Published Jan 05, 2012The Zolas released their album Tic Toc Tic in 2009, and the Vancouver piano rock outfit have been gaining momentum ever since, accruing radio play and performing at increasingly high-profile gigs. Now, the group are in the midst of completing their sophomore album and have set their sights on a tentative spring release.
"The Zolas operate best when we have no idea what to expect and we're not aiming for anything," singer-guitarist Zachary Gray tells Exclaim! "For the last record, we just got our favourite musicians in a room and then brought them some basic songs and worked out what we thought was cool at the time. Last time it was Aidan Knight and Ali Siadat from Mother Mother; this time it's Johnny Walsh from Brasstronaut and Dan Mangan, and Michael Jordan -- his real name is Michael Jordan -- from the Liptonians in Winnipeg, and Henry [Alcock-White] from Henry and the Nightcrawlers."
The sessions are taking place in pianist Tom Dobrzanski's own Vertical Studios with additional recording at the Warehouse Studio. Studio whiz Chuck Brody (Ted Leo, Wu-Tang Clan, Ra Ra Riot) is producing, and the group have 11 songs written, hoping to put nine of them on the finished product. So what do these new tunes sound like?
"To me, they sound really '90s," the frontman says with a laugh. "The kind of hooks I remember really liking when I was about 16 are sort of popping up again."
He goes on to compare the new material to the band Ambulance LTD, citing their 2004 record LP as a particular influence. "They released one good album which Tom and I are just crazy about," he says. "It's a raw, shoegaze-y rock album. It [our new material] would be somewhere between that and Beck."
Despite the nostalgic quality of the band's '90s-inspired new material, Gray notes that he's been growing increasingly disinterested in typical rock arrangements.
"It's been a long time since we released an album, and part of that has been our general dissatisfaction with what a band sounds like," he admits. "When I'm looking for a band to get really excited about, it's never a four-piece band. So that's why it's taken so long. We know what we've played in the past, which has been good to us so far, but it's not exactly what I would listen to now. So it's been a process of marrying what I listen to now with what we've always sounded like in our natural instincts."
Gray continues: "I'm also open to the idea of us putting it together and it sounds like straight-up Elliott Smith. I don't care, if we like it. Everyone in the room is [one of] the most talented people I can think of, so if we like it, then I'm fine with that."
Gray plans for the album to be entirely recorded, mixed and mastered by the end of January. He hopes that it will be out as soon as possible, maybe by March. When the record arrives, it will come out via Light Organ Records. "I'm not a big fan of any sort of strategic bullshit," he says in regards to the release plan.
The Zolas have premiered some new songs live, and they recently dropped a split single with the Liptonians featuring the song "Cultured Man." Gray notes that it's possible that this song will emerge on the new album. Listen to that tune below.
UPDATE: Sorry folks, it looks like Dan Mangan won't be playing on this album after all, as was initially reported. Rather, Magan's backing musician Johnny Walsh is taking part in the sessions.
The Zolas Cultured Man by Light Organ