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Indie Mixtape 20: Zola Jesus Is Primal And Cathartic On Her New Album ‘Arkhon’

As someone who has been releasing music for over a decade, Zola Jesus is no stranger to the innate catharsis of writing a song. But on her upcoming album Arkhon, she’s leaning on her art as a way to make sense of her own inner turmoil. “I suppose some feelings require you to write a pop song in order to fully understand them,” she said about her recent single “The Fall,” which a down-tempo, confessional track.

It’s this sense of understanding the unknown that inspired Zola Jesus, moniker of musician Nika Roza Danilova, on her LP Arkhon. Taking a new approach to songwriting, Zola Jesus began shirking her need for control in the studio and invited collaborators into her process’s early stages, something she hadn’t done before. The result is a touching 10-track album led by Zola Jesus’ incredible, classically trained vocals that allows her to uncover grief, loss, and disappointment — all while holding on to her inner power.

Ahead of the release of Arkhon, Zola Jesus sat down to talk about Philip K. Dick’s influence and her love of exploring new places in our latest Q&A.

What are four words you would use to describe your music?

Emotional, primal, direct, cathartic

It’s 2050 and the world hasn’t ended and people are still listening to your music. How would you like it to be remembered?

Well, I’ll be 61 so hopefully still making music.

What’s your favorite city in the world to perform?

I like going to new places, so my favorite city is the one I’ve yet to go to.

Who’s the person who has most inspired your work, and why?

Philip K. Dick. The way he saw the world changed how I see mine.

Where did you eat the best meal of your life?

Kajitsu in New York. One of the few shojin restaurants in the West. I go there as much as I can afford.

What album do you know every word to?

None, I’m actually really horrible at knowing or remembering the words to songs. Even an album I’ve listened to 100 times I’d only know a handful of the lyrics! It’s sort of weird.

What was the best concert you’ve ever attended?

Black Leather Jesus in Los Angeles.

What is the best outfit for performing and why?

One that’s easy to move in and doesn’t get in the way of me performing.

Who’s your favorite person to follow on Twitter and/or Instagram?

rfedortsov_official_account on on Instagram. He’s a fisherman who posts wild photos of deep sea fish.

What’s your most frequently played song in the van on tour?

Henry Rollins’ Get In The Van audiobook is essential listening on tour.

What’s the last thing you Googled?

“Inanna in original Sumerian”

What album makes for the perfect gift?

Alice Coltrane’s Universal Consciousness. It’s a great vibe to share.

Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever crashed while on tour?

A bed and breakfast in Ireland that had what seemed to be a two-way mirror between my room and the main office.

What’s the story behind your first or favorite tattoo?

I have zero tattoos. I’m too indecisive to have tattoos.

What artists keep you from flipping the channel on the radio?

Dua Lipa. Rihanna.

What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you?

The people who have been supporting my Patreon the past couple years. Truly kind souls.

What’s one piece of advice you’d go back in time to give to your 18-year-old self?

That everything that you think is wrong, and everything you know is right.

What’s the last show you went to?

It’s been since before 2020, I don’t even remember anymore. What’s a show?

What movie can you not resist watching when it’s on TV?

Waterworld. That movie slaps.

What’s one of your hidden talents?

I can run really fast.

Arkhon is out 6/24 via Sacred Bones. Pre-order it here.