The Zolas play first Kingston show in years

Frontman Zach Gray discusses performance and inspiration

The Zolas are creative Canadian indie rock.
Credit: 
Supplied by The Zolas

Indie rock band The Zolas played at The Ale House & Canteen on Nov. 8. It was the group’s first Kingston show in over four years.

The band, hailing from Coast Salish territory in Vancouver, is on the road touring their newest record, Come Back to Life, released on Jul. 16 via Light Organ Records. The album is a fresh, inventive take on the stylings of popular 80s and 90s music.

In an interview with The Journal, frontman and guitar player Zach Gray discussed the recent performance, his songwriting process, and the band’s influences.

“It was insane—Kingston went hard,” said Gray.

“The last time we were in Kingston, none of the kids that were there [are still] going to Queen’s. This was a brand-new batch of people knowing all the words and having songs they needed to hear.”

The band’s long trek from BC to Ontario was worth it, as Gray said Monday’s show reminded him of pre-COVID times, calling it a “proper, sweaty concert.”

Many of the songs they played were from Come Back to Life. Gray explained the band’s love for movie soundtracks inspired their newest album.

“The two that really affected me growing up were [from] Romeo + Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, and the Trainspotting soundtrack.”

Gray believes the latter broke ground in the music industry.

“It was a breakthrough soundtrack for a ton of little-known English electronic and rock music. [After that], we got really into trip-hop and acid house.”

These influences can be heard across the 13 tracks on Come Back to Life, as can the band’s love for 90s brit-pop tunes made famous by bands such as Oasis.

The Zolas music is an eclectic mix of electronics, rock flavourings, and big, anthemic choruses ready to be sung live by their fans. While Gray cited David Gilmour and Keith Richards as two guitar players he admires, the instrument isn’t his primary writing tool right now.

“A lot of the time, I write songs using Ableton and just finding samples that I think are cool,” he said. “The piano is good too. I have no idea what I’m doing, and sometimes happy accidents happen.”

Gray’s lyric-writing process is equally experimental.

“When it comes to writing lyrics, I’ll often have dummy lyrics that are just placeholder, but sometimes there is a grain of wisdom to those stupid lyrics,” Gray explained.

“If I recognize that, I can build around it, and it becomes a real lyric. Then, at some point, you have to ask yourself, ‘what is this song about?’ and that’s when you can get into the details and finally finish the song. At first, it should be just what feels good to sing and to hear in this moment.”

When asked about his favourite songs off Come Back to Life, Gray spoke on the relationship between a song’s accessibility and its sticking power.

“Usually, the songs you gravitate to right away are the ones you get sick off the quickest. If you’re the musician, you’ve heard those songs too much. Your love affair with that song is in the rear-view mirror [by the time you’re playing them].”

Gray cited the album’s third track, “Miles Away,” as one song he isn’t over yet.

“[It’s] a song I always wanted to write. I always wanted to write the ‘Wonderwall’ of 2021, and that’s sort of what that song is.”

Hear it for yourself on Come Back to Life, available now on streaming platforms.

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