Hailing from suburban Plainfield and downstate Sidney and Paris, Illinois, alternative rock band ZORILA had to work hard to carve out a niche when they relocated to Chicago’s music scene. And the band did. For nearly two years before the pandemic, they were regularly playing their emotion-infused rock from debut album “Sidney” throughout the city.
But just as COVID-19 forced many of us to take a step back from our beloved music scene, ZORILA used that as an opportunity to grow. The band — Nate Finn, Anthony Hish and brothers Stewart and Henry Arp — added a fifth member in Dave DeAngelis. The five began to explore a more mature sound, starting with last year’s acoustic reworking of some of the band’s favorites and culminating in this year’s upcoming releases, which bring a more reflective feel and more indie elements to the mix.
Friday’s release of the new single “Wayside” shows the band veering into that new lane. The song, rife with influences from pop-rock playlists of the late-’90s such as Goo Goo Dolls and Lifehouse as well as the more recent Kings of Leon and Arctic Monkeys, tackles the mental health aspects of living in a society essentially frozen because of COVID-19.
“I think during the pandemic, people are trapped with themselves and they’re forced to really reflect on who they are as an individual, and that’s scary. They can’t distract themselves as easily nowadays because they’re locked in a room with themselves,” Stew said of the song. “I think having that self reflection is really important, but it can also be detrimental to your health. … It’s kind of just like looking in the mirror and learning to love the person you see, even the flaws.”
Settling in with a burst of alt-rock guitar, “Wayside” doesn’t sound terribly different from the ZORILA fans have come to relish. But the plaintive melody then starts to weave its way through lush layers of sound, inviting us to follow down into its emotional depths, into the darkness we hide away. It may not be telling our story exactly, but it’s a familiar one, encompassing pieces we might recognize from our own lives. And as the song reaches for a crescendo, in both instrumentation and intensity, it asks “Will you remember me when you can not sleep anymore?” “Wayside” will be accompanied by an upcoming video telling the story of someone stuck in a personal limbo and contemplating suicide. The song emphasizes that there’s always another option.
“The extreme kind of emotions associated with suicidal thoughts might not be as much of a personal thing for me as much as it is an experience we’ve had with people we know and people that we’ve met, and we just kind of want to shine a light on that,” said Henry, who wrote much of the concept for the song. “A big part of that stemmed from that feeling like you’re on the right track of what you want to do with your life, but you feel like you might be just to the side of the road and you can’t really get right back on to it. You feel somewhat lost, but you’re on the right path.”
Most of ZORILA’s members live together, making songwriting and jam sessions fairly easy to put together. But over the lockdowns, they’ve honed their skills in recording and producing, with the help of friend Matt Wheeler. And with more songs already in various stages of writing and recording, they’ll only get better.
“We do everything in house,” Stew said. “We record everything ourselves, we mix everything and master everything ourselves, and everybody plays a part in that process. We’ve spent time just refining, learning what we did right and what we did wrong.”
“Wayside” is the first 2021 release for ZORILA, who is planning to drop a few more singles throughout the year leading up to an album release, slated for the fall.