Vancouver-based indie rockers bring down the House

The dimly lit basement arcade that is Bank Street’s House of TARG is the perfect setting to host the laid-back, fun group of guys that make up indie rock band The Zolas.

Their casual gregariousness, beanies, and worn denim seemed just as at home on the tiny stage as they were in the dingy storage room where the Fulcrum sat down with them before the show on Oct. 20.

The 4-piece indie rock band is fairly well known in their home town of Vancouver, and increasingly across the country. “We’ve always had a lot of people come to our shows in Vancouver and that’s, just in the last year, been true in Ottawa,” said Tom Dobrzanski, the group’s pianist.

Last time they were in Ottawa they played at a RedBlacks game, and they were at the Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival in 2014. The venue this time around may have been small, with a crowd of less than 200, but there was a lot of love for The Zolas

“We were loading in expecting it to be terrible, and there was a great vibe in here,” said lead vocalist Zachary Gray. “All the games and everyone was really friendly and there were steaming perogies with sauerkraut right there, so I don’t know what more you could ask for.”

The Zolas are touring in the wake of the release of their latest EP, Wino Oracle, which came out Oct. 2. The four songs on the EP are a bit of a departure from the rhythmic experimental rock style of their first two studio albums. With its fast tempos and dance-friendly beats, Wino Oracle is much more lively and upbeat than their older music.

“We definitely wanted to write some bangers and play the kind of music that you want to play to big crowds,” said Gray. “I feel like it’s just reflective of what we we’re listening to at the time. We’d get into the jam space and that’s the type of energy that felt good and so that’s the way that the songs turned out.”

Once The Zolas hit the stage, that energy translated to their stage presence, especially in bassist DJ Abell’s dance moves, and Gray’s involvement with the audience.

They began their set with a lot of newer music, including the fast and catchy beats of “Male Gaze” and the more relaxed, poppy track, “Fell In Love With New York”. Then, following a few hits from their first two albums, Gray took the mic out into the middle of the crowd for “Escape Artist”, getting up close and personal with adoring fans.

They left the stage abruptly after “Escape Artist”, but came back for an encore with “Strange Girl” and “Knot In My Heart”, a few favourites from their 2012 album Ancient Mars.

After the show, the band stuck around to hang out by the bar and chat with fans. The ease at which they connected with their audience, both on and off the stage, may be the thing that keeps both their Ottawa and Canada-wide shows growing.

—With files from Kyle Darbyson