The Zilis
Gig Seeker Pro

The Zilis

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2012 | SELF

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada | SELF
Established on Jan, 2012
Band Rock Americana




"3 new Ontario songs you need to hear this week"

With nothing but rain in the forecast, you might be stuck inside this Saturday — but if you are, don't let it be without some new tunes.

CBC Hamilton reporter Adam Carter has your listening needs covered with these new tracks from The Zilis, Brock Zeman and Benjamin as part of his weekly spot from In the Key of C on CBC Radio 1.

You can listen to Adam and host Craig Norris talk these picks in the player above, and listen to the tracks right here.

Sometimes, you're just in the mood for the lament of a mid-tempo ballad.

Hamilton's the Zilis provide just that on The Way Love Goes. From the soft, mournful vocals to the wail of a saxophone in the back of the mix — this tune has just what you need if you need to feel sad for a little bit. - CBC News

"The Zilis "The Way Love Goes" (video)"

Hamilton, ON-based rock'n'rollers the Zilis recorded and self-produced their first two records in the last two years, setting an impressive pace for the young band. They're hoping to hit the studio to lay down LP number three this year, but first, Exclaim! has got the video premiere for "The Way Love Goes."

The track comes from the group's sophomore album Sketches II, and like the entirety of their first two releases, was recorded live off the floor. The rootsy, live energy is palpable on the tune, and the video matches it with some artistic visuals. It opens in the studio of an illustrator, whose wintery forest sketches and subway-set scenes come to life.

The raw, folk-tinged vibe of the latest single is sure to make it's way to the stage when the band performs at Burlington's Sound of Music Festival on June 20. For now, though, give the brand new clip for "The Way Love Goes" a watch in the player below. - - Sarah Murphy

"An Interview With: The Zilis"

The Zilis. It has a certain ring to it that is simple, yet complex. When you meet up with the band, you have to admit simplicity melded with complexity equals wow. It's a hole in one, home run, touchdown zinger! This band is simply the best at delivering what, for any lesser group, would be too complex to accomplish. When a coalition of creativity dedicates itself to recording with the same vivacity fans get watching them on stage, you end up wide-eyed and super-charged.

That's what puts this threesome ahead of the curve. Their goal is to give you the dynamic thrill of a live performance every time you listen. To that end, their CDs are recorded live-off-the-floor. Here, at SRM, we have one thing to say about that: THAT is what rock 'n' roll is all about!

Checking in from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, The Zilis debut album won them a Drummer of the Year award and Rock Album of the Year nomination at the 2012 Hamilton Music Awards. Not content to sit back and nap on their laurels, Zander, Sean and Justin amped it up and headed out to tour even more. The 2014 tour includes the USA and Canada. They're rocking it somewhere every few days. Their energy is capable of launching rockets – famously, they can play three hours a night without set lists. Equally adept at composing their own music and belting out covers, what you get from The Zilis is a tour de force. Throw a song at them and they play. Throw a question at them and they have intelligent and entertaining answers.

[An Interview With: The Zilis] We had a great time visiting with The Zilis. They have sounds that resound with uniqueness and enough oomph to shake the cobwebs out of The Crypt Keeper's brainpan. These guys have some serious chops and a very seriously big future ahead of them.

SRM: How did each of you decide to get into music?

Zander Lamothe: I grew up with a lot of music around me because my dad is also a musician. I would hang out at festivals or clubs with other musicians and would often watch my dad working in the studio or on stage. Those experiences during my childhood definitely guided me toward a career in music. I guess I've never really given it too much thought to be honest, but it was just kind of natural to me because I was around a lot of people doing it for a living. Probably around fourteen years old, I decided I seriously wanted to do this for the rest of my life. I started taking lessons, playing drums in bands or backing various solo artists. I even got a job in a recording studio during high school just to gain experience - and have fun, of course. Eventually I met Sean while playing in a high school band together and years later he gave me a call when Dean Lickyer was looking for a drummer.

Justin Bozzo: One of my first memories was seeing three cousins of mine perform Ave Maria together on violin. They were super talented and one of them actually played for the Pope. I wanted to play the violin after I saw them play. I started taking lessons when I was three and a half and I started playing professionally when I was eleven. Lessons eventually became too much of a chore and I stopped when I was fourteen. It was classical violin so it was all about proper posture and playing by the book. I loved Rock 'n' Roll from the fifties and sixties when I was growing up because of my dad, but I never thought of playing that kind of music myself until I took a music class in ninth grade. Sean was in that class and I heard him play Sweet Child O' Mine on guitar. I sang the riff of it to a friend at lunch and he told me it was Guns N' Roses. That weekend I rode my bike to the store and I picked up their greatest hits album, which was just released at the time. I also started thinking about buying a guitar. One day, during a fire drill, I heard someone was selling a bass. Sean was there and was interested in buying it as well. It had four strings so I thought I'd be able to play it like a violin. It turned out to be a violin flipped upside down. Anyways, I ended up buying that bass and I played in a few bands throughout high school. By the time I was seventeen, I was playing with Sean in a group called High Voltage.

