the insider: zola jesus

everything you need to know about her new album.

It's been about five years since Zola Jesus first crept upon the music scene in a haze of sweeping melodies and soaring vocals, and with four studio albums under her belt, the singer (whose real name is Nika Danilova) hasn't slowed down one bit since. The Seattle songbird is currently putting the final touches on her forthcoming LP, Taiga, out this October. On a brief break between picking her album art and filming her music vid, she found the time to grab some coffee with us in Soho. 

You just released "Dangerous Days." Can you tell me a little bit about the story behind the track?

I wrote the song actually quite a few years ago and it’s been just in my life. I was like, “I need to do something with this song.”  It’s kind of about being skeptical and thinking for yourself. So I wanted to create this huge pop song, with kind of weird skeptical message to it. 

That’s what I love about your music--it’s so catchy, but in a unique way with a darker edge. How did you choose the direction of the album?

 I definitely need to have a concept and I need to have direction, but the songs kind of all come from all different parts of my brain, and they find a way to fit all together. 

What’s your writing process like?

It depends on the song. Some songs come right away. For a lot of the songs on this record  I wrote a-capella so the vocal melody was there and then I had to figure out what was going to go underneath it or around it. Or I start with a beat. Every song is kind of born in a different way. 

Was there any particular challenge you had to deal with this time around? 

Well, I wanted to challenge the idea that my music has to be dark or has to be sad. I wanted to make a record that felt very confident and empowered and clean. Because I feel like that’s where I am in my life right now. 

In your ideal world, where would be the best situation to listen to this album?

Probably walking, maybe in nature. I mean really anywhere, but to give it a really good proper listen because the record is very big. And so it needs good headphones, it needs a good sound system because it’s not a record you can just play on your laptop, you can, but at the same time it demands a big listen. 

So what's next for you? 

I’m going to London to meet with the label over there, do a bunch of press. I’m shooting a music video really soon, in the next couple of weeks. 

Tell us about the video!  

I can't say too much, but I usually have early strong visual concepts that I bring to a director and we collaborate on an idea. The music video for me is like a really strong opportunity for me to communicate my visual aesthetic. That’s something I take really seriously. It’s gonna be about, kind of the theme of the album is about, where it’s man versus nature, or how man interprets nature in a really artificial way.

Taiga drops October 7.