After debuting with Tic Toc Tic in 2009, The Zolas scaled the precipice of cult status across Canada, thanks to a loyal fanbase carried over from Zach Gray (vocals, guitar) and Tom Dobrzanski’s (piano) earlier years as Lotus Child.
With Ancient Mars, their second album, The Zolas are set to continue their legacy of postmodern pop. Armed with poetic lyrics, Ancient Mars trades in the cabaret glitz of Tic Toc Tic for reverbed pianos and hard, minimalist beats.
In “Strange Girl” a sunny guitar riff blasts into the perfect mid-‘90s summer jam, while title track “Ancient Mars” is bouncy and nostalgic, with heaping spoonfuls of Montreal and Brooklyn avant-pop. If John Lennon and Kanye West met later tonight at a hotel bar, “Escape Artist” is the song they would write. It’s these kinds of pairings that Ancient Mars is full of: The Zolas write classic pop songs and then fuck them up until the hooks have to fight to get out.
As if to offset Ancient Mars’ aesthetic diversity, the lyrics are raw and focused. The Zolas’ tumultuous songwriting captures the zeitgeist of being in your 20s, on the cusp of youth and real adulthood. In each song Gray builds a skeleton of a setting – from outer space to a college library to a Victorian jail cell – and tells stories fleshed out with the listener’s own history.
In October, The Zolas teamed up with Winnipeg’s The Liptonians to release a 7” split single “Cultured Man”, a quixotic snack in between the two full-length albums.
Dobrzanski is the band’s on-board producer, having worked with names in indie-rock royalty like Said the Whale and We Are The City, but for Ancient Mars production duties were handed over to Chuck Brody (Phantogram, Wu-Tang), much like how 2009’s Tic Toc Tic was produced by Howard Redekopp (Mother Mother, The New Pornographers).
Zachary Gray vocals/guitar
Tom Dobrzanski piano/vocals