Sean Royle: When I was maybe three or four years old, I used to pretend to play guitar to a VHS of Bruce Springsteen music videos. I had a piece of wood for a guitar while I mimicked all of Springsteen's moves. My Nonna bought me a little toy guitar with a microphone and I loved it. Maybe that sparked some kind of interest at a very young age, but it wasn't until I was in seventh grade when I actually picked up a real guitar. My older sister started learning how to play and eventually she showed me some songs and chords. When I first held the guitar, I held it left-handed. The guitar was right-handed so my sister was like, "Hey, that's wrong. It's upside down!" Not knowing that there was such thing as a left-handed guitar, I just started playing right-handed. I guess it worked out for the better because lefties are a bit pricier.

SRM: We know all of you were very successful and won awards (and cold hard cash!) as a foursome called Dean Lickyer, but that group disbanded. Was it difficult to move on? And what made you decide to stay a threesome - rather than find a replacement for the missing member of Lickyer?

Justin Bozzo: It was definitely an ordeal but to tell you the truth, it was also a relief. We worked with a manager at the time who structured our band in a way that made some members feel more important than others. I think it really got to the head of our old singer. The more I tried to contribute, the more I was resented – all because it didn't fit with this hierarchical way they wanted our band to operate. It was extremely difficult for me to get my ideas worked on or my opinions heard and, unfortunately, their attitudes were picked up and perpetuated by people outside the band as well. I don't compete for the spotlight and neither do Sean or Zander. I enjoy expressing myself through music, but some of the people we worked with saw it as a threat rather than something that was advantageous for us all. It was very difficult to blossom as an artist and as a person in that kind of environment and it showed in our album output. In five years as Dean Lickyer, we were only able to release one seven-song album.

We've been playing originals as The Zilis for only two years and we've released two eight-song albums. It was tough to carry on as a trio at first because we essentially had to start from scratch. In the end, it was for the better and I wish the people we worked with in the past nothing but the best. Why did we stay as a three-piece? I think it's because we already had experience playing covers as a trio. We originally formed The Zilis to pay the debts of our old band. And, like I mentioned earlier, it's hard to find musicians who feel comfortable enough with what they bring to the table that they don't feel threatened by what we bring. It's a funny thing this band business. But we treat each other as equals and we're very respectful of each other's opinions. I think it's created a nice dynamic within the group. No one is preventing anyone from realizing their potential and it's really made things a lot more fun. Like how the old saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

SRM: How did you decide on The Zilis for the band's name? Is there some significance to the name?

Justin Bozzo: I had to do a short-film project in high school with this guy named Francis. I was responsible for putting music to the film and he jokingly asked me if I was going to use anything by the Led Hot Zili Peppers in it. When we needed a cover band name, we thought it was funny and it stuck. Eventually we decided to shorten it to The Zilis for our original material.

SRM: While we're on the subject of names, we saw you do some performances as The Bleeding Idahos. Now, you just know we're going to go down that path! How did you come up with that name, why and when do you use it? Are there any other band names you use?

Justin Bozzo: That name was also inspired by an in-school moment. I was taking an American history course at McMaster University and I learned about this event called Bleeding Kansas where all these people from neighbouring states entered Kansas to vote against or in favour of slavery. I think it was one of the events that sparked the Civil War. Anyways, I liked the phrase and thought it sounded cool when Idaho took the place of Kansas. I thought making it plural sounded even better because now each of us would be a Bleeding Idaho. We go by The Bleeding Idahos when we play cover shows.

SRM: On Facebook you listed 7th chords (major, minor and dominant) under Band Interests. We love that! You're on the spot to tell us more now, so talk. Has there been an active decision to focus on the music instead of a spaced-out rocker image?

Sean Royle: All three of us focus on music rather than a certain kind of image. I think that's one of the big positives of our band. It's honest and truthful. We don't want to put on some kind of act. The music side of things has always been the main focus and always will be. And yes, I do love seventh chords, but I love all the chords! I think it was more just a funny thing thrown up on Facebook. To be honest, I actually forgot it was there. I love listening to old school blues and jazz artists like Lester Young, T-Bone Walker, Freddie Green, etc. Guys like that teach you a lot, not only about chords, but also about music in general. On the topic of chords though, I gotta say that these days I'm really digging sixth chords.

SRM: What are the musical backgrounds of the band members? Do you have formal training, an education at the School of Hard Knocks, or the ability to chat via ghostly portals with past greats?

