Vancouver rock group the Zolas spent last year on the road and in the rehearsal room trying to figure out their next sound.
Their last album, 2016’s Swooner, took the band in a poppier direction, partially aided by the addition of a new, permanent rhythm section. The record produced big radio hits like the breezy Fell in Love with New York and propulsive Get Dark, but singer and guitarist Zach Gray says such success can start to feel stale after a while.
“The album did really well, which is a great feeling, but it also makes you ask yourself, ‘What’s next?’” he said.
“The one thing that we really liked about Swooner was we focused so much on writing catchy songs that really mean something to us and mean something to our friends and the people around us and that spirit isn’t going anywhere. But the sound itself it will change a bit… For fans of ours, they’ll probably see it as just the next step in this progression, but if you were following a line graph from [previous album] Ancient Mars to Swooner, this next album isn’t going to be just a continuation of that trend.”
Gray said so far the band’s new material is moodier and in some cases catchier than their last release. They’ve also eased back from Swooner’s electronics to embrace “real instruments” like guitar and piano. The group’s songwriting dynamics also changed since Gray and founding keyboardist Tom Dobrzanski brought in bassist Dwight Abell and drummer Cody Hiles to round out the band.
“It’s very rare now that I’ll finish a song and bring it to the band, whereas that used to be the rule,” Gray said.
“Now we work on stuff all together, at least the music part, and the general vibe of the song will often come from a jam that we did and then it’s up to us to put together melodies and lyrics and that kind of thing. Collectively, there’s a lot more genesis happening as a four piece.”
Barring any last-minute bookings, the Zolas will play their first show of 2018 at the Queen’s in Nanaimo on Friday, Jan. 12. Gray said it’s been years since he’s performed in the Harbour City, and doesn’t even remember if the Zolas have ever played in town. He said he looking forward to 2018.
“Our new year’s resolution is to write the best album we’ve ever written,” Gray said.
“And it’s not going to be hard to hold to that because if we can’t write something better, then you just won’t hear from us again.”
WHAT’S ON … The Zolas perform at the Queen’s on Friday, Jan. 12 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door.