We met Nika aka Zola Jesus during the Primavera festival in Madrid and Barcelona at the end of last year. We actually drove between the two cities with her buddy and manager Taylor Brode and Caleb Braaten who runs the awesome Sacred Bones label and who has been backing Zola from the start. It was a log drive and a weary smokey late night festival made so much easier by the great company. They were on a really similar tour cycle as us and had basically been on the road since April. We were all at that point where Home was starting sound really good. Nika even mentioned she had actually moved into a new house while on tour but hadn’t even seen it yet. Now, with the smoke settled and a new year beginning we dropped her a line.
THITH: Are you home now? How is it?
NIKA: I’m finally home and it feels great. I rarely leave the house which is how I prefer it. A verifiable hermit.
THITH: And you’re living in L.A. now, right? That’s a big change. Have you had a chance to get to know it?
NIKA: I have, but very slowly. Because I travel so much, when I am home I really have no desire to explore. But every time I step outside I discover new parts of my neighborhood. It keeps things interesting, kind of magical. Like the city is endless and constantly unraveling itself to me.
THITH: Why L.A.? The last few times I was in L.A. I’ve been really into the weirdo noir parts, the old 20’s bungalows and “Day Of The Locust” vibe. It always seems that the L.A. of the 20’s and 30’s was a really strange place. A total frontier town, still lawless, but at the same time it was full of all these European avant garde types like Shoenberg or Fritz Lang. Are there any things in particular about the city that you’re attracted to?
NIKA:I find it really strange that the antique and ancient in this town seems to have begun several decades well into the twentieth century. There is definitely a history here but it is quite new. The historian in me resents this, wants to be around the very old. But there are pieces of this new history which are intriguing… a lingering sense that this city is a dead one; beyond it’s prime by half a century. Sometimes I walk down the streets and feel like I’m stuck in the fifties! Or in a wasteland that collapsed 60 years ago. It has an unexpected charm to it.
THITH:Your EP was one of our favorite things about last year and we’re really excited to see where you go next. Do you have an idea of when you’ll have a new album?
NIKA: I am working on the new album right now, should be out in early fall/late summer.
THITH: Do you have ideas of where you want to go or things you want to try?
NIKA: There is so much, too much.
THITH: How do you go about writing and recording?
NIKA: Usually I sit down at a keyboard and work out a melody, or I sing the melody. Often times the vocal melody is what comes first since that is my most practiced instrument. Lately my songs have been coming to me as visual images, so I’ve been just trying to bring them out of me and into the sonic world. That has been making the process much more challenging.
THITH:Are there things available to you now you didn’t have before that are making it more exciting?
NIKA: Real equipment. I’ve been writing all my past material on a cheap consumer keyboard and a computer microphone. But I’ve started to build my home studio which has opened up many new possibilities.
THITH: This was your first real period of touring, do you think that’s going to or is affecting what you’re going to do?
NIKA: I think touring has affected the way I write music. Performing is a very intense experience. I have so much anxious energy that builds up and when I get on stage I just want to explode. But sometimes the songs don’t call for an explosion. I find myself writing more songs that will match that sort of intensity and overwhelming feeling that happens inside of me when I perform.
THITH: I’m sure there’s been offers to go to a major but it seems like you’re in a good place with Sacred Bones. Can you talk about why the label has been important to you?
NIKA: I’ve had a lot of attention and interest from other labels but Sacred Bones has always felt like the best and only choice for me. It is a very strong family, and I know with them I am free to do anything, make any record I’d like, and not only will I always have constant support, but they will really make unbelievable sacrifices in order to make it happen. Caleb, who started the label, put out one of my first seven inches and was there from the beginning. I have so much respect for Caleb’s vision for the label and his work ethic is beyond anyone I’ve ever met. It just feels very right, and I feel very proud.
THITH: Chocolate. Whe happen to know you would eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. so, what was the best chocolate you had on tour?
THITH: Jamie bought me this amazing chocolate in Turin, I don’t remember the name of the shop but it was so special! It was raspberry and just melted in your mouth. I swear I died a million times after the first bite.
polaroid taken by Angel Ceballos