Zander Lamothe: I was around a lot of music throughout my childhood and that led to me learning a little guitar, playing hand drum, and eventually playing a full drum kit. I took drum lessons for a few years when I first started out, but I'd say I learned more just from playing with a lot of different artists and musicians.

Justin Bozzo: I was classically trained on the violin for eleven years. My dad has also influenced me a lot. He has a huge collection of albums and exposed me to a lot of great music at a young age. I recently received a Master's Certificate in Music Theory, Ear Training and Harmony from Berklee's online music school, but I think some of the most valuable things that I've learned have been from playing along with Beatles and Dr. Dog records. I've learned a great deal from all the shows we've played as well.

Sean Royle: For over 5 years I took guitar lessons from a guy named Rob Evangelista. Not only did he teach me the theory side and how to read, but he also taught me about improvisation. He was a great teacher and always pushed me to be better. When I started getting into the blues and rock guitar like Hendrix and Clapton, we had a lot of fun. He not only taught me the licks these guys were playing, but also what scales and progressions they were using. It was a huge help to me as a musician. Not just on the guitar, but playing the music in general. Aside from formal lessons, I think the albums I've listened to over the years have taught me a lot about music. You throw on any Beatles album and that's a lesson right there!

SRM: Have any groups and/or solo artists influenced your sound?

Zander Lamothe: I think a lot of artists have influenced us on an individual basis and, in turn, have affected our sound as a group. We all have similar tastes though and draw from many of the same artists such as The Band, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and many others of course.

Justin Bozzo: As a band I think we're influenced by a lot of things. I think our sound is product of playing off of one another's individual styles. When it comes to groups/artists, my all-time favourites are The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and The Band. Their music has made a huge impact on me and has molded me into the person I am today.

SRM: Do you play covers, originals, or both and how did you make that decision?

Zander Lamothe: The Zilis are an original band, but we'll throw in a cover here and there during our shows. A few of our fans have some favourites, so we'll often play what they call out. We definitely know a lot of tunes just from playing so much. We don't normally write out a set list, so we just play a cover if we're all feeling it in the moment. The three of us play cover shows as The Bleeding Idahos. We have a few residencies around Southern Ontario, but The Zilis is our main band.

SRM: What instruments and FX do you use to get your sound? Do you have any favorites?

Sean Royle: My Stratocaster and Les Paul are my two main electric guitars. For an amp I use a Marshall Plexi. There's something real special about those one-channel tubed heads. As far as effects go, I don't use too much. The only pedal that is crucial to my sound is a delay pedal dialed up for slapback. When I first heard some of Les Paul's recordings, I fell in love with that slapback sound. Right now, I'm not using any other effects, though I do pull out a wah sometimes for a laugh.

SRM: The Zilis are known for doing three sets, each an hour long. We get exhausted just pondering the dynamics of performing such an impossible feat. How did The Zilis come to be supermen of music? Do you have any "insider's secrets" or are you all just unimaginably energetic and focused?

Zander Lamothe: We've put a ton of hours into our instruments individually and have also invested a lot of time and energy into the band and our music as a group. We really just approach it as the norm. I think it's good that we set the bar high for ourselves. It makes one set feel like nothing when you're so used to playing three of them.

SRM: How much time and effort do you put into practice and rehearsal for recordings and performances? Moreover, how many hours of work at each practice does it take so you can perform three hours a night?

Zander Lamothe: Recently, we've been so busy performing that we haven't had as much time to jam and practice as we usually do. In the past, we've definitely spent a lot of hours practicing together in Sean's basement. It takes a lot of practice to be able to play the amount of songs we know. During our rehearsals we often kick into some jams, so we usually end up going most of the day practicing tunes and jamming out. Whenever we start preparing for the next album, we'll start woodshedding on the new tunes and practice more often than we currently are at the moment.

Sean Royle: These days we play so many times a week that we don't have much time to practice. Playing gigs at least three times a week over the past few years has really made us tight as musicians. A lot of times, if someone in the crowd knows the words to a certain cover they wanna do, we'll let them sing it onstage and we'll follow along right there on the spot. There's something real magical and spontaneous about that and I think the crowd really picks up on it. When it's time for writing new songs and getting ready for recording, we put a lot more time into jamming. That's when we really shut it down and go over our arrangements until we know we're ready.

SRM: What are your rehearsals like and do you have any ironclad rules for people you work with?

Zander Lamothe: We're all pretty easy going. We always drink espresso, chat and get some water before we practice. Nothing too crazy though.

SRM: How do you prepare for gigs, what do you take with you, do you have a road crew?

Justin Bozzo: We don't do much preparing. We may have a few shots of gin before we play and we usually have three pitchers of water handy on stage as well. We used to work with a tour manager, but I always felt it was a little unnecessary to tell you the truth. We enjoy driving and none of us really mind checking into hotels or settling up with promoters at the end of the night. We may need a designated tour manager in the future, but right now, I think we've been doing all right with the do-it-yourself approach.

