Cerebral metaphors

Zachary Gray of The Zolas has a love for the stars

The Zolas— Zachary Gray (pictured left) and Tom Dobrzanski— named themselves after the naturalist French writer, Émile Zola.
The Zolas— Zachary Gray (pictured left) and Tom Dobrzanski— named themselves after the naturalist French writer, Émile Zola.
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Earth is in a beautiful heyday.

Not many have contemplated the allegorical significance of our solar system, but Zachary Gray, one half of The Zolas, has.

Behind The Zolas’ latest album, Ancient Mars, lies a myriad of stories riddled with deep metaphors. The third track, the album’s namesake, takes lyrical expression to a different level.

The tune describes a time when “the rusty rocks were covered in groves / and the pyramids foretold acidic snows.”

For most, this may sound like a song literally depicting a planet’s rough surfaces, but for Gray, it was far from it.

“Ancient Mars” to him was a much more “cerebral metaphor.”

With an interest in sci-fi that began as a kid, Gray always had a fascination with the planets.

“It always blew my mind that it is suspected that Mars at one time harbored life, water and an atmosphere,” Gray said.

The Vancouver native went on to explain how Mars had a beautiful heyday billions of years ago, and now there’s no evidence of the life that once existed. It’s gone, thanks to the natural passage of time.

“People or relationships that meant everything to us, whether it’s that house you lived in after you moved out of [residence] or that person you spent your summer with — they’re the whole world,” he said.

“But two years later, you run into that person in line at the grocery and there’s nothing between you anymore; it’s barren,” Gray said. “To me, Ancient Mars is that beautiful place you can’t get back to once you’ve left.”

The metaphor-heavy song traces its roots back to Gray’s days at the University of British Columbia (UBC.)

If you haven’t already guessed, Ancient Mars refers to a love lost.

Accompanied by the West Coast’s heavy smog and the ominous architecture of the library, Gray was inspired.

“I went back to the library — the area where I used to wait for her to get out of class — and just sat there,” he said. “I decided to write the song and wasn’t going to leave until I had finished.”

It took the UBC grad three years to muster up the audacity to pen the lyrics, but he’s glad he did. He said it’s his favorite song to play live.

Gray’s university experience not only lent to Ancient Mars; it also paved the way for his career as a musician.

The history major entered university because he was an “academic kid and really liked writing essays.” It wasn’t until his second year when he joined a band, the now-defunct Lotus Child, and didn’t start taking the music seriously until fourth year.

During that time, he’s built close ties with the Vancouver music scene.

“Vancouver’s a really tight music scene,” he said. “We’re roommates with each other, date each other and dump each other.”

He lists Aidan Knight and Mother Mother as close friends, both of whom recorded with them.

The story of how this studious songwriter got into music is like no other.

He got kicked out of high school due to a spat with the principal.

“I didn’t have any friends at the new school so I used to go home and play the guitar and sing angsty teen songs,” Gray said.

Getting kicked out of school was definitely a blessing in disguise, he said, as his peers who stayed in school led different lives as professionals, like doctors and lawyers.

“Maybe I would have ended up doing that and not what I’m doing now,” he said.

“And I like what I’m doing now.”

The Zolas will be playing with the Born Ruffians and Hollerado at The Ale House on Oct. 16.

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