An Interview with International Zombies of Love

by Gary Seward
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International Zombies of Love - Fresh Print Magazine


International Zombie of Love, the side project of Mike Farrell from Toronto indie band The Pariahs, is ready to release the sophomore album You Heard This Wish (through label We Are Busy Bodies) on May 27, 2014 and is hitting the road with a new catalogue of tracks. IZOL is not the typical band you’ll see on a Friday night at the Horseshoe Tavern, but Mike Farrell has already cemented himself as a staple in the Toronto and Canadian music scene and is now setting his sights internationally.

IZOL’s debut album was released over a year ago and introduced a stripped down, wide-ranging and melodic sound to Canadian and international audiences and was quickly dubbed “modern mongrel music.” The new album You Heard This Wish follows that stripped down and melodic sound and added more heavy keys and synth pop soundscapes to the record with tracks like “Nobody Knows” and “Oh What A Life.” As well as adding some deeply melodic dream popesque sounds to tracks like “Agnes.” On the surface, it’s hard to tell how these songs fit onto one record, but what is clear is that it just feels right.

Mike Farrell has already proven himself as a bit of an icon in Canada touring with his band The Pariahs, where he was the lead singer and co-writer. IZOL is a stark departure from the heavier rock sounds of The Pariahs with a much more personal and aggressively synth pop album.

With Canadian Music Week in full swing I got to sit down with Mike Farrell to discuss the latest album and his upcoming show at Sneaky Dee’s. Self proclaiming himself as a “mad solo scientist” on stage it was interesting to get some insight on the diverse sets IZOL is known to perform.

The first track to be released as a single is entitled “Nobody Knows.”

INTERNATIONAL ZOMBIES OF LOVE – Nobody Knows from Southern Souls on Vimeo.

Fresh Print Magazine: Are you excited about playing at Sneak Dees? I am really excited about your show.

Izol: I am excited too. And I wasn’t sure how it would work, I haven’t done this duo in a bit but we are really excited. You will be hearing newly reworked songs that we came up with as of last night. Kind of new stuff. It’ll be a duo and it’s going to sound great. It’s tough because a national tour is kind of a must at this point [with the new record].

FP: I listened to your album, which will come out on May 27. There’s a contrast between songs like “Nobody Knows” and “Agnes.” They almost sound like they come from different albums. Was that your intention going into it?

IZOL: It is my intention. I mean, It is my project but I work a lot with two collaborators. Producer and guitar player from The Pariahs and Art Woods. We look at it in terms of “what is a good song” and to me what this whole project is about is I love being in this rock band The Pariahs and touring and stuff but it was always the genre, you know? The front man, the guitatrist, the bassist, wearing black at the Bovine Sex Clubs around the country. And I mean it’s great but I have so much love to give and nowhere to put it. And I don’t want the whole album to sound like “Nobody Knows” as this upbeat pop album. It’s not really a reflecrtion of who I am. So, I like that movement. But if you look at the all-time great albums they’re diverse, they’re not just one thing. So, that is what I am trying to do with this album.

FP: You’re very heavy on the keys in this album, especially with the tracks “Nobody Knows” and “Oh What a life”. But there are a few tracks that diverge from that quite a bit. Like, “Agnes.” I am very curious to know what that’s about

IZOL: Well, the track is named after my grandmother, who just passes away and I just had a great relationship with her. And that’s why I called it “Agnes.” And…to be honest it’s a song that is from the earlier days when I started and it was a bedroom jam. My girlfriend, who is now my partner, and I have a kid with her. She was in Amsterdam for a year. And so what do you do in those months with a piano in your house, you know? You stay up late, I brought in all the studio gear and I slept on the sectional and never on our bed. I made the house a studio. So, it came from that era of late night jams and wine and spliffs at 3am and just get into it. And it’s got that mood to it. And it’s kind of reflective of how I like to write. It started with this melody that I love. And they lyrics weren’t essential. As long as I had a melody that fits it I go with it and if I like the feel I often am tetrising in lyrics and that song I particular, the lyrics are almost not totally existent. It has almost a Sigur Ros thing to it. I am notorious for not knowing my lyrics completely until I am right in the studio and forget them. I don’t put as much emphasis on the lyrics as some people would. I do poetry but this is the way I write music. I write melodies and then I fit it in. If I have a good idea behind a song, like something emotional about my grandma, or the essence of time or something like that. People always talk about the feeling of the song.

FP: And I hadn’t thought about this before, but what you said totally makes sense, with that kind of like Sigur Ros sound or experience to it.

IZOL: And it’s funny, I just went for it and discovered later how it sounds and it fits with the context of the album. Just go for it.

FP: So, do you like the less rigid more experimental aspect to it?

IZOL: I really do. At least right now, in my life stage. The funny thing is this started off as a bedroom project and the vision wasn’t that I could play Massey Hall with my keyboards and be amazing and always quiet, which I do well. I like very loud or very quiet. They command similar tension, right? And you’ve caught me right now with me figuring out the album right now and discovering the sound of what this project is. And there seems to be two types of fans. There are the ones that love the synthy aggressive pop that is happening but there’s a lot of fans that love me when I am solo and very vulnerable kind of “Agnes” song. Me, my guitar and distorted vaocals. You can have it all with the album.

FP: Yeah, that stripped down and very vulnerable sound is a nice supplement to the rest of the album.

IZOL: Oh, thanks man! I think “Nobody Knows” will probably be the one people will gravitate to first and then we can introduce the softer stuff too.

FP: Have you seen any shows this week?

IZOL: The only thing I have seen was the Google Play thing with the Stars and Kevin Drew and A Tribe Called Red and they’re all fucking great. That’s pretty much the only thing I have been doing. I will be at the thing on Friday for the poutine party for sure. I was thinking of going out tonight but I don’t know if I can, I am off to Alberta all next week. I have a hell of a lot of prepping to do. Business and work and music too. I try to combine them. I do a lot of travelling. Quite often my manager will get me gigs. So I leave business meeting with my guitar in arm, you know?

FP: It must get really tiring.

IZOL: It totally does, man. And I am a dad too. The reason why I did this project… I want conflict. For this project I want conflict. If I am not feeling stressed because I am not doing the music and I am too busy doing everything else, then I am not doing my job.

FP: I do have one last cliché question for you. Your name, what does it mean?

IZOL: The name came from when the project started. Again, it’s just one of those things that was kind of a joke. And then just stuck. But I like the idea. It was that whole long distance thing with my partner in Amsterdam and I am here starting to do work and it was this idea of like we can all have great long distance relationships now with technology. So, you see this person all the time but you’re still not there. You feel like you’re floating in space. And I came off with this phrase “We’re kind of like international zombies… but of love” or something cheesy like that. And we all are international now (with globalization) and so we’re all International Zombies with all this technology and stuff. Like, we’re communicating all the time. We’re just shuffling around doing this. That’s how it all started.

International Zombies Of Love has more shows coming up and their album You Heard This Wish dropping May 27 via iTunes and CD available at their website:

They are simply not to be missed!



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