SRM: Do you have preset choreography and cues for live performances? For example, do you rehearse your stage movements or do you just wing it on a case by case basis?

Sean Royle: There are no rehearsed moves, cues or anything else like that with The Zilis. I feel our performances are very raw, unique and honest because we don't follow any rules. Most of the time we don't even write up a set list. We feed off of the energy and emotion of the crowd and we usually decide which song to play at that very moment in time.

SRM: In 2012 alone, you did 120 live performances. This year you're scheduled to do an extended USA tour. What was your most exciting experience while on tour or playing a one-nighter?

Justin Bozzo: We've played in front of crowds of over 20,000 people when we opened up for KISS at Sarnia Bayfest and Bon Jovi at the Air Canada Centre. Those moments were beyond exhilarating. Another particularly memorable moment was when we played in Austin, Texas for SxSW. I wanted to see Dr. Dog – one of my favourite new bands – at this venue down the road from where we played. Problem was that it was sold out and I was underage. But I scratched my ID to make the nine of my birth year look like a zero and I told security around back that I was in the band that played earlier. I ended up getting in and I was able to make my way onto the stage. I'll never forget that Scott – the singer/guitarist of the band – smiled at me when he slid down the railing to come on. It was epic. After they played I got to meet the guys and one of the bartenders gave me a free beer because he thought I played earlier. We've had a lot of great moments on the road.

SRM: You've all said you like bringing the experience of a live performance to your recordings. What steps and techniques do you employ to recreate the dynamic of hearing you live?

Zander Lamothe: Well, the last two times we've recorded, we worked at a sweet little studio outside of Hamilton called Studio 410. We recorded live-off-the-floor without any type of click track to keep us to a strict tempo and doing that definitely makes it closer to a live show. The ebbs and flows of a song shine through a little more in my opinion. The main thing is, we played the vast majority of this album together in one room, live-off-the-floor, which is something we're all extremely proud of.

SRM: What would you say is The Zilis hallmark - is there one thing you would like to be known for?

Justin Bozzo: I think there are a few: being diverse songwriters, producers and well-seasoned musicians who know a thing or two about improvisation.

SRM: Do you have a goal, as a band, you would like to reach? How about as individuals?

Zander Lamothe: From a musical standpoint, I think we all want to be successful as a band. I guess there can be different definitions of what success actually is, but for us I think we'd all be happy if we could tour, record and make music for a living. Whether that "success" entails playing arenas, theatres, or clubs, only time will tell; but, at the moment, we're focused on our more immediate goals like touring and getting our music out there.

SRM: Do you have any advice for other musicians who want to accomplish big things with their lives?

Justin Bozzo: If you want to be in a band, make sure you're surrounded by people who are just as passionate and trustworthy as you are. The business is full of liars and crooks. You won't last long if your bandmates don't have each other's backs. Be considerate, but don't take any shit from anyone. You should be your biggest fan and your biggest critic.

SRM: Everyone wants to know if you plan to make future recordings? If so, will they all be originals or do you want to do covers as well?

Zander Lamothe: We definitely want to make more albums. At the moment, we're focused on promoting our latest release "Sketches II", but I'd imagine that we'll record another album a year or so from now. We've never put any cover tunes on our albums, but we have talked about doing a cover album someday.

SRM: Is there any one song you would love to perform or record that you never will do for one reason or another?

Sean Royle: For me personally, I don't think I'll ever perform The Rose by Bette Midler again. I know it's an oddball, but I had to perform it at a funeral and ever since then, if I try to play it, I get a bit emotional.

SRM: What are your future plans, where do you see yourself in another five years? Ten years? And, we have to ask, what kind of vitamins will you take so you can do three hour-long sets if you outlast The Rolling Stones?

Zander Lamothe: In the immediate future, we'll be promoting our first two albums. In August, we're doing a tour down south into the USA, which is something we're all pumped about. It's hard to look too far into the future, but I hope in five years we'll have at least a couple more albums out. Hopefully our music careers will have an even stronger footing. If we all feel that we've been successful in our efforts musically, then I think we'll all be happy five or ten years from now.

While we're on the subject of Z words, let's just say The Zilis have pizzazz! One member of the SRM crew said, "Hey, give me The Pizzazz Zilis - The PIZZAZZILIS!" The rest of us just stared at her, but had to admit she's right. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is better than a band that sounds the same on CD as they do on stage. Get a load of The Zilis. You'll be glad you did. - Surf Rock Music

"The Zilis' Sketches II"

Few local bands have grown up with such a spotlight on them but for the last eight years, Sean Royle (vocals, guitar), Justin Bozzo (vocals, bass) and Zander Lamothe (drums, vocals) have been teenagers that captured the imagination of many a fan and critic. As they moved into adulthood, they shied away from the hard rock / heavy metal stylings they gleamed from their parent’s record collections when they played as Dean Lickyer. As the Zilis, they take more from the Beatles’ White album and make a wide range of rock with different flavours clearly documented on their debut CD, Sketches, released back in July 2012. This weekend, the Zilis return with perhaps a similar mindset but even more galvanized in their path to offer their new CD, Sketches II.

