There are few things that could one-up Zola Jesus’ operatic voice and haunting melodies, but her onstage ensembles do the trick. The flaxen-haired singer-songwriter—whose real name is Nika Roza Danilova—isn’t afraid of avant-garde shapes or cutting-edge designers (or getting a little outside help: For her recent show at New York City’s Webster Hall, Danilova employed the helped of stylist Jenni Hensler).
“Sometimes I just have one outfit and that becomes my uniform on tour. Other times, I just wear whatever feels right for that night,” Danilova says. Although she wouldn’t say whether the outfit she wore onstage in New York will reappear at some other date—Zola Jesus is touring through early March—she did divulge a few details.
Outfit breakdown: I wore a dress and collar made by Jenni Hensler, leggings by Katie Gallagher, and custom shoes by Julia Kaldy. For the encore I wore a dress by Threeasfour and leggings by Katie Gallagher.
I brought this outfit on tour because: It’s comfortable and versatile. I’ve been wearing a lot of Logan Neitzel, Katie Gallagher, Helmut Lang, and Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair.
My personal style is: Pretty minimalist, I don’t like to perform in clothing that is too complicated or ornate. I like to wear things that feel more like a second skin and less like a costume. When I perform it’s usually very physical, and if I’m wearing something too constricting or delicate I tend to feel a little claustrophobic and distracted.
If this outfit were one of my songs, it would be: “Avalanche,” which was the first song we played that night. It felt right. I think this particular outfit was really special because it helped me physically inhabit the world of Conatus, my latest record.
I always pack: A scarf that can double as an eye mask, pillow, blanket, etc…. I can’t live without it!
You’d never catch me onstage wearing: anything that would distract me from the music or be prone to “wardrobe malfunctions.” Or sweatpants—but I wouldn’t wear those offstage, either.
My pre-tour shopping stop is: Usually online. I’m really bad at clothes shopping in stores. At least on the Internet I can buy it before I have a chance to talk myself out of it.
The best on-the-road purchase I ever made was: Eliane Radigue and [Karlheinz] Stockhausen’s “Sirius” at End of an Ear in Austin when I was there—I’ve been looking for those forever! I don’t really buy clothes on tour… I never have space to pack it anywhere. I can’t help scouring record and book stores, though.