The Zolas’ Zach Gray
PAST AND FUTURE TENSES COLLIDE IN THE ZOLAS’ APTLY
TITLED FOURTH LP Come Back to Life, which arrives July 16 via Light Organ Records. The fulfillment of the vision comes over a decade after their debut. Evoking both resurrection and apocalypse, the album’s sweeping sonic universe was inspired by the soundtracks for seminal ’90s movies Trainspotting and Romeo + Juliet.
“I never really thought I was allowed to make that kind of music until this record,” says lead singer Zach Gray. “This is exactly the thing I wanted to put out when we first started conceiving of this, and that almost never happens.”
What was the last book or movie that blew your mind?
A book of short stories by this science fiction writer named Ted Chiang. He lives in Seattle and he wrote the short story they based the movie Arrival on. He hasn’t written that much and I’m very mad at him for it, because I devoured his two short story books [ Exhalation and Stories of Your Life and Others] in two days and now I have to wait for him to get inspired again.
What has been your most memorable or inspirational concert and why?
I think it was probably Radiohead. They played at my university. It was the first time I ever went to a concert that was about more than just pure fun or pure angst. It was the most nuanced, effervescent show I’ve ever seen. The sound was incredible and they played songs I didn’t expect; in fact, they played a song that appears on the Romeo + Juliet soundtrack.
What was the first song you ever wrote?
I can remember it pretty well — I can still sing it to you, if you want. I was 13 years old, and I had fallen in love with this 15-year-old Brazilian exchange student. I wrote a song about how I missed her and true love, and it’d probably do better than half the songs I wrote subsequently because it was just so simple. I was not blushing at the idea of saying incredibly simple things in incredibly earnest terms, and it was a pretty good song.
What do you think of when you think of Canada?
These days, that’s changed a lot. There was a lot of pride to being a Canadian when I was younger. I think, young or not, that disillusionment is a process all of us are going through. Nowadays, when I think of Canada, I think about stolen land, mostly. I grew up on land that belonged to the Musqueam Nation. I spent my whole childhood knowing there was a reserve in one corner of it but never asking, “Hey, how did it happen that these people were here before us and now they have this tiny little corner by the river and I never see them anywhere else? What’s up with that?” I think we’re all coming to terms with realizing that we’ve grown up in something not too dissimilar from Apartheid South Africa. That’s how I feel about Canada now.
What’s the meanest thing anyone has ever said about your art? “Middle-of-the-road.” I would love to hear something truly mean — to say that about someone is such a lukewarm thing. I’d be happy to generate strong feelings in any direction! But when someone says you’re middle-of-the-road, you’re truly not doing your job.
What was the first album you bought with your own money? Alapalooza by Weird Al.
How do you spoil yourself? Bubble tea and a spur-of-the-moment plane ticket.
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
I think it’s probably having dinner in LA sitting beside Jane Fonda — rapt in conversation because she’s incredible — and falling in love with her as if age ain’t nothing but a number.
What is the greatest song of alltime?
Well, I’ve got two or three on our upcoming record! What’s funny is that’s actually not a totally disingenuous answer: I’m constantly asking myself when I’m writing something, “Is this the song that would blow my mind if I was listening to it from the outside?” And the times when the answer‘s yes, you truly do feel like there’s nobody in this world that can write a better song. But as far as others go, I think “Shelter from the Storm” by Bob Dylan is probably one of the best ones; that’s my answer today. That song is like hypnosis. I listened to that song when I got into a scooter crash in Indonesia.
And you still think it’s the best of all time?! That says a lot.
It would’ve been an okay way to go out — a very Dylan way to go out. It’s like that thing they say, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.” Me getting into a scooter accident in Indonesia while listening to Bob Dylan, who famously wasn’t at Woodstock because he’d been in a motorcycle crash? That rhymes.