“We’ve played over 200 shows since we released Sketches,” offers Bozzo. “We also filmed two music videos and made another record. Right now, we’re in the midst of a mini–tour around the 401. I teach music and go to McMaster full–time, so the past eighteen months have been real busy. But I enjoy it, and things have been going well.”

“We toured around Ontario as well as out east and back — the band really started to find its groove and we matured as a whole,” interjects Royle. “When you’re playing shows three or four times a week it really gives you the opportunity to experiment with different approaches to your songs and also to get very comfortable with the guys around you. The second album is really where the last one takes off. Maybe you could say it has a bit more of a mature sound to it because it’s our second studio attempt. However, I think that kind of stuff just happens as any band grows. You get tighter and better at what you’re doing. Ultimately, you get a little closer to capturing the sound and ideas you’re chasing as an artist.”

“Our first album touched on a lot, but there was still a lot more that we wanted to do,” adds Bozzo. “In a way, it’s just a continuation of the kinds of songs that we love. The title, Sketches II, just seemed appropriate. There’s a blues number on it, a Motowny one, indie and heartland rock. But if I had to describe the album to someone, I’d say it’s just rock and roll.”

Returning to 410 Studios with producer Carm Milioto, the Zilis have honed their songs on the live stage and so recording them meant they’d do the songs without editing live off the floor. It captures the excitement of the songs and with a wide repertoire of styles now available to them, Sketches II is a fun romp that easily lends itself to a party listen.

“We choose to record live off the floor because it’s the only way where we feel we can not only capture what we’re trying to do in the studio, but also feel comfortable while doing it,” notes Royle. “It’s a moment in time where you’re all together in one room, trying to bang out the best version of that particular track. It’s a very honest way to go about recording and the only way we feel we can capture what The Zilis are all about.”

“The way I see it, the Zilis are group of well seasoned musicians that are heavily influenced by a variety of different genres such as folk, blues, jazz, pop, country–the list goes on,” says Royle. “We try and put that all together in one big sauce pan and what you get is a very honest form of what we feel rock n roll is all about.”

“We’ve been playing music together for eight years,” adds Bozzo. “We’re very proud of everything we’ve been able to accomplish, but as a trio, I feel like things are firing on all cylinders. We love to improvise and I feel we play off of each other very well. Someone coming to our show is going to see a group of guys that really enjoy what they do, not because they hope to get rich and famous from it, but because it’s a part of who they are. When you see the Zilis, you’re going to see rock and roll how it’s meant to be played.”

The Zilis play this Friday February 7 at This Ain’t Hollywood with the Bandicoots and Go To The West. Doors for the licensed all ages gig are at 9pm and tickets are $5 for 19+ and $8 for ages under 19. Click on - The View Magazine

"Getting to Know: Eclectic Hamilton Rockers, The Zilis"

Band Name: The Zilis
Band Members: Justin Bozzo (vocals, bass, guitar), Zander Lamothe (drums, vocals), and Sean Royle (vocals, guitar)
Years Active: 2
City of Origin: Hamilton, Ontario.

Who are you and what do you do?
Zander: “The Zilis are a three-piece rock and roll band based out of Hamilton, Ontario.”

In 100 words or less, tell us how your band has gotten to this point.
Zander: “Originally, we were a cover band called The Led Hot Zili Peppers. We formed to pay off the debts of our previous band, Dean Lickyer, but when the singer of that band left, we decided to keep playing together as a three-piece. Sean and Justin ended up sharing vocal duties and we started working on original tunes as The Zilis for our first release, Sketches. Fast-forward a couple years, a few hundred shows, and a couple of albums later and we’re still going strong. We toured the United States a little while ago and now we’ve been working on some new music videos. We also have a new album on the way.”

What is your latest release and how would you best describe it to someone who hasn’t heard your band?
Zander: “We released our latest album in February of last year and it’s called Sketches II. I would describe our sound as rock and roll with splashes of other musical influences.”

When making an album, which aspect of the process do you put the most time into and why?
Sean: “We put a lot of time into each and every step of the process, but I’d say production usually takes the most time out of the three. The songwriting happens first with someone’s idea. Usually the writer will play it for the band and then we’ll start jamming it out. Once we all get a feel for the song, we spend countless hours producing it, getting it to sound exactly the way we want. For us, producing is keeping the listener interested and excited. We think it’s very important. Depending on how you arrange and produce a song, you can make a simple chord progression sound very interesting.”

