By her own admission, Zola Jesus is not a typical pop star. The 25-years-old singer, who creates industrial art-pop, appears otherworldly like she just came from the set of a sci-fi film, or a relatively avant-garde runway show. Modish and futuristic, Zola Jesus tells us more about herself and the new album Taiga, her first release on new label Mute Records after spending the entirety of her career on Sacred Bones Records
Zola Jesus, hello, welcome to Milan. Can you please shortly introduce yourself?
My real name is Nika Roza Danilova and i choose Zola Jesus as stage name because Zola i very much about realism and Jesus about the spiritual and fantastic side of myself and i thought that together they could be a good match that well represent my personality. I started when i was 14 and I was in school but for as long as i remember i was singing around the house, make up songs and entertain myself since i was a child; then i started studying opera with the piano, violin and guitar. So music has always been in my life, there’s has never been a point where i decided that i wanted to do this because it was naturally in my dna.
We are much looking forward to here ‘Taiga’ tonight, our new album. Tell us more, also about your stay at Vashon, ditching civilization for nine months
Well, Taiga means Russian for forest and encompasses the vast power and freedom of the natural world; it represents the kind of feeling i had when i was writing the album, so a feeling of freedom and liberation. I spent time, across 2012 and 2013, a period of time on the little island of Vashon, in Washington state, near the coast of Seattle. It’s a very fascinating place, with an interesting mix of people that moved there in the ’70s and then Microsoft millionaires that moved there in the ’90s.
Do you feel that being isolated for such a long time helped you in producing the album?
Yeah, i think moving from Los Angeles to this very isolated island, it gave me the peace of mind that i didn’t have while i was in California to write this album. And the condition really restored the feeling of freedom. Moving there really evoked a lot of new ideas and emotions that ended up on the record. You know, when you are living in a big civilization or cultural hub like Los Angeles, you become overwhelmed by all the happenings there, you can’t even find your place sometimes.
Do you think that Taiga is an arrival point in your career, a more mature album?
I think is a different album from my previous works because it’s more precise, both in the songwriting, production and ideas; everything is a little bit more cleaned up, it’s like i finally figured out what i really want to say. With Taiga i reveal the full scope of my musical identity, embracing punk and noise with my classical background.
Hard to pick between 11 songs, i know, but what’s the most representative song in your last album?
Well, i usually say ‘Hunger’ (www.youtube.com) because i think it’s different from anything i have ever done and encapsulate the desperation and sense of extreme passion that i had when i was writing this album. And also extreme fear in a way.
‘How exciting would it be to hear a song on the radio that’s actually saying something?’ you mentioned once during an interview with Pitchfork. Di you think this is happening now with your song? What are you saying?
Well, i certainly hope so because i feel and nor i don’t want to write music that isn’t saying anything; generally i want to try to understand the world better through music because it think is more productive and i don’t want to waste any opportunity to speak to my public.
In terms of collaborations, how was the one with M83 and how it started?
M83, Anthony and I have mutual friends and had gotten in touch with each other at the same time because we both wanted to collaborate. He invited me ti the studio and it was just very easy because there was a kismet that we both felt simultaneously. We have a very similar inclination as artists and musicians so we got together and really got along, and I immediately felt it was really beautiful what we were doing together. I knew exactly what to do, went over to the studio, and laid down the vocals. Certainly we are going to do more things together as we are in touch. He is also working on his new album right now.
You have a very strong visual aesthetic. Does this help your music?
Basically i like to wear clothes that make me feel more… me. It’s in a way why you wear clothes, not just to cover your body but to feel more represented. And that’s why i wear clothes that make me feel very strong and powerful. I don’t have it on right know because i just arrive from a long day of travel from Rome, my i usually wear a lot of jewelry, lots of bracelets and rins. But everything is very minimal in terms of style. I don’t like ornamentations because it feels functional in a way,
Thank you Zola.
Thanks you and see you tonight at the show!
Zola Jesus played live at Tunnel Club in Milan on Wednesday March 25th for Elita Design Week Festival Warm-Up Party. (www.designweekfestival.com)
credit Anna Adamo/Cesura www.cargocollective.com/annaadamo