Nicole Hummel (born April 11, 1989), known professionally as Zola Jesus and also as Nika Danilova, is an American singer, songwriter, and record producer. She has released four EPs and five full-length albums that combine electronic, industrial, classical, and goth.
Zola Jesus performing in New York, 2014
|Birth name||Nicole Hummel|
|Born||April 11, 1989|
Phoenix, Arizona, US
1989–2008: Early lifeEdit
Hummel was born April 11, 1989 in Phoenix, Arizona, and spent her early years there. She subsequently relocated with her family to Merrill, Wisconsin, of which Hummel said: "I resented my parents for having moved me away from Phoenix because I thought Phoenix was much more interesting than Wisconsin. It's a great place and it's very interesting there, beautiful." Her parents are first-generation Americans, with combinations of Russian as well as German, Slovenian, and Ukrainian descent. Her grandparents immigrated to the United States from Odessa, Ukraine, and settled in North Dakota.
Inspired by singers and bands including Ian Curtis, Lydia Lunch, Diamanda Galás, Throbbing Gristle and Swans, she started to record at home, using keyboards, drum machines and other instruments. Her performing name, Zola Jesus, was derived from the French writer Émile Zola, and the Christian messiah. While studying business at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she debuted the singles "Poor Sons" on Die Stasi and "Soeur Sewer", released in 2008 by Sacred Bones Records.
In 2009, while still studying at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Zola Jesus recorded  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.
Zola Jesus has also played with Former Ghosts. On Fever Ray's 2010 European tour, she performed as a support act and also toured with The xx. In the late 2009 collaboration between Zola Jesus and Rory Kane took shape (as Nika+Rory), a demo being put out on MySpace.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On June 9, 2017, Zola Jesus announced her fifth album, Okovi, which was released on September 8.
Musical style and influencesEdit
Her style has been described variously as "commanded by ominous lyrics and a sultry Goth delivery," According to the NME, Zola Jesus "wails like Kate Bush" on a music sometimes evoking Joy Division. For Q magazine, her "haunting vocals and swirling, electronic atmospherics are located midway between Florence Welch and Siouxsie and the Banshees." She has also been compared to Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance and Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins.
Touring band membersEdit
- Nika Danilova – vocals, electronics
- Alex DeGroot – guitar
- Louise Woodward – violin
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- Richards, Sam."50 BEST ALBUMS OF 2010 – 7 Zola Jesus Stridulum II" NME.COM. Retrieved 2011-07-07. "She wailed, like Kate Bush at her most bereft"... "In addition, nobody's ever gone too far wrong by taking the processional poise of Joy Division's 'Atmosphere' as a template."
- Cottingham, Chris. Q magazine. #294 January 2011. The 10 New Faces of 2011. P.46
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- Pelly, Jenn (July 21, 2017). "Zola Jesus Turns Tragedy into a Torrential Sound on Her New Album". Pitchfork. Retrieved March 5, 2018.