Zola Jesus isolated herself from the world she knew. She retreated to the Wisconsin woods she grew up around, built herself a new sanctuary, and produced one of her most cathartic albums to date. Okovi is a return to home in more ways than one. “It was kind of like a snake eating its tail,” she tells me from her home there this past August. “I felt like I arrived where I started, but it took a long time to get there.” That experience led back to Sacred Bones Records. From that homecoming and insular woodland experience came an album that’s expansive; Okovi is textured with Zola Jesus’ mysticism, earthly vibrations, and heartbeat. It’s an album born from death and all its friends. To say it’s the standout of Zola Jesus’ decade-long career is an understatement. This is an album only she could make; from its intimate reflections on the death of a friend to the big existential questions we spend too much and still too little time mulling over, Okovi is a beacon of resilience.
“When I was making this album, I turned to music to understand things,” she says. “For me, it was this place of rest and this place of hope. If I could transfer that onto the people listening to this album, then all the pain I went through, and all the pain everyone around me went through, would be worth it somehow.”
Read on to dive deeper into a mind that has, as the album’s lead single suggests, exhumed itself.
Okovi is out now via Sacred Bones Records.
Photographer: Nico Turner
Hair: Garrett Markenson
Makeup: Javier Mena
Wardrobe: Jenni Hensler
Assistant: Joi Webb