By Liam Prost
CALGARY — Vancouver’s The Zolas are prepped and ready for launch on their new record, the aptly titled Swooner, which dropped earlier this month on Light Organ Records. This release is unique for The Zolas, emphasizing the dance in dance-rock, replacing pianos with synths wherever necessary, and greasing their already slick guitar tracks with milky chorus effects. But despite the new record pressures, the band is not at all nervous about the release. “It’s hard to get anxious when you made exactly the album you wanted to make” singer/guitarist Zachary Gray told BeatRoute from outside a restaurant in Germany. “We wanted to make a pop record, but we really gave no shits as to whether other people would think it was as hype as we did.”
The Zolas pulled out all the stops, self-producing for the first time, and taking their time in the studio to make sure they left with “no regrets.” Gray describes that “from the very get go, The Zolas was meant to be an experimental pop project.” And the band has honed their craft well. “We experimented a lot, and we popped a lot,” Gray says.
The new release gleans in all the right places, but don’t mistake it for a glam record. “I’m actually really sick of ‘80s music,” Gray says. The driving force of this release actually lies a decade later, in trying to grasp the ‘90s. The title track “Swooner” is The Zolas attempt to write a dance-grunge song. Comparisons to the ‘80s are frequent according to Gray, but it’s more of an “atmosphere” that comes from that era than an inspiration, citing The Cure’s opus Disintegration (1989) as the closest thing to the ‘80s that he had in mind.
Lyrical material is also more forward thinking. The track “Male Gaze” takes on some explicitly feminist themes, tracking the desires of an Elliot Rodger-minded male as he slowly comes to realize the ways he objectifies women. The band tackles this weighty subject matter with characteristic wit, using video game imagery to convey the character’s desire to subvert the agency of women. “Everything is OK, woman in the window, I play her body like a feminine Nintendo.”
The Zolas have made their career with songs primarily interested in “nostalgia and lost love,” primarily because of the intensity of the emotional experience attached, but on the new release, The Zolas have broadened their reach to encompass other emotional experiences. This lead the lyrical process into writing about progressive political notions, such as feminism and environmentalism, but also to unique emotional experiences. This is especially prescient in the single “Fell in Love with New York,” which praises and deconstructs the experience of uprooting oneself, and being granted the ability to start fresh outside of the person you were where you came from. Swooner promises to take you places you all sorts of places you weren’t expecting to go, but maybe not the ‘80s.
The Zolas play at The Marquee Beer Market and Stage in Calgary on March 30th and Union Hall in Edmonton on the 31st. More Western Canadian dates can be found online.AB, Alberta, Marquee Beer Market & Stage, The Zolas, Union Hall