Zola Jesus Interview

Sarah Lakos | 28 March 2012


Zola Jesus is about to take Australia by storm. Zola, aka Nika Roza Danilova, is the girl from Wisconsin whose voice has caught the attention of American and European audiences alike. With three EPs and three studio albums already under her belt, she is gaining ground fast with her stirring, dramatic sound. While her music tends towards the dark, intense and confronting, it turns out the woman herself is actually pretty lovely – if a bit bummed about having her flight cancelled. We had a chat to her about touring, music videos and her affinity with Scandinavia.

So where in the world are you?
I’m supposed to be on a flight to Copenhagen right now but my flight got cancelled, so I’m in Los Angeles which is frustrating.

That’s a bit of a false start! Have you toured there before?
Yeah, I’ve done a bit of travelling in Europe. I love to go to Scandinavia. Which is why I was so excited to go to Copenhagen tonight. There’s a lot of great art there and a lot of design. I don’t know, I always feel really good when I’m there.

Have you been to Australia before?
No, never.

What do you want to do when you get here?
I’m very excited to come to Australia. I think of the outback and how beautiful it must be. My music video director has filmed in the outback with an Australian band, it was really cool. I want to see the city, and explore all the cities I’m going to. I’ll be doing a couple of shows around Australia, but hopefully I’ll come back.

I’ve got to ask, where does the name Zola Jesus come from?
It’s sort of arbitrary. I made it up when I was pretty young. I just came up with it as a band name and it just stuck.

You’ve got a really specific aesthetic in your music videos.
I’m really specific on what I like and don’t like. That comes across really strong in everything I do creatively. Especially with my music videos, I know exactly what I like. I work with a director on my videos and we collaborate a lot. It makes it a lot easier. I just feel like when I’m putting myself out there, I like to have complete control over it. It comes pretty natural to me to want to have a say.

Your sound is so operatic, why are you drawn to that?

I’m not really sure. It just comes out. I’m just trying to make something that feels like an ideal. When I write songs, I write about my environment and humanity. I’m always really interested in how humans interact with each other and how they survive when they’re alone, the psychology of people.

Where was your most recent album, Conatus, written?

I wrote it in my home in Los Angeles in three months. I had a deadline. I work well under pressure. I don’t leave it to the last minute, but I feel more fruitful when I know there’s an end in sight.

Zola Jesus is playing the following dates:

Vivid Live, May 31st at The Studio.
vividlive.sydneyoperahouse.com

Alhambra Lounge, Brisbane, 1st June.
www.oztix.com.au

The Toff, Melbourne, 3 June.
www.moshtix.com.au

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