By: Anisha Rajkunar
The lights cut out abruptly, and the sound of melancholic chords progressed. What followed was a warm welcome from the anxiously awaiting Hamilton crowd.
On Nov. 7 the Casbah played host to synth-pop indie darlings, the Zolas.
Hailing from Vancouver, Zachary Gray, Cody Hiles and Dwight Abell, accompanied by Tom Heuckendorff on piano, knew just how to keep the crowd going on a chilly fall night.
The group has just embarked on a tour, which was kickstarted with a free performance at Sonic Boom in Toronto.
The final track on their 2016 record Swooner, “Why Do I Wait,” started their set. Gray stated that this was one of his favourite songs on the album. They had never played it live before the Sonic Boom performance that took place the night before.
The Casbah crowd was lucky enough to be serenaded by it as well. Gray’s inspirations for this song were sparked from his life, his friend’s life and from Canadian musician Sean Nicholas Savage’s live performances.
“That’s the kind of show that I want to have. Like when you leave, you feel a bit of a kinship to the other people who were there that night.”
“I remember watching this video of him [Sean Nicholas Savage] playing at Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona just looking way too high. The song is [about] being into somebody and being crazy about someone, always holding a candle to them when you know… the timing will never be right.”
A few years ago, the band was in Venice and had a day off on their tour.
Gray and his bandmates had a “hilariously cliché romantic encounter” where they spent the night on a boat in order to see as much of the city as they possibly could in that one night.
“That’s what the end of the song is about. It’s about making a connection to someone in a setting like that where it’s almost too cliché to believe it’s happening.”
Through the song Gray reflects on being the center of attention as a performer, a sentiment that was also inspired by the Sean Nicholas Savage concert footage.
“You can be an absolute star for an hour and a half in one evening and you can finish that set and as soon as you’re off stage, you’re a pretty normal person, especially once you’ve left the venue and you go home. You might play a show for 10,000 people and within two hours once you’ve finished that show, you’re at home eating macaroni and cheese with nothing to do.”
Gray described their live performance as feeling the warmth of the crowd.
For “Escape Artist,” Gray took his microphone and a small keyboard into the middle of the crowd and played amongst them with the phone flashlights of fans illuminating the experience.
“It’s nice to make a moment that that feels less sort of pedagogical, where it’s not just us on stage and [the audience] watching us on stage with all the lights on us [and them] in the dark.”
“For a secular society, you need these evenings where people come together and are in the same room, listening to the same words and participating in broader ideas. That’s the kind of show that I want to have. Like when you leave, you feel a bit of a kinship to the other people who were there that night… you’re all going to go out and you’re going to make a little bit of a change.”
The Zolas are all about embracing the moment on stage. From Abell’s electrifying dance moves, to catching cheeky smirks between Hiles and Gray, they truly soak it in.
In the future, the Zolas plan to release singles as soon as they finish mixing them.
If you want to hear a new song sooner you may catch it at one of their live shows first, as they performed an unreleased track called “Ultramarine” at The Casbah, and we can expect to hear more from the Zolas in the coming year.