Lola Kirke grew up in a world where everyone was famous and everyone made art. She also grew up in a world where rock music was made by men. These two facets of her unique childhood have shaped the path of her young but already remarkable life as an artist — and the order of the hyphens that precede her name.
The actress-turned-singer was born in London and raised in New York City music and fashion circles by her father, Simon Kirke, the drummer of English supergroup Bad Company, and her mother Lorraine Kirke, designer and owner of cult West Village boutique Geminola. Surrounded by artists as an adolescent, pursuing acting seemed natural to Lola, the youngest of the multi-talented Kirke brood who watched her sisters, actress Jemimah (of Girls fame) and doula-musician Domino go on to creative careers.
Kirke started acting when she was 10, attended Bard College, and had a breakout year in 2014 when she made her debut in Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle co-starring as Hailey Rutledge, an aspiring classical oboist opposite Gael García Bernal, scored a role in David Fincher’s Gone Girl (as motel rat Greta, who befriends and then robs Amy), and was cast in Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig’s hilarious dramedy Mistress America.
“I only knew a world where music was dominated by men, and women had a very specific role as wives and girlfriends and daughters.”
The world of acting was one she entered with relative ease and didn’t doubt her place in. Music, however, which she’d been introduced to through a childhood on the peripheries of the hyper-masculine ’70s British rock scene via her father’s career, felt unwelcoming. “I started acting both professionally and as a hobby long before I dared to pick up an instrument or start writing songs,” she says. “I only knew a world where music was dominated by men, and women had a very specific role as wives and girlfriends and daughters.”
It has taken the 28-year-old years and the discovery of a group of female musician peers to wrest herself from the role of “daughter of a rock star” — to carve out a space in music aside from the leather pants, pelvic thrusting, groupies and “baby, baby” lyrics of her father’s world, where she could see herself.
It’s a testament to the insidiously pervasive power of male-dominated, often-misogynistic rock culture, that a girl like Lola Kirke could grow up around such an abundance of female artist role models, and still feel that rock music was a boy’s birthright. “I was always intimidated to explore my own capabilities as a musician because of those roles that I saw,” she says.
One day in her early twenties, however, Kirke got her heart broken so badly that she didn’t have a choice but to start writing songs, and decided that, instead of leaving it up to either boyfriends or male musicians to save her, “I was gonna be the boy that I wanted to love me… And I started writing the songs I wanted to hear.”
That was it. Kirke made time in her acting schedule to write and record. In 2016, she released her debut EP, EP via Spirit House Records: a hazy, melancholic four-song country-rock collection full of jangly guitars and aerial strings that evokes dusty California highways, rings with the wistful, lyrically vivid tones of Gram Parsons’ cosmic American, and recalls the warm, floating vocals of Bedouine (who Kirke cites as a favorite act today).
Now, she’s getting ready to release her first full length album, Heart Head West, set for release on August 10 via Downtown Records. Kirke has teased us through a couple of tastes this fall and summer — her mournful, self-probing love letter to a struggling friend “Monster,” and exploration of the limits placed on womanhood, “Supposed To.”
Today, she’s released a third single, “Sexy Song” — a warm, slow-building rumination on her relationship to her body, desire and self-worth that’s as sonically lovely as it is thematically rebellious. In the stunningly choreographed video, Kirke explores, caresses, manipulates, inspects and abuses her body: posing seductively then picking her own nose, running her hands down her hips, and then sticking her fingers down her throat, as real iPhone selfies glitch across the screen. The song and video capture both the volatility that often defines women’s relationships to their own bodies and sexualities, and the triumphant pleasure of reaching a truce with your body and desire. Although it peaks in declarations of hard-won self-love, as she decides on the chorus with an audible glint in her eye, “if you won’t love me tonight, I guess I’ll love me tonight,” it’s the kind of empowerment anthem that’s more interested in the messy, chaotic process, than the shiny end-result.
Full article: papermag.com
Lola Kirke puts the spotlight on women’s sexual desires—the seductive parts and the unpleasant parts—in the new video for her aptly titled single, “Sexy Song.” The concept may seem simple at first look, (it starts with just her in a nude dress with a black backdrop) but she tackles some complex ideas as the sequence progresses.
