zoë kravitz's band lolawolf on lily, miley and what pop really means
If Kraftwerk and Aaliyah had a lovechild, and Santigold was its aunt, it would sound a lot like hot new band Lolawolf. Fronted by actress/singer Zoë Kravitz, the exquisite offspring of Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz, Lolawolf have been making sweet...
Just jamming initially for a bit of fun, it wasn't long until Zoë, who writes most of the songs, Jimmy Giannopoulous, who handles the whole production, and James Levy, who doesn't really know what he does except bring good vibes, had transformed into a bona fide band. Somewhere between electronica, R&B, and pop, Lolawolf - their name is an amalgamation of Zoë's siblings although they're now sick of saying this (and, no, her siblings aren't aware of this as they're, like, four and six years old…) released their eponymous EP at the start of 2014, which was promptly followed by their electrifying album, Calm Down. Already having toured with both Lily Allen and Miley Cyrus, it's safe to say that 2014 was a very good year for Lolawolf. However, with new material in the pipeline, 2015 looks set to be even bigger. Watch this space!
I'm sure you've heard every question out there by now…
Zoë: Haha, just don't ask us how we got together. It's the one thing we hate. It's in every interview.
What about you're the story behind your band's name, I bet that's another one you're sick of?
Zoë: Yeah, that too. Haha. It's the names of my brother and sister.
So you've just finished touring with Lily Allen, had did that come about?
Zoë: We did the US tour. Jimmy, can you remember how that came about?
Jimmy: She asked us.
Zoë: We got on really well and had a lot of fun so she asked us back again.
What about Miley Cyrus?
Zoë: We'd met her a few times and hung out a bit. I sent her the record before it went out as I wanted her opinion and she really dug it. So she asked us to do the tour with her.
What's it like performing to someone else's audience?
Zoë: It's definitely a different kind of experience.
Jimmy: The answer in the question. You can tell that you're performing for another person's audience.
Zoë: Sometimes they like us, but sometimes they hate us and just want us to get off stage.
Jimmy: It goes so far in both directions. Sometimes people are like, ''what is this?'' especially as our music is…
Zoë: All over the place.
Jimmy: But then some people are like, ''wow that was great.''
A lot of people find it hard to define your particular genre of music. Does that bother you?
Zoë: No. I mean, I get that the album is all over the place in that every song has a different energy. But I think it sounds like the same band, it all goes together.
Jimmy: The first listen it's all over the place, but by the fifth it's all the same.
Zoë: We've been calling it Electronic/R&B.
What about if people label it Pop? There seems to be a stigma attached to Pop as a genre, as if it was uncool or something…
Zoë: I Think Pop can be good.Pop just means that people can listen to it, maybe it's a bit cheesy or makes you want to dance or whatever. Pop is a positive thing, if it's good, if it's bad pop that's a different story. The Beatles were pop.
Jimmy: Dylan, technically, was pop.
Zoë: Pop means popular. We're either too indie and too weird for some people or too pop for others.
So who does what in the band?
James: I'm unsure of what I do. Jimmy lays down the law and Zoë makes it listenable.
Zoë: That's actually quite good. James does all the keys and the melodies. He lays down where the song is going to go. Jimmy does the production and I write a lot of it.
How often do you guys get to sit down together and make music, because Zoë you're an actress as well?
Zoë: They usually come visit me when I'm working on set. Which is a lot of the time.
When did you start focusing on music as a career?
Zoë: It just happened on its own. I would have been content with just doing little shows and doing it for fun, but people started to like it and it just happened.
You wrote some of the album in the Bahamas and the other part in Las Vegas, did these opposing environments affect the overall sound?
Jimmy: Calm Down, Ayo, Jimmy Franco, and Stay With Me - they were recorded in the Bahamas. But Skipping Days, Bitch and Start Now Stop were recorded in Vegas and finished off in LA. You can hear the crossover, but you can also hear that the ones recorded in Vegas are less tribal.
Zoë: They're more like electric and weird. The Vegas energy is a bit weird whereas the Bahamas recordings are a lot happier sounding.
What about the visuals? The video for Calm Down is awesome. Who comes up with the visual side things?
Zoë: All the videos that we've done, we do with friends. Our friend Jon Hoeg shot the video and my friend's' father is this amazing artist whose studio we did it in. It was so much fun. We got some paint and a camera and got some friends to help out and that was it.
Jimmy: Most of our videos are collaborative. For Ayo we had a friend who is an artist and has this studio, he has his thing and we did our thing.
Is it important to you to work with young creatives?
Zoë: Not really, it's just how shit gets done. It's just like, "we need to shoot this video. Oh this friend has a cool style, let's do something with him." Most of our friends are creative and we like their style so we want to make shit with them.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
Zoë: Haha. Did you hate asking that question?
Well, it's just one of those standard questions you have to ask…
Zoë: Hmm let's see. I love all the old school stuff that Aliyah did with Timberland. I've also been really influenced by old TLC, Santigold, A$AP Rocky, and Dr Dre.
Jimmy: What about you, James?
James: I don't like the tone of your question.
Jimmy: I mean it, for real.
James: Ok. I like the energy of Nirvana, Oasis, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and all the Motown stuff.
Jimmy: I like The Strokes, DFA Records. All the old electronic stuff. Kraftwerk, Suicide, and Lil Wayne. And Depeche Mode.
Do you guys do your own things on the side?
Zoë: They're both in different bands.
Jimmy: I do a bunch of different projects; I'm always trying to start creative projects.
Do you think that's an inherently New York thing? People in New York have always got lots of shit going on whereas I feel like people in London stick to one thing more or less.
Jimmy: What New York has, that a lot of other places doesn't, is lots of different types of people. There are more people who want to do things and who are available and who keep trying until they're a part of something. Those people are everywhere. And then there are a lot of people who actually put things together and New York has more of those people than most places, in very close proximity.
Zoë: New York is a city where people just want to do shit. Everything's in one place.
Do you think social media has aided this burst of creativity?
James: I don't know about that, it was still like that even before Facebook.
Zoë: I think a little bit. Now it's easier to keep up with things. New York is sort of like high school; everyone kind of knows each other.
Who do you write for? Yourselves or the fans?
Jimmy: We also write for the reaction that we get when we listen to songs that we like. When you're like, ''damn, that's a good song.''
Is there a specific message you're trying to convey?
Jimmy: It's just straight up art.
Zoë: There's no big picture. I just want to express myself. I might disagree with the things I say in some songs, six months later, but that's where I was at the time of writing.
So your songs are essentially a reflection of how you're feeling in that moment…
Zoë: Yeah. Or like a version of it. I mean some songs are really personal and some songs are more about an idea.
Do you think about lyrics in terms of how they sound or are they more a vehicle for the emotions you want to express?
Zoë: Both. I'm a very aesthetic person. I like things to sound right. Sometimes I think of a phrase and it sounds really cool. Other times it's more of a feeling.
Ok last question, what are you most excited about for 2015?
Zoë: We're working on new music, which I'm really excited about.
Jimmy: I want to quit smoking.
Lolawolf will be playing next at the London Oslo on February 17th.
Text Tish Weinstock