentioned on Twitter or something and made some My Little Pony joke and she threw a really expensive My Little Pony—still in its case, like it’s a collector’s item—on stage. I don’t know where she bought it, or if she just had it for years, but she threw it on stage and now I have a very small My Little Pony collection.

AMBY: [laughs] Beautiful! And we have one last tour question for you.

The Zolas: Sure.

AMBY: What are the best and worst parts of being on tour?

The Zolas: The worst part of being on tour is the fact that I think that sitting in a car is one of my least favourite things to do. But I happen to have embarked on a career that necessitates so much of that. Realizing that I’ve put myself in that position is probably my least favourite part of touring. I think my favourite part of a tour is probably the hour, hour and a half that you’re on stage. A lot of the rest of the tour is shuffling from point A to point B, and waiting around. It’s a very zen kind of life, you just do the same six things every day. You wake up, you eat, you drive, you soundcheck, you eat, you play, you sleep.

AMBY: That was seven! But you were close [laughs].

The Zolas: [laughs] Oh man, I’m glad I came anywhere near that number.

AMBY: The whole thing is understandable though. Now we’re getting into the music part of the interview. Your latest record Ancient Mars was released last year. But what are your thoughts on the album now that there’s been a little bit of time to reflect on it?

The Zolas: This is the first album that I ever made and where I still like the songs afterwards. I think a few of our best songs ever are on this record. Our best songs are on this record, not a few of our best songs. Our best songs are on this record and they’re still holding up for me. I mean, there’s a couple that I don’t like anymore and I think they suck. But that’s way less than ever before, because I usually think that my album sucks almost immediately after it comes out. So this has been really refreshing for me.

AMBY: Well, I think it’s a great record!

The Zolas: [laughs] Well, it’s just a musician thing where you always… Yea. I don’t know, all my friends are like that.

AMBY: Well now going onto another record, I’ve Got Leeches off of the Tic Toc Tic record… That’s probably my favourite Zolas’ song- I just love the attitude conveyed through the backing vocals and anytime I hear it I just get really into it. So do you have any particular favourites of yours?

The Zolas: Woah, that’s a funny one. We don’t play that one very much, but we rehearsed it to play again maybe for the first time ever in concert, so it might be on this tour. But do I have any favourites? With this band, and we all have different outlets for our music and everyone seems to have more than one project to sort of send out different pieces of our personality. But to me, this is a pop band, but a weird pop band. My favourite songs are always the ones that manage to be unique and yet function as straight up pop songs. I think Knot In My Heart is just—I’m really happy with that song. It’s such a weird song and not the kind of song that you can play around the campfire [laughs]. It’s not Wonderwall, it’s not Party in the U.S.A.

AMBY: [laughs]

The Zolas: All these songs are great songs to just strum along and sing to, and this is a pretty weird song and I don’t understand why it works, but I feel like it’s a new type of pop song. And that I’m really proud of.

AMBY: Definitely.

The Zolas: But there are also songs that I feel are—Nooo, wait, that’s a pretty good one! With that one, the chorus, it’s just a verbatim quote of an ex-girlfriend of mine. And we were talking and she said this one thing and I wrote it down later, and I used it word-for-word, exactly what she said. I didn’t even write that, but I didn’t credit her anywhere.

AMBY: [laughs] And back in June you coined the phrase cray-dar.

The Zolas: Yea!

AMBY: Yes, well a reader of our website and also a Zolas fan wanted us to ask you, how do you use the term in a sentence?

The Zolas: Okay. Well I’ll use it in a non-sexist way. You know how a lot of people are really quick to label girls and women as crazy? I think that’s kind of counterproductive. So I’m going to use it in a non-sexist way. So speaking from a girl’s perspective, “I was really into the guy, but after his third text of the night my cray-dar started going off.”

AMBY: [laughs]

The Zolas: “Like, he really set off my cray-dar.”

