Zola Jesus

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Zola Jesus
Zola Jesus.JPG
Zola Jesus performing in Germany in 2012
Background information
Birth name Nicole Rose Hummel
Born (1989-04-11) April 11, 1989 (age 27)[1][2]
Phoenix, Arizona, United States
  • Singer-songwriter
  • Musician
  • Vocals
  • piano
  • guitar
Years active 2006–present
Associated acts
Website www.zolajesus.com

Zola Jesus is the stage name of American singer-songwriter and producer Nika Roza Danilova (born April 11, 1989).[2] She has released three EPs and five full-length albums that combine electronic, industrial, classical, and goth.[3][4]


1989–2008: Early life[edit]

Nicole Hummel [5][6] was born in Phoenix, Arizona[7] and raised in Merrill, Wisconsin.[8]

She also goes by the name Nika Roza Danilova,[2] citing her Russian heritage.[9] In various interviews she has stated that her parents are American,[8] with combinations of Russian but also German,[10] Slovenian,[11] and Ukrainian descent.[8]

Nika started singing early on, buying voice lesson tapes and opera sheet music at the age of 7. For a couple of years she had to stop singing due to anxiety and the competitive nature of opera.[2] "I studied opera on and off for about 10 years. I wasn't in any operas, though, it was always really private and individual...I kept stopping because I was like, I'm not good enough, I suck, this is awful, and then I'd start again. I could never practice singing if anyone was home," she explained in a Pitchfork interview.[12] In her teens Nika started to experiment in a more rock-oriented format.[2] By naming her alter ego after Jesus Christ and the French writer Émile Zola she said she consciously wanted to alienate peers. "It worked perfectly—a lot of people wouldn't even say Zola Jesus because they thought it was sacrilegious", she said in an interview.[13] "Using Jesus in my name isn't necessarily supposed to be a strong statement. I respect religion and I know people do need it, but it's a weird phenomenon in our world. It's so weird,"[14] she later commented. Inspired by favorites like Ian Curtis,[12] Lydia Lunch,[12] Diamanda Galás, Throbbing Gristle and Swans (but also bubblegum pop and classical aria),[15] she started to record at home, using keyboards, drum machines and "anything else she had on hand". In 2008 she debuted with singles "Poor Sons" on Die Stasi and "Soeur Sewer" on Sacred Bones Records.[2]

Before transferring to University of Wisconsin-Madison to study French and philosophy, she attended University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, where she began a business major.[16] She graduated in 2010.[17]

2009–present: Career[edit]

Zola Jesus in Stockholm, November 2010

In 2009, while still studying at the University of Wisconsin-Madison,[12] Zola Jesus recorded (in her apartment)[12] and released her debut full-length The Spoils. Then followed Tsar Bomba EP (on Troubleman), New Amsterdam compilation on Sacred Bones and an untitled, limited-edition vinyl split with Burial Hex (Aurora Borealis). For touring she recruited Dead Luke (synths), bassist Lindsay Mikkola and drummer Max Elliott. Later the line-up changed to: Shane Verwey and Nick Turco (synth), Alex DeGroot, and Nick Johnson, a drummer with metal band Jex Thoth.[18]

Zola Jesus has also played with Former Ghosts. On Fever Ray's 2010 European tour, she performed as a support act[19] and also toured with The xx. In the late 2009 collaboration between Zola Jesus and Rory Kane took shape (as Nika+Rory project), a demo being put out on MySpace.[20]

In 2010, Zola Jesus released the Stridulum EP, inspired by Giulio Paradisi 1979 film of the same name,[21] After the release Zola Jesus performed at the SXSW festival, for her second time.[22]

The Valusia EP was also released on Sacred Bones in 2010. LA Vampires Meets Zola Jesus EP, the collaboration with Amanda Brown of Pocahaunted, presented "a dingy, lower-than-lo-fi sound and very little of what one would call traditional songwriting," according to Pitchfork review.[23]

Zola Jesus's second full-length release was Stridulum II. Although regarded as her debut album in the UK, this album simply combines all six songs from the Stridulum EP (in different sequencing) with three of the four songs from the Valusia EP; the cover art is modified from the cover of Stridulum. It received 8/10 from the NME.[4] Both NME and Q declared her one of the names to watch out for in 2011.[4][13]

Zola Jesus's third LP, her second album of new material was Conatus, released in late September 2011 via Sacred Bones. The album's 11 tracks were produced by Brian Foote (aka Nudge: Jackie-O Motherfucker, Cloudland Canyon) and Danilova herself, including elements of cello, double bass, violin, and viola. She was featured on her first US magazine cover in October 2011, on Issue #76 of the Fader.[24]

She provided guest vocals on the song "Intro" by M83 from their 2011 album Hurry Up, We're Dreaming. She also sang on "New France" by Orbital, from their 2012 album Wonky.

