“I used to be very scared of failure, of the responsibility of doing the one thing I knew I was born to do…” Zola Jesus, whose given name is Nika, proclaims. “This record was made in an effort to try to make the most massive record I could, shunning all fear and any sense of smallness I ever once had.”
Nika is the 25-year-old behind this project’s creative incarnations: singer, sole songwriter and producer. Her new album Taiga is at once challenging and accessible, and is undeniably branded with what Nika terms a “piercing ambition.” Such encompassing purpose, she explains, would be impossible without a newfound sense of personal and artistic self. The album is a declaration of that purpose; one laced with jarring clarity in both its content and production. “For me, it feels like my true debut, because it is the first time I have felt so open and liberated,” she explains.
For Nika, Taiga is a leap that reflects a fearlessness to be earnest and open, an approach that is immediately evidenced in the album’s track “Dangerous Days,” an undeniably hook ridden four-on-the-floor smash in which she sings, “It’s dangerous to know… and when it comes, are you going to throw your bite into the game? Know what’s right for your name?” Still, inherent in this self is a sense of searching and complicated impulses. The track “Go” is a manifesto of sorts but also a journey, echoing: “And I say no one can stop me now. I go downtown where they don’t know my name.” Successfully petitioning her parents at an extremely young age to be trained as an opera singer, Nika has always been committed and enveloped by her craft. At the age of 10 she tried applying to the Juilliard School of Music. She was too young to be admitted, but the devotion to her craft continued. Less than a decade later she was recording EPs in her north woods Wisconsin basement as Zola Jesus. These efforts proved successful and enduring, perpetually renewed as each new release reflected a growing musician and a burgeoning personal identity. Nika has always pushed boundaries: her boundaries; the boundaries of a diverse and loyal fan base; and the boundaries of any musical or genre expectation.
For the US and London shows, Nika will also be joined on stage by a live brass ensemble, under direction from talented brass arranger and tubist TubaJoe Exley. Nika elaborates, “When I wrote TAIGA, I had so many ideas about bringing these new songs to the stage. I worked with talented brass arranger and tubist, TubaJoe Exley to help fit the songs for the live setting. I’ve also been working closely with lighting designer Sarah Landau and stage designer Carl Robertshaw, to create a visual environment that mimics the architects and sculpture artists that inspired me while writing the record. It’s so exciting to finally bring these ideas to fruition and share them with you in person."