“I think that understanding the core and the truth of women’s sexual desire is really tricky,” 27-year-old Kirke explains. “Is it something that’s just like a man’s? Is it totally different? Is it just like a man’s because men have told us exactly how it should be or what they would like it to be?” This single, then, is her “attempt at making something pop-y and fun out of those really big questions.”
While singing to the camera, Kirke performs an eccentric choreography by her friend and dancer Elizabeth Sonenberg. The movements quickly alternate from erotic to jarring: she sucks her thumb, runs her hands through her hair, pulls on her face, puts a hand in her mouth, feels up her curves, sticks her finger up her nose, and more. Kirke even says her dancing “toes the line of sexy and grotesque.”
That juxtaposition of extremes was intentional. “I wanted that duality of how a woman can be sexy, to really question what sexiness is, and how ugly desire can be and how sexy ugliness can be as well,” Kirke explains.
The Mara McKevitt-directed video comes at a fitting time, in #MeToo era, when women are reclaiming the power and narratives of their own bodies. But even as the climate appears to become more feminist and sex-positive, women’s sexual appetites still remain generally belittled or taboo. It’s “easier said than done,” says Kirke. “You’re going up against thousands of years of shame and puritanical ideology.”
Kirke says “Sexy Song” is her most personal track on her upcoming debut album, Heart Head West, which drops August 10. “I’d never really heard women talk about wanting something that men didn’t want. I felt so lonely in the feeling of longing, I guess, and I didn’t want anyone to feel that way,” she says. The result is an alluring yet rebellious composition, featuring Kirke’s folk-inspired sound and her take on Gram Parsons’ Cosmic American genre.
Ahead, Kirke breaks down the meaning behind her new visuals, what to expect from her album, and her approach to self-care.
The “Sexy Song” visual concept was inspired by a screensaver Kirke discovered in a hotel room.
“I was in a hotel room in Japan, and there was this weird screensaver of all these flowers dissolving into each other on the TV, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is the most beautiful, erotic thing I’ve ever seen in my life.’ And I took a video of the screen and I sent it to my friend, Mara McKevitt, and I was like, ‘I think we should make a music video for my song that’s about this.’ And then she translated it into this other idea. She’s just one of the most sophisticated and profound thinkers, visually, that I know. It went through her brain and came out on the other side as this other visual language that she felt really excited about creating.”
Parts of the video include iPhone clips and mirror selfies, which Kirke shot of herself at home, interspersed throughout the piece. Her director suggested the idea.
“Mara was just like, ‘I think we need to see what you see when you look in your phone.’ I’m actually really, really glad I did it. There’s a whole new visual language that exists with the advent of the iPhone, and the whole, ‘flip your camera around.’ There’s a whole new way of female representation where we actually do represent ourselves in a certain way, but again, we’re representing ourselves as the male gaze would have us represent ourselves. You might say, ‘No, I just think I look beautiful this way,’ but your standard of beauty is created by something much older than you are, much more outdated.
“The mirror selfie is so personal. You’re alerting the world, how you look in the mirror. That is crazy. To understand the way that a person thinks that they look beautiful is really interesting. That was the exciting part for me about including iPhone images.”
Kirke says her album reflects what she was experiencing last year.
“All of these songs are about all these different things that I was thinking and feeling, and felt needed some resolution. They’re about the things that I feel confused by, or hurt by and a lot of that has to do with self-esteem or family or sex or drinking or death. Those are the general concepts that I explore in the record.”
Full article: harpersbazaar.com
Lola Kirke is many things – musician, actor, producer, activist, and one of our NO.16 cover stars out in May. Kirke grew up in a household full of creatives (you may recognize her sister Jemima on HBO’s hit series Girls, or her father Simon Kirke, former drummer of Bad Company), and through that experience, she cultivated her own voice.
And now, she’s using it to better the entertainment industry in a plethora of projects. Mozart In The Jungle the long-running series in which she stars, has been received with critical acclaim, her forthcoming thriller Gemini, which stars Kirke and Zoe Kravitz, is one of the most anticipated films of the year. Kirke’s most recent project Active Adults, a love story of sorts that parallels her character Lily and her partner Malcolm’s lives to those of his grandparents’. The film tracks the couples, who are each grappling with similar questions about love, life, and identity.
As a woman in Trump’s America, an actress in Hollywood who is ready for the time to be up, and a vocal political ingenue Kirke thinks we can all be doing more.
How do you think the struggles of Malcolm and Lily’s generation differ from that of their grandparents’? How are they similar?
