While it’s billed as a music and arts festival, there are few acts at this weekend’s Electric Picnic who genuinely cover both ends of the spectrum. Zola Jesus, however, is an exception. Nika Roza Danilova grew up in rural Wisconsin, part of a Russian American family. Although one of this year’s most acclaimed new artists, she already has two albums and three EPs to her name. A third record, Conatus, is coming our way in the autumn. As the attention of the world increases how difficult, we wonder, is it for her to stick to her original vision..
“It’s been pretty easy. The more people who listen just makes it clearer what it is I want to do”.
Does the increasing audience give you more faith?
“Not really, if you’re doing something that’s honest then people will be drawn to it, it doesn’t really matter what it sounds like. My music does have melody to it so I don’t see how it would alienate anyone really”.
Did your upbringing shape your music?
“Having grown up in the country in the middle of America, I was able to explore what I liked through my own way, rather than having it oppressed upon my by popular culture. It helps for me to do that now, but sometimes I’m not able to. It’s good to stay tuned to your own energy and the purity of what you’re trying to say and trying to create”.
That’s hard to do these days, how do you manage it?
“It doesn’t help that I live in Los Angeles. When I write music I tend not to leave my house very much, I prefer to be at home. By doing that I can feel shut away from everything that’s going on. I didn’t grow up with that need for culture, it’s not the most important thing for me”.
LA wouldn’t seem like the most obvious place for you to live…
“Yeah, no it’s not where I would have chosen”.
When people describe your music do you think they’re missing the point?
“Sometimes people feel that if you’re doing something that’s cold musically that everything around it should be cold. I’m a naturally cold and warm person, everyone has a duality, and I think it’s important to play with that. You can communicate through juxtaposition and contrast”.
Is there a part of you that likes to repel people as well as attract them?
“In my own world I’m drawn to things that are a little challenging or unsettling, it’s more interesting. Media that is really animated and colourful seems boring to me, it seems neutered. It’s intrinsically inside me I guess”.
Have you found a like minded underground in the US?
“I’m not sure, I was always doing this isolated from other people so I didn’t know if there was a community like this. I suppose I must be but I feel like Europe’s been a lot more receptive to the kernel of what I’m trying to do, whereas in America things have to be a lot more base for them to understand”.
Zola Jesus headline the Cosby Stage at the Electric Picnic on Sunday night