What is the best part about your band and why?
Sean: “We have a diverse collection of songs. There’s a nice variety on Sketches I and II. Both albums are influenced by a lot of genres – from folk to jazz to blues to R&B. At the end of the day they’re Rock and Roll albums, but I think drawing from different styles keeps each song very unique and keeps people interested in our music.”

What makes your band unique from the rest?
Sean: “Our live show is mostly improvised. We’ve played a lot of shows with each other and it’s made us comfortable on stage together and aware of the direction a song or jam is headed. During a live show we like to take our songs to a place that’s a little different from the way we do it on the album. I find that it keeps the performance exciting and the audience interested. We rarely ever have set lists written up because we like to go with the flow and feeling we get from the audience.”

How does your band survive the challenges of touring/gigging?
Justin: “We don’t really think of touring as some grueling thing to tell you the truth. We’ve been playing together for a long time and we enjoy each other’s company, so that helps. But, we don’t mind sleeping in the van or playing shows after long drives. Those things are all part of the experience. It’s something we look forward to.”

Would you rather be critically-acclaimed; rich and famous; or an under-the-radar band with a dedicated fan base?
Zander: “All of us would prefer to be a band with a devoted fan base, regardless of whether fame and riches come with that or not. I think you should be wary of your only goal being to seek fame – but you also shouldn’t look a gift-horse in the mouth. Like Napoleon said, ‘Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.’ Our goal is to create music we love and hopefully people will end up liking it as much as we do.”

If you’d have to compare your band to another one out there, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Sean: “Maybe The Band. I’m not saying we sound exactly like them, but I think we’re similar because of the constant gigging and touring we do. We’re influenced by a wide variety of genres like they were. We also don’t have a set ‘lead singer’ in the band.”

Which band/musician would you like to share many drinks with? What would you talk about?
Sean: “It’d have to be The Rolling Stones. They’re just so legendary. I’d have a million questions for them about their past and what it was like for them. It’d be a long conversation!” - RiffYou

"The Zilis at Baltimore House!"

Old school rock n’ roll meets a modern edge with The Zilis. Their latest album Sketches II takes you on a journey through their eclectic musical influences; from blues to pop, R&B and jazz, it all can be heard in their rock and roll sound. “Don’t Ever Change”, the third song on their album, is a great example of what these guys are about, fun and roaring with energy! They open the song with some guitar feedback which quickly turns into surf rock tune, making you want to grab a partner and break into some sort of 60’s jive. Much like the rest of the album, it's got that get up and move vibe, but don't let that fool you, these guys show they've got a softer side too. If you feel like tearing up to some heart-wrenching bluesy music throw on “Ballad of a Broken Heart”. These guys are incredibly diverse, you won't regret giving them a listen! So, brave the snow and warm up with The Zilis tonight, they're worth the trek! Jan 27 @ Baltimore House. - The Deli Magazine

"The Zilis Keep Rocking And Rolling"

The year started off with a bang for the Hamilton band The Zilis. Band members Justin Bozzo (bass and vocals), Zander Lamothe (drums) and Sean Royle (guitar and vocals) are not only doing a local tour with stops in Toronto, Ottawa and Kingston this month, but they are also releasing their second album, Sketches II.

Bozzo, a McMaster student, says fans can expect “more bluesy, R&B, [and] some soul” on the new album. He expands on this, explaining how bands such as The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and The Beatles have influenced the Zilis’ sound.

“We listen to 20’s blues as well, the older jazz music that shows off a lot of good improvisation,” said Bozzo. The new album will have “a lot of variety,” according to Bozzo. “It includes the song types we didn’t include in the first album, Sketches.”

Sketches II is just one more stepping-stone in the Zilis’ eight-year-long journey in the music industry. The band has played with The Arkells, Hey Rosetta, Flogging Molly among others, including opening for the legendary bands KISS and the well-known Bon Jovi.

With experience playing before crowds as large as 25,000, the Zilis are no strangers to being on the road and playing live. The band has played from coast to coast in cities including Vancouver, Toronto and Quebec City.

The band started out in Hamilton venues such as the Casbah and The Lazy Flamingo, who helped them kick-start their career. They have also played at The Phoenix, and McMaster’s own Faculty Hollow for Welcome Week 2013.

Sketches was also nominated for rock recording of the year at the 2012 Hamilton Music Awards.

The boys are kicking off their new tour with a CD release party right here in their native city on Feb. 7 at This Ain’t Hollywood. Fellow Hamilton bands The Bandicoots and Go To The West will open.

The Zilis have stated that they will be playing Sketches II, start to finish. During past gigs, the band has been known to play impressive three hour sets where the boys lay everything they have out on stage.