On August 19 (20th in the US), 2013, Versions (Sacred Bones Records), the set of neo-classical reworkings of previous releases from Zola Jesus in a collaboration with producer JG Thirlwell, was released.[25]

On June 18, 2014, she announced her fourth studio album, titled Taiga.[26]

Musical style and influences[edit]

For Q magazine, her "haunting vocals and swirling, electronic athmospherics are located midway between Florence Welch and Siouxsie and the Banshees."[13] She has also been linked to Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance and Elizabeth Frazer of the Cocteau Twins.[27]

Answering questions about her favorite artists and composers, she was also mentioning "singers with big voices, like Diamanda Galas and Tina Turner. Divas, film scores from the '70s and '80s. Industrial and power electronics. BBC Radiophonic Workshop, opera, Philip K. Dick."[22] Speaking to Spinner,[22] she said: "I listen to anything that stands out. I guess something people wouldn't expect me to listen to are artists like Alicia Keys. But she is so incredibly talented. She has this huge voice and great work ethic, which I really respect in an artist. She is also very humble and gracious and devoted to her skill."[22] Of her operatic upbringing she said:

"It has probably influenced me in several ways. When recording I look at the entire album as a whole, and not just song by song. As in operas, there are arias, interludes, etc., that all weave together to create a mood and story. Singing opera has made me very self-critical and analytical; I'm a severe perfectionist due to my studies. I was taught to sing in a way that was very biological and scientific. I resented the idea of opera as a 'skill' to be mastered, so Zola Jesus was my way of using what I knew but allowing the sounds to come out of my voice however was most comfortable, regardless of correctness."[18]

Touring band members[edit]

  • Nika – vocals, occasional synth
  • Alex DeGroot – electronics, programming
  • Daniel Walter Eaton - trombone, synth
  • Michael Pinaud - drums



  1. ^ "Zola Jesus | Free Music, Mixes, Tour Dates, Photos, Videos". Myspace.com. Retrieved 2013-08-19. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Heather Phares. "Zola Jesus". AllMusic. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  3. ^ Orton, Karen (October 2011). "20 Q&As: Zola Jesus". Dazed & Confused. Retrieved October 15, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c Hewitt, Ben (August 23, 2010). "Album review: Zola Jesus – 'Stridulum II'". NME. IPC Media. Retrieved January 1, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Company ZOLA JESUS INC". Us-companies.info. 2014-05-30. Retrieved 2016-08-17. 
  6. ^ "OnWinconsin" (PDF). Onwisconsin.uwalumni.com. 2014. Retrieved 2016-08-17. 
  7. ^ Farah, Troy (2015-02-06). "Zola Jesus Resented Her Parents for Moving Her From Phoenix". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved 2016-08-17. 
  8. ^ a b c "Zola Jesus Wants To Change the World". Retrieved August 9, 2016. 
  9. ^ "Nika Danilova Zola Jesus Talks Olga Bells Krai". Retrieved August 9, 2016. 
  10. ^ "Pitchfork Zola Jesus Interview". Retrieved August 9, 2016. 
  11. ^ "Zola Jesus presents her 'After the Fall of New York' mix". Retrieved August 9, 2016. 
  12. ^ a b c d e Ryan Dombal. "Rising: Zola Jesus – interview". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  13. ^ a b c Cottingham, Chris. Q magazine. #294 January 2011. The 10 New Faces of 2011. P.46
  14. ^ Daiana Feuer (January 10, 2010). "Zola Jesus: What Hanna Montana Can Also Sound Like". larecord.com. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  15. ^ "Zola Jesus music". rcrdlbl.com. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  16. ^ Evan Rytlewski. "Zola Jesus' Nika Roza Danilova Talks Opera, Apocalypse". Expressmilwaukee.com. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  17. ^ Kirkby, Sean (October 23, 2013). "UW grad impresses with new Zola Jesus album". The Weekly. University of Wisconsin–Madison. Archived from the original on October 25, 2013. Retrieved October 25, 2013. 
  18. ^ a b Josia Wolf. "Zola Jesus interview". fingersbecomethumbs.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  19. ^ Zola Jesus to support Fevr Ray Archived May 3, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. Feverray.com. Retrieved on 15 October 2011
  20. ^ "NIKA+RORY | Listen and Stream Free Music, Albums, New Releases, Photos, Videos". Myspace.com. Retrieved 2016-08-17. 
  21. ^ Sian Rowe. "How a Cult Sci-Film Turned an Opera Singer to Evil". Dazed & Confuzed magazine. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  22. ^ a b c d Sydnie Taylor (2010). "Zola Jesus Interview: SXSW 2010". www.spinner.com. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  23. ^ Larry Fitzmaurice (July 15, 2010). "LA Vampires Meets Zola Jesus". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  24. ^ "76 « The FADER". Thefader.com. 2011-10-10. Retrieved 2013-08-19. 
  25. ^ "Versions by Zola Jesus & JG Thirlwell". AnyDecentMusic?. Retrieved 2012-12-01. 
  26. ^ Pelly, Jenn (June 18, 2014). "Zola Jesus Announces New Album Taiga". Pitchfork. Retrieved June 18, 2014. 
  27. ^ Bécourt, Julien. "Zola Jesus : Reine des Sabbats" Archived September 28, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. chronicart.com. Retrieved 2011-07-07.

External links[edit]