AMBY: Perfect.

The Zolas: Or one friend saying, “What do you think about that girl? Should I go talk to her?” And the other one saying, “Ahhh, I don’t know man. I have pretty good cray-dar and she doesn’t seem like your type.”

AMBY: Thank you for answering that! I’m sure our readers will enjoy that response. We’ve been talking about The Zolas’ music a lot, of course, but when we interview bands we also are curious about who you are listening to. So, what have you been listening to lately?

The Zolas: I think my favourite band right now is a band–oh man, people are going to think they don’t know me at all I guess. My favourite band right now is a band called Death Grip. Which is, to me, it’s a pop band but it’s really not and they’ll never really be pop-famous because they’re really the most abrasive music out there right now. They’re like an electronic/experimental noise-rap band I guess, or duo. But they’re the only group who’s making music that sounds dangerous. I’ve never seen anything like it.

AMBY: Okay.

The Zolas: So Death Grips is definitely one of my favourites. But I can contrast that… Oh, I’m going to come off like such an art-school hipster, no, I’ve been listening to pop music, too. Oh! There’s this really awesome song that I’d like to recommend. It’s called Black Acura by a Montreal band called Paula. I just got really into that song, and it has this one part that’s a little too Linkin Park-y for me, but the rest of it is so brilliant. And it deserves to be in every advertisement for the next two years.

AMBY: We’ll have to check that one out. And one more question regarding artists you enjoy. If you could invite three people to record an album with, who would you choose?

The Zolas: Woah man.Yeow, okay. I’m pretty happy with my the group I have right now and have worked really hard to find them. I’ve finally found Mr and Mr Right, and now you’re asking me to find new Mr. Rights. Okay…

AMBY: Additions to the band! If the band and three other people could record a record.

The Zolas: The thing is that all of the people I’m most interested in, I don’t think I’d have much to offer in the process [laughs]. One person I admire a lot is Thom Yorke, but I don’t know if I’d want to record with him; I’d just want to be there while he records. You know what would be fun, actually? André 2000, yea that’s a good start. I’m going to start with that. And LCD Soundsystem… This is actually sounding really good already, so I’m glad I went through with this.

AMBY: [laughs]

The Zolas: Yea, so André 2000, LCD Soundsystem, and I don’t know who’s behind the new Kanye album, but there’s some songs on that album that are so good to me. The song Blood on the Leaves is such a masterpiece and a perfect song I can’t believe it. It hits so hard that song! Sorry, I have to go on [laughs]. But it also is actually pretty heartbreaking, and Kanye’s lyrics are never heartbreaking but this song and the music is really heartbreaking. Okay! So the last person I’m going to add is—no, I’m going to stick with André 2000 and LCD Soundsystem. Because if I add another person they would probably cover everything I’m already good at, so…

AMBY: Alright. Well, it seems that fan-interaction is very importing for the band. I mean, half the time I see a Tweet sent out, instead of being an update regarding music, it’s a reply to a fan. And seeing that as a fan myself, it’s a fantastic thing to see. So we were just wondering if there’s anything you would like to say to your fans?

The Zolas: I feel like we’ve lately had so many new fans all of the time and the ones that I talk to on Twitter I already can talk to. So I feel like for everyone else and everyone who don’t follow us on social media, which is perfectly legitimate, I just want to say that I’m looking forward to meeting you. And yea, that’s it. Because we’re going to be touring a lot and I’m going to.

AMBY: Great, so for the very last question of the interview, what’s something about The Zolas that nobody knows yet?

The Zolas: Good question. There’s so much stuff that people don’t know about us… Something about The Zolas that nobody knows is that I think we’re a lot less handsome than people think we are.


Thank you The Zolas, for giving us your answers!

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13 – Danforth Music Hall – Toronto, ON Tickets
28 – Hörsaal – Reeperbahn Festival, Hamburg, GER Website

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Alicia Atout

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