The Zilis have done some amazing things in the past eight years in both the Hamilton and Canadian music scenes. The release party for Sketches II will be dedicated to celebrating this latest accomplishment with fans, which should make for an incredible and memorable night.

Sketches II will be available on iTunes on Feb. 4 2014. - The Silhouette Newspaper

"INTERVIEW: The Zilis (@thezilis) | RIYL: Kings of Leon, The Strokes, The Avett Brothers"

Can you please introduce yourself?
SEAN ROYLE: The Zilis are a three piece rock and roll band based out of Canada. The three musicians who make up The Zilis are Sean Royle (guitar/vocals) Justin Bozzo (bass guitar/vocals) and Zander Lamothe (drums/vocals). All three musicians in the band are very versatile and do play a wide variety of other instruments that feature in the recording and production of each original song.

How did you guys put this band together?
JUSTIN BOZZO: We played in bands together when we were in high school but we first started playing as a trio in 2010. We actually played three one-hour long sets a night as a cover band called the Led Hot Zili Peppers. We played in an original band at the time called Dean Lickyer, but we started playing covers under a different name to pay for the expenses of our original band. When our front man left in 2011, we decided to write original music as a trio with Sean and I sharing vocal duties. We’ve been going strong ever since.

So what’s a Zili?
JUSTIN BOZZO: We wanted to differentiate our original music from the covers we played so we decided to streamline the Led Hot Zili Peppers name to The Zilis. The name actually came from a classmate who asked if I’d be putting any “Led Hot Zili Pepper” music in this short-film project him and I had to do in high school. We all thought it was funny and it stuck.

What are your musical influences?
SEAN ROYLE: As musicians we all personally enjoy a pretty wide variety of music. Our band is definitely influenced by older bands and songwriters such as The Bealtes, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and so on. But we’re also influenced by a lot of the new rock and roll bands like Kings of Leon, The Strokes, The Avett Brothers; the list goes on. Even the odd pop song on the radio we’ll enjoy. If it’s good music you cant help but enjoy it and try and learn from it.

JUSTIN BOZZO: We like all kinds of stuff. My personal favourites are The Beatles, The Stones, Bob Dylan and The Band. I’m a fan of Motown and older country and blues artists but I also like a lot of newer bands like Dr. Dog, the Avett Brothers and My Morning Jacket as well.

You guys recently released a new song, “Diamondback”. Can you tell us more about the story behind the track?
JUSTIN BOZZO: I was just fooling around on my acoustic one night. The chords literally fell into place and the melody came about from humming along quietly so I wouldn’t wake anyone up. I ended up recording it so I’d remember it. I showed it to the guys two years later and we worked on keeping it interesting from start to finish. It’s got a great breakdown – very climactic. Our friend Parag Chakravarti put a nice touch on it with his alto-sax. The lyrics came later and were pieced together from the random words I was singing in the original recording. I just thought, what was the person singing the song trying to convey? That’s pretty much the story behind “Diamondback”.

The single comes off your latest album, Sketches II; can you talk to us more about the recording and writing process?
SEAN ROYLE: The writing process varies from song to song but most of the time someone in the band will have the original idea of a song worked out on an acoustic. Then we work it out as a band for however long it takes. We spend a lot of time trying to produce the songs in a way to keep it interesting the whole way through. Once we get the songs where we want them we head to the studio and record live off the floor. Recording live is a huge part of The Zilis sound and it’s the only way we feel comfortable in the studio. We try to capture the energy of what we do in a live show onto tape.

How did you guys come up with the title?
JUSTIN BOZZO: Both our albums draw upon a ton of influences. Our first has some folk numbers on it and it even has a reggae tune. Our second has songs that draw from Motown, Chicago blues and indie. There’s a lot of variety on our albums but in the end, they’re all Rock ‘n’ Roll songs. Sketches seemed like an appropriate title because it defines our music in an artistic way and we really enjoy crafting our songs like it’s an art. We called our second album Sketches II because it’s a continuation of the kinds of songs we love. We also thought that having a nighttime-themed album cover would be cool alongside the daytime-themed cover of our first album.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
JUSTIN BOZZO: Song ideas come out of nowhere so I couldn’t tell you specifically what inspired them. I don’t think any of us sit there for hours trying to come up with a song. They just happen. I think if you’re attentive to what’s going on around you, you can find inspiration anywhere. We’ve been playing together for eight years now and we’ve experienced a lot. I think the lyrics to the songs have a lot to do with the things we’ve learned over that time.

What was the approach you were looking for this album and do you think you accomplished this?
ZANDER LAMOTHE: We’ve self-produced both our albums and I think both times our general goal was to capture our live sound and energy on tape. I think we did a pretty successful job, I mean of course you can always improve, but we’re all extremely happy with our first two releases. We recorded the bed-tracks live-off-the-floor and didn’t use click-track on any songs, so I think that obviously contributes to the album’s vibe being closer to our live show.

