Lola Kirke Is Finding Her Voice


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: