Since the release of their debut album, Tic Toc Tic, Vancouver-based indie-pop outfit The Zolas have become a staple in the Canadian music scene.
Their newest album, Swooner, comes hot on the heels of their Wino Oracle EP, released late last year. Their first multi-track release since 2012’s Ancient Mars, Wino Oracle was our first taste of the band’s next batch of songs, and, subsequently, their new album.
The band’s chameleon-like ability to change their sound presents an exciting opportunity for listeners. Not only does this show the depth of their musical ability, but it gives us the chance to hear a new, but nonetheless familiar, band each time.
With Swooner, the shift in sound isn’t the only change; it’s our first formal introduction to new members, Cody Hiles and Dwight Abell, who joined forces with founding members Zach and Tom to write and record the album’s ten tracks.
Following the highly-anticipated release of Swooner, we had a chance to catch up with the group to find out what they’ve been up to and see what’s in store for them this year.
Indie Current: It’s been almost 4 years since the release of Ancient Mars. Aside from touring and recording new music, what have you been up to?
The Zolas: Are you trying to tell me that there are things other than touring and recording? No, music is pretty much all we’ve been doing. Tom’s been producing people at Monarch Studios, Zach’s been writing with other artists and projects and travelling. Cody and Dwight were writing a hit play. But largely just touring and writing new Zolas music though. It takes up more of your life than you’d think.
IC: With the introduction of new members Cody Hiles and Dwight Abell, how has this changed the dynamic in the band, if at all?
TZ: What it means is that we can write songs that are rhythm and beat-based and keep it more minimal. Sometimes an incisive vocal over a unique beat is all you want to hear. Tom and I (Zach) have been friends since we were kids and Cody and Dwight have been friends since they were kids, so combining our 2 units was like dropping red and blue dye in a bowl of water. Unpredictable. Beautiful. Purple.
IC: How did Hiles and Abell come to join the band?
TZ: They used to play in another band that came to record with Tom at his first studio and that’s when we met. Years later their singer had a baby which meant they were on hiatus (love that baby) and the timing was right so we got together one day in our disgusting but kind of legendary jam space on Pender Street in Vancouver and started working on new songs right away.
IC: Although you gave us a glimpse of your new record with Wino Oracle EP, your two previous releases, Ancient Mars and Tic Toc Tic, had a completely different sound and feel. Was this a conscious decision or just a natural progression?
TZ: It felt like a natural progression for us. We started off on a more proggy, dramatic wave and have since gotten really into music that focuses more on aesthetics and feel. The hooks just happen. Maybe our next album will get proggy again. Who knows. It’s a progression, but I can promise you it’s not a linear one.
IC: Are there any artists or groups that have influenced this new sound?
TZ: Yeah, of course. Off the top of my head during the recording of this I remember us mentioning Prince, Interpol, Moderat, Jai Paul, various house DJ’s, Queens of the Stone Age, Kanye, Smashing Pumpkins, Mac DeMarco, The War on Drugs, C+C Music Factory, Stone Temple Pilots, Dr. Dre, We Are the City. I don’t know if that helps contextualize the album, because most of the time when we try to sound like something specific we end up totally failing and sounding like a new thing that’s actually better than what we were aiming for.
IC: If you had to choose one song off of Swooner to introduce a new listener to The Zolas, what would it be?
TZ: Depends on the person, obviously. “Molotov Girls” or “Freida On The Mountain”? I don’t know. I think my preferences change from day-to-day.
IC: You recently finished a tour in Germany and are making your UK debut this May at The Great Escape. How has the experience of touring outside of North American been?
TZ: Having been touring for so long but never more than dipped a toe into the EU, we’d built it up in our minds as the garden of eden. Somehow, it still managed to surpass our expectations. We weren’t prepared for all the people who had been waiting years for a chance to see us, and especially everyone who flew in from all over Europe because they felt that kind of a connection with our songs. It was sobering and exhilarating at the same time, and now we know we have to keep coming back as much as possible.
IC: Do you have any plans for future EU tour dates?
TZ: Some brewing but none confirmed yet. I can just say yes anyway, though. We’ll find a way.
IC: What are you most looking forward to in 2016?
TZ: Heavy touring and expanding our live show. Visiting countries we’ve never played before.