I understand you guys will be hitting the road this year. Can you give us more details?
ZANDER LAMOTHE: In August we’re heading out for our “Give Me Liberty! Tour” in the USA, check out our website because we’ll post the dates once every show is solid, but we’re all pumped to start touring down south into the States. We’ve only really played one-off shows before in the USA and haven’t done a full tour yet, so we’re all really excited to be touring down there this summer.

What’s been like to share the stage with acts like Kiss and Bon Jovi? What have you learned from these experiences?
SEAN ROYLE: Playing with big acts like that in big arenas and festivals is a lot of fun and a great learning experience for any musician. Whenever you open for a big act in a big venue, you kind of have to forget that there are 20,000 people staring back at you and just do what you do every night. We’ve always seemed to engage the crowd and keep them interested with our live show whether it’s in a small bar or big stadium. It’s a bit intimidating on the bigger stage because everyone’s paying 100 dollars or whatever a ticket to see the headliner and a lot of times they aren’t interested in who’s opening the show. We’ve always seemed to rise to the occasion and make the best of our opportunities. We’re thankful for what we’ve been blessed with.

What else is happening next in The Zilis’ world?
ZANDER LAMOTHE: Right now we’re just gearing up for the USA tour in August, trying to promote the band, and playing shows around Ontario mostly. We also have plans to shoot another music video soon for a song off our new album, so it’s going to be a busy year for us.

Where can we find more about your music?
ZANDER LAMOTHE: We’re on all the social media stuff, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and we also have a website, You can check out our music on the website for free, and our music’s available to buy on iTunes, and Amazon. - VENTS Magazine

"The Zilis release new single “Diamondback” (RIYL: Alabama Shakes)"

Check out Ontario-based Americana rockers The Zilis! The band just released their new single “Diamondback”. Click HERE to listen. The track comes off their recently released album Sketches II, out now.

Drawing influences from bands like Dr. Dog, The Avett Brothers and The Vines, the trio blends roots rock with shades of blues and folk. The trio has been featured on the Canadian television show disBAND and have opened for renowned artists like Bon Jovi, Kiss and The Sheepdogs. The Zilis will embark on their “Give Me Liberty!” US tour later this summer. Stay tuned for dates. - VENTS Magazine

"Sketches II by The Zilis – Review"

This Saturday Hamilton band The Zilis will play along side Guelph‘s Fitness Club Fiasco, both Kennedy Cult and Goodnight, Sunrise of Toronto share the bill as well. Born from the ashes of Dean Lickyer, The Zilis have recently released their second EP, Sketches II.

You would never guess by how polished this record is that it is only their sophomore effort. Pulling from a wide range of styles, The Zilis have created a modern version of something you’ll recognize. Blues with blistering leads and solos, Funky Bass lines and Rock N’ Roll pop sensibilities create a fun and danceable record that you’d be happy to put on at home but will translate great live. If you get a chance to come out on February 1st to see The Zilis in Guelph. DO IT! And bring your dancing shoes.

Sketches II will be available February 4th or at the CD release party February 7th in Hamilton. - Music Lives Magazine

"Introducing The Zilis"

Americana rockers The Zilis have just released their new single, Diamondback, taken from their recently released album Sketches II.

The trio blends roots rock with shades of blues and folk, and the single sets off at a gallop before slowing down around half way through for a tasty brass interlude and building back up for an epic finale.

Have a listen. - The Mad Mackerel Music Blog



Sketches II



   After touring relentlessly – often playing three, hour-long sets a night to promote a debut album that garnered them a ‘Drummer of the Year’ award and a ‘Rock Recording of the Year’ nomination at the 2012 Hamilton Music Awards – THE ZILIS returned to Studio 410 just outside of Hamilton, Ontario in the summer of 2013 to record their sophomore album, ‘Sketches II’.

   Following the release of their second self-produced effort in early 2014, THE ZILIS toured Southern Ontario and filmed a brand new music video with Southern Souls. They played alongside several notable acts throughout the year (The Sheepdogs, U.S.S., Said The Whale) and made numerous festival appearances (Sound OfMusic Festival, Come Together Music Festival, Supercawl) before embarking on a three-week tour of the United States.

   THE ZILIS have released three new music videos thus far in 2015 – the latest being exclusively released by Exclaim! – and their album, ‘Sketches II’, has earned them ‘Alternative/Indie Rock Recording of the Year’ and ‘Bassist of the Year’ accolades at the 2015 Hamilton Music Awards. For the remainder of the summer, the group will be working on what promises to be their longest and finest album to date. Expect to hear more about THE ZILIS as the year progresses for the talent in this three-piece band is hard to deny. For more information visit

Band Members