It’s 10am on Friday morning, and Lola Kirke rings me from the road. She’s headed out from her eastside home to begin filming in Malibu (which, we both agree isn’t really Los Angeles although we both know that it technically is). It’s a change of pace — not just because of the beachy locale known for its palatial waterfront properties — but also for the fact that the star of Amazon’s Golden Globe winning Mozart in the Jungle and Noah Baumbach’s Mistress America has barely returned home from a mini cross-country tour promoting the release of her self-titled debut EP. The record is a handful of folksy tracks — a dreamy, experimental Americana — to accompany fantasies of settling on a utopian homestead in Joshua Tree. She recorded it at Moon Canyon Sound in Mt. Washington surrounded by beer, pizza, and her closest friends.
As she drives down the Pacific Coast Highway (a journey that can sometimes feel like it takes as long as traversing the country), we talk about the grounding power of anonymity, trusting your instincts, and playing for seven people smack in the middle of nowhere.
You just wrapped shooting your third season as overachieving oboist Hailey Rutledge on Mozart in the Jungle. How has playing that role inspired you to pursue your more musical side?
Not directly, but I’m sure subconsciously. I’ve been really lucky to play a character who is traveling this parallel path to my own. She’s doing this one thing that she’s done her entire life — that she identifies with and has been defined by — which is to play the oboe. And for me that’s being an actor. Then, in this season, my character starts conducting and, in doing so, assumes a role of leadership and control. For me, expanding my identity — being like “No, I’m also going to be a musician” — is a similar gesture. As a musician, I get to express the things that I want to express, not the things that someone else has put on a page. I love doing that as well, but this is more of a direct expression, and it’s something that I get to make mostly by myself or with people that I choose, as opposed to on a film set where I still just feel lucky to be there.
Also, the experience this last season of learning how to conduct showed me to trust myself, and that I know what’s best with my own music, because as a musician I still feel a bit like an amateur sometimes. Especially when I’m in a room with people who have identified as a musician their whole lives the way that I’ve identified as an actor. Hailey and her kind of “fake it ’til you make it” mentality, and the confidence that she has to employ as a conductor, is something that I have had to employ as a musician. The last thing I’ll say is that classical music has never been something that I’ve been particularly passionate or knowledgeable about. I’ve always had to substitute a genre of music that I do love — and I think stepping into the role of a musician more this year has made it so that in future seasons I’ll have better access into what that love that Hailey has looks like.
You describe stepping into the role of musician as a way of asserting control, rather than relinquishing it. How does pursuing music make you feel more in control?
Being an actor, you achieve a level of control, perhaps, at a certain point in your career. But for the most part you’re at the whim of the director, writer, editor, makeup, hair, basically everyone. It’s a collaborative effort, and more often than not that collaboration can bleed into something a little less democratic. As a musician, at the level that I’m at, I don’t have a big record label lording over me telling me what they want. I don’t even have a big fan base to please. So there’s something really freeing about the expression of music for me right now. I don’t know what that would look like if people starting writing negative reviews about me, and if I was aiming to please or trying to maintain an image. But right now it feels like I get to do what I want, and that feels great.
Full interview: i-d.vice.com