At a little over five feet tall and barely over legal drinking age, the woman behind Zola Jesus, Nika Roza Danilova, wields surprising power. The release of her latest EP, Stridulum, has placed her in a strange position; she now finds herself opening for indie rock powerhouses like The xx, Wolf Parade, and Fever Ray, on tour dates throughout the world. The growth has been rapid, and Danilova has accumulated a diverse array of fans along the way. Those who are drawn to her beauty-meets-darkness, pop-meets-brutality style acknowledge readily that she has a presence. Even on a virtual front, she seems like an intimidating, powerful figure; her public-facing self is meticulously honed to a degree that makes her seem difficult to approach, but this image is very much an extension of the complexity of her as a person. Such complexity is what makes the music and aesthetic of Zola Jesus so fascinating.
Ostensibly, for instance, Zola Jesus may seem largely defined by gothic and industrial music and fashion. The music videos for "Night" and "Clay Bodies" feature, respectively, whopping doses of black nail polish and buildings with vaulted Gothic ceilings. But it is not simply a blind adherence to that aesthetic style that shapes the musical project; just as important -- if not more so -- are factors such as Danilova's schooling. She is double-majoring in French and Philosophy, and philosophical ideas lie very much at the core of Zola Jesus.
"Philosophy and any scholarly pursuits have a sort of osmotic influence on my music," she explains. "When I'm songwriting, I'm not pulling from anything specific other than my own person, impacted by all these forces collectively."
Listen to "Night"
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