• About A Band: Zola Jesus

    At just 25 years old, Nika Roza Danilova, who performs under the name Zola Jesus, has already released four full-length albums. Now on her fifth release Taiga, Danilova finally feels confident that she's released an album that represents her full talent as a musician and songwriter. While her past releases have been darker and more experimental, Taiga proves to be a move in a more accessible direction - Danilova says she was inspired by the minimalism of Sam Cooke for this record, which is apparent in the haunting yet undeniably catchy songs on Taiga.

    Curious to know more about Danilova ahead of her upcoming, just-announced performance for us at our New York City Afterfest, we took a moment to chat to her about her songwriting process, what she has planned for her upcoming tour and why she's hopeful her album will make it to number one.
    Photos by Jeff Ellstone

    Thanks for talking to us so early this morning!

    No problem [laughs].

    We were listening to Taiga all last night and we love it. Is it exciting knowing that it’ll be coming out in about a week?

    Thank you! Yeah, it’s exciting and terrifying [laughs].

    Are there any songs on the album that you’re especially excited for people to hear?

    Oh man, so many. Every song on this album I’ve slaved over so... all of them [laughs].

    Were there any artists that you were listening to specifically for inspiration while you made the album?

    I was listening to a lot of opera, a lot of classical music like Wagner, more like German expressionist classical music. I’ve been listening to hip-hop and early R&B, like early Sam Cooke I like a lot. I like how minimal it was and how emotional his music is. Things like that.

    That actually seems like a good description of your vibe on this album. We also saw that you’d love for it to go number one…

    [Laughs] I mean, the thing about saying that is… who doesn’t want their album to go to number one? You make something that you’re proud of and that you love and that’s uncompromising, and you hope that people respond to it. That's all I meant by that. I didn’t mean, Oh, I’m gonna follow a formula that’s going to take me there. I think we’re in a really exciting time in music right now where passionate music will rise to the top. I want everyone to see that it’s genuine and authentic. I didn’t mean I wanted to be a commercial pop star or anything.

    It'd probably be nice to know that your music has touched so many people if it goes number one.

    Yeah, being a musician is about having a conversation, and you wanna have that conversation with people, because otherwise you don’t publish your music and you keep it to yourself. The minute you give it away you hope that people love it and care for it and support it.

    Is it nerve-wracking knowing that once the album is out there will be a ton of people critiquing it on the internet or is that something you’ve gotten used to?

    No, I’ll never get used to it [laughs]. The whole platform of having social media and feeling like everything you’re thinking can be validated through writing it… it’s hard! It’s hard to read that stuff. And you read it and then you realize that it shouldn’t be a part of the conversation. It really does change your relationship with the music that you’ve spent years and years making and it can be pretty unhealthy.

    Do you tend to avoid any negative reviews or take in everything?

    It depends on how I’m feeling. For this record I’m so confident that I’ve made a record I’m extremely proud of and that’s just so full of passion and vulnerability. The fact that I’m so confident in this record gives me a strong faith. If someone says something negative about it, it doesn’t affect me, because I know what I made. I believe in it and I stand by it, which is important.

    We saw that you recently played the Prabal Garung show at fashion week. Can you tell us about that?

    It was cool. It was just like an after party and I performed some new songs, solo. I performed “Dust” and “Dangerous Days” and it was a lot of fun. It was cool to see people responding to the music very early on. They had probably never heard many of the songs before, but everyone seemed to like it and that was exciting.

    Was that the first time you performed them for an audience?

    It was, yeah. It was really scary [laughs], because I’m not used to playing the songs yet and I was on my own, so it was a little scary but it was good. Now I feel like, Okay, I’m figuring out how to perform these live. I feel ready.

    We can't wait to see you out on the road!

    Zola Jesus
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    See Zola Jesus live at Le Bain (444 W. 13th St.) this Friday, October 24, for our AFTERFEST event! RSVP here.