I think we live in a time and a society where people get to grow up a lot later. 30 is the new 20 and even that is still a young age to get married or have babies. There’s so much freedom and choice now but that can actually be a bit paralyzing.
Why do you think it’s so hard for young people to “make it” in New York (or any city)?
It seems like there’s an inflation of art and industry nowadays. On the one hand, it’s easier than ever to make your own content but on the other, there’s so much content that it can be hard to break through. Also, I feel like people typically “make it” in hyperspace on the internet instead of in actual spaces like New York City.
What does success, or “making it”, mean to you?
Success to me means being seen and heard and making other people feel that way too.
In the film, Lily feels pressure to return to the city and pursue lofty achievements, while Malcolm is content to remain in his grandfather’s community. Do you think this pressure is something most post-grads feel?
I think capitalistic culture breeds this idea that we aren’t good enough until we achieve something of great merit. So yes, I imagine a lot of young people feel a sense of urgency to prove themselves in the world. I certainly did. But I’ve always been like that. So maybe it’s not capitalism, maybe it’s just a kind of spirit.
What surprised you most about making this film?
What surprised me about making this film was essential that we could make it! It’s the only feature film I’ve ever produced so that was a real feat.
What’s the most important thing we can learn from the generations before us?
My grandpa once told me I didn’t have to take everything so seriously. I liked that.
Are there any women in the industry that you look up to who are at the forefront of this kind of change?
I love Lady Bird, I think that’s fucking great. There are lots of beautiful women filmmakers. I love the movie Mustang by Deniz Gamze Ergüven. I just want women to make whatever kind of films they want to make. And I think we need to make different kinds of films. I don’t see that many movies that are pushing cinema forward. I see a lot of movies that are keeping it exactly where it is. I think we need new voices.
It’s a pretty strange time in the industry. What’s been your biggest challenge?
I see how much being a woman does provide a problem in this industry. I mean, I think it does in all of the industries. I think it’s still very hard for women to get their films made.
There’s this quote by Susan Howe quote that says something to the effect of: “Why would I seek to align myself with the very systems of power that have shut me down?”
I’m all for equal pay, but I think that there’s a way in which we need to expand our idea of what it means to be a powerful woman, rather than it just meaning being an executive at a film company. I would like to see the industry change more than it’s pretending to right now.
Look out for the full interview in our MAY print issue, NO.16 “VOICES”.
A moody noir pop-up, “Gemini” is writer/director Aaron Katz’s alluring, self-reflexive Los Angeles-set mystery that also doubles as a pictorial mash note to the city’s gleaming spaces and dreaming inhabitants.
At the crux of its titular duality is a showbiz relationship of commonality and convenience between young starlet Heather (Zoë Kravitz), pursued by social media followers and professional/romantic suitors in various stages of neediness, and her assistant Jill (Lola Kirke), whose duties include handler, companion and sleepover confidante. When the pair’s work/play night of angering a flustered director (Nelson Franklin) and drunken karaoke with Heather’s secret squeeze (Greta Lee) ends with the morning discovery of a bullet-riddled body, Jill becomes a prime suspect in the eyes of a patient, dogged detective (John Cho).
While Jill’s mission to uncover the truth leans into tense turns, oddball twists and scenic moods, Katz (“Cold Weather,” “Land Ho!”) enriches the well-established glossary of Southern California noir with a richly textured palette (courtesy cinematographer Andrew Reed) of colors and tones beyond the typical signposts of slick affluence, abetted nicely by Keegan DeWitt’s atmospheric soundtrack of trance-like beats and nostalgic snatches of mournful horns.
You sense the messier aesthetics of Katz’s mumblecore origins have fallen away to reveal a born alchemist of story and imagery — in its arresting visual tour of L.A.’s groovy neighborhoods and rich hideaways, “Gemini” captures a secret, abiding and even menacing melancholy behind its oft-regarded surfaces.
And with his soulful, close-up-ready female leads, Katz finds performance power, too. Kravitz nails the peculiar precocity of an internet-age idol, while Kirke quickly earns our sympathy as a brunette indie heroine turned blond-dyed — and eventually leather-clad and motorbike-riding — amateur sleuth. “Gemini” may be the ideal Instagram-era genre flick: an identity thriller about advantage and escape that swipes left and right with cool, calculated authority.