By Lily Keenan
VANCOUVER — There’s no rest from the mess of contradictions that define life in the 21st century, especially when “a refugee crisis takes up about as much space in your newsfeed as your friend’s birthday party.” At least, that’s what Zachery Grey of Vancouver indie rock group The Zolas is trying to describe in the latest EP Wino Oracle, a small four-track offering that precedes the release of their third album next year. The Zolas is comprised of Grey on guitar/vocals and Tom Dobranski on piano. This time around, Cody Hiles and DJ Able also join the duo. Wino Oracle is a thoughtful collection of songs that mosaic feelings of loneliness and friendship, of euphoria and disgust. “It’s about being single and how great it is, being single and how much it sucks, finally realizing what you want to fight for and then getting distracted.” These insightful musings are conveyed via Grey’s honey-smooth vocals and layered under catchy synth hooks and tin box pop beats to create a noticeably more upbeat sound than their previous records, it’s a confident stride in a slightly new direction for the Zolas.
BeatRoute: What excites most about this EP? It’s quite a different sound from your last two albums.
Zachery Grey: People have been telling me that it’s a new sound and we actually never thought about it that way at all. I feel like this is the music we’ve been trying to make for a long time but we never had the skill to actually do it. Our previous albums were just stale attempts at this type of thing. Everything you write is a failed attempt at something and then in that failure is originality. And that’s the basis of our sound. I think it goes like that for a lot of musicians; we just don’t like to talk about how much we fail.
BR: You were quoted saying that the album is about going outside for a cigarette and scrolling though your news feed, looking at disasters on the news and finishing your cigarette to go back inside and keep dancing. I thought that was a really interesting summary of the way that we live and consume, and the contradictions of that. What exactly fuelled your writing in that sense?
ZG: I wanted to write about that experience, the experience of being among the luckiest people in the world at a time when there is so much bad luck and misfortune going on and how that creates empathy but you still have to live the life that you’ve been dropped into. And I don’t know how that doesn’t fuck all of our minds up. It fucks my mind up. And I’m pretty sure that to me, that seems to be the predominant conflict in most people’s lives these days.
BR: How does the title Wino Oracle relate to those ideas?
ZG: The title is a line from the lead single ‘Fell in Love with NY’. And—this is going to get nerdy—but I’ve always been interested in the Shakespearean character archetype of ‘The Fool,’ who’s always the lowest status person in the play and always comes across as a buffoon but they’re always saying the most insightful things; they are always an oracle figure. To me, ‘Wino Oracle’ is a recognition of all this low culture that we consume just for escapism, all the Netflix we watch and all the crap—it says the most about us. And it sort of tells our future.
BR: What is different about this record?
ZG: We produced it ourselves, which we never had the confidence to do before. And we were really happy with the result. Usually a record can feel imperfect because you run out of time or you have to make compromises in production. But by doing it ourselves, we finished this album completely satisfied. There are a lot of new instruments in this album too, especially synth. We used this old school synth that Prince would’ve used.
BR: What are you looking forward to next year? What’s next for The Zolas?
ZG: We will be touring for this EP. And our album comes out next year, which is really exciting—and we will be touring again for that. We’ll basically be touring as much as possible!
The Zolas perform on November 5 at The Imperial with Fine Times.BC, British Columbia, The Imperial, The Zolas