The Zolas from left to right: Cody Hiles (drums), DJ Abell (bass), Zach Gray (vocals), and Tom Dobrzanski (keyboard)
When Tom Dobrzanski answered my phone call, he and the rest of The Zolas were in their van somewhere between New York and Philly. Zach was driving and Tom was supposed to be navigating, but it seemed Siri was being of little to no help. Despite Tom’s phone being their only mapping tool, the band still took some time to chat with me about tours, albums, and even a little bit of politics!
How’s the tour been? How has America responded to The Zolas?
Zach: So far with a shitload of enthusiasm. We’ve never played in a lot of these cities, and the internet being what it is, we have a lot of like die-hard fans who’ve never had the chance to see us play and so they’ll drive for several hours to see us play at some tiny place. Yeah the response down here has been pretty great.
The Zolas have played shows all across the country multiple times, what are some of the differences you notice in audiences province to province?
DJ: The Montreal crowds have been…thin [laughs].
Zach: Yeah we’ve noticed that Montreal does not care about The Zolas; you can print that [laughs].
Well Kingston does! You guys just released your EP called Wino Oracle, and there are rumours of an album release in 2016. Are you still on track for that?
Tom: I think we are! The album’s all recorded, and I don’t think we have a date but definitely the plan is put it out in early 2016, maybe even as early as February.
So then that begs the question, why an EP and why now?
Tom: We wanted to put a bit of music out this fall, and give people a taste and a heads up that this album was coming and what it might be like.
Is it hinting at the musical direction of the next album then?
Tom: Yeah, like a few of the songs you’ll even see on the album, so it’s definitely a taste of what the album is.
Wino Oracle is your first foray into a fully self-produced album, yes?
Tom: Yeah, yeah it is. It’s the first in a few ways; it’s the first time we’ve gone into the studio without a producer, and it’s also the first time Zach and I have gone into the studio with a solid band that’s actually the band that we’ve toured with for a few years, and the same band that we will tour this record with.
How has producing an album with the consistent lineup differed from the past?
Cody: I think it feels more comfortable jumping in with people you know so well. We’ve been playing for a couple years now, and so going to the studio together just seemed like another natural thing to do. With Tom and Zach kind of at the helm, even though they’re producing the album, it just kinda feels like you’re recording with your buds.
Zach: With this album it was nice because Tom and I have been playing music together since we were kids, and Cody and DJ have been playing music together and have been friends since they were kids as well, and we sort of evolved separately and then just came together for the first time for this album. So there’s a lot of years between us of playing together so it locked in immediately. We can tell when we ‘re playing live, it feels like we’ve been playing together since we were, you know, thirteen years old.
Tom: And we’re not relying on backing tracks or anything like that. Anything you hear, someone’s playing that sound live. I think there still has to be some urgency or some sense of danger in a show. As an audience member, you want something to have the possibility of going wrong. You want the music to be happening right in front of you, and I think if a band relies too heavily on backing tracks then that element of danger is gone. They could all basically stop playing for a couple minutes and it would still sound like a show.
Any Canadian artists that you’re really excited for?
Cody: I like Tobias Jesso Junior right now, he’s pretty cool.
He’s really great.
Zach: Our friends in Yukon Blonde have a couple songs on the new album that just feel like they’ve always existed as songs. They’ve sort of tapped into some sort of classic vein of music that is completely original but feels like it’s always been a part of your life.
They did the anti-Harper song, right?
Zach: Yeah! [Yukon Blonde] and Hey Rosetta! together yeah, Tim from Hey Rosetta! wrote the song and they all performed it together.
That’s awesome. I’ve definitely noticed on social media a lot of artists getting very politically vocal this election season, more than I’ve ever seen before. Why do you think that is?
Zach: I don’t think we’ve ever had an election this important before where the stakes are this high. We have so much to gain and so much to lose, and I think all the musicians just as people, they would just want to influence people to vote. Sometimes it’s about changing peoples’ minds, but a lot of the time it’s about getting people who already agree with you to actually go out and vote. It doesn’t take a lot of soul searching to know who to vote for and what we want for this country. I think a lot of musicians, we feel that way and we just want to get kids to vote.
Good to hear! Well thanks for your time, we’re really looking forward to seeing you in Kingston on the 21st!
The Zolas: Our pleasure!
The Zolas are currently touring across Canada, promoting their new EP Wino Oracle. Catch them at the Grad Club on October 21st. You can buy tickets here.
Paige Guscott, Online Reviewer