A Cult of Girls: Zolita on Explosion and EPs

With dazzling hooks, intrepid personality, and unapologetic lyrics, Zolita has taken the crown and created music that begs to be listened to. Her musical upbringing and education in film are a perfect storm, as each song is perplexing and beautiful in its own right. Her hard-hitting and dream-like visuals are thought-provoking, forcing their audience to watch closely and insert themselves into her world. Editor-in-chief Olivia Ferrucci talked with Zolita about everything from her unique single "Explosion" to the male gaze for the August issue of Lithium.

Lithium: How did you come up with the idea for the ‘Holy’ music video, and did it translate as you originally envisioned?
Zolita: 'Holy' is the backstory I wrote when I came up with the "Cult of Girls". I had the script finished last year but waited to shoot it until I had the funds I needed to make it the right way. I’m glad I waited, because it turned out almost exactly as I envisioned!

Lithium: The video for your first single, “Explosion”, has skyrocketed to over five million views on YouTube. Were you expecting such a vast reaction, and how has it affected your artistry in general?
Zolita: I never thought Explosion would take off the way it did. In my heart, I knew it was an important piece of work and the best one I had personally ever made, so I was just proud to have done it and released it. The fact that so many people have been touched by it and have been able to relate to it is one of my biggest accomplishments. Because that’s what good art is supposed to do, right? It touches people, it helps them understand themselves better. I don’t think the reaction to Explosion has affected my artistry at all, but it has definitely affected my motives. I used to be motivated by the sheer act of creating art, but now I feel more motivated by the positive effects I know my work can have on people. 

Lithium: You’ve formed a feminist platform surrounding the idea of a ‘Cult of Girls’- how do you see it progressing in the future and will it continue to be tied to your music?
Zolita: Cult of Girls will always be tied to my music and my art. Initially, it was simply what I wanted to call my community of fans that had connected post-Explosion. But now I see it as the overarching entity that encompasses everything I do now and will do in the future. A platform, a brand, a community, a production company, an activist group… I have a lot of plans for it!

Lithium: Who are your top three celebrity crushes?
Zolita: Léa Seydoux, Zoe Kravitz, and Kristen Stewart.

Lithium: How do you combat the typical image and ideals associated with female pop singers, if at all? 
Zolita: By staying true to myself and never compromising my vision. I guess the fact that I sing about women combats the typical ideals associated with female pop singers. But even that is becoming an outdated notion. When I think of people like FKA Twigs, Lana Del Rey, Halsey, etc., I realize that the archetype of the female pop singer is no longer even relevant. 

Lithium: What are your biggest influences in music and filmmaking? Have they inspired the creation of ‘Zolita’? 
Zolita: Biggest influences and inspirations include Joni Mitchell, David Lynch, Lady Gaga, BRTHR, The Weeknd, Sade, and Rihanna... These are all artists I look up to and admire because they are extremely authentic and have forged new paths for their mediums. 

Lithium: Throughout your education in film and music career, have you witnessed the male gaze? How do you strive to counteract it through your own directing choices?
Zolita: Of course. I remember when I made my first big short film, my camera operator’s first instinct was to zoom into the girls’ body parts during the sex scene. You see that a lot in film school. The way some male filmmakers represent females and girl on girl relationships is outrageous. The most important thing for me is to make sure the sex scenes I shoot are honest. I want them to be more focused on love and intimacy than anything else. I want to shoot the kind of love that I can relate to and that I’d like to see.

Lithium: You can definitely be credited as a face in the forefront of creating music speaking on the experiences of LGBT+ people and serve as an inspiration to many young queer women. How do you seek to fill this gap in the industry, and has it made your experience as an artist any different?
Zolita: I want to be the artist I didn’t have growing up. I know that my adolescence would have been a lot less confusing if I had had more LGBT representation, so that’s a big goal for me - to fill that gap and represent the underrepresented. I don’t think it’s made my experience as an artist any different though. I do truly believe we have moved past that. I’m an artist who happens to like women. Not a lesbian who makes art. 

Lithium: Will your bluegrass roots continue to show within your music, or do you plan to continue with an R&B/pop hybrid?
Zolita: My next EP will veer more towards R&B/pop/electronic hybrid, but my bluegrass roots will always show up in the acoustic versions! I hope I can make a bluegrass/country album one day though. That’s definitely on my bucket list. 

Lithium: As an independent artist, is it a relief to have total creative control? Are you looking to be signed or are you enjoying the freedom of independence?
Zolita: I really do love the freedom of being independent. I don’t know what it’s like to be told what I can and cannot do, and I am very grateful for that. If I was with a label, I honestly don’t think I would have been able to make Holy as politically forward as it was. On the other hand, I am not opposed to being signed, because obviously it would make the production process a lot easier (I could release a lot more content, a lot faster if I had a larger team behind me). I will never compromise who I am, though. So I guess the short answer to that is I would sign with a label if they were willing to work with me without changing my values and vision.

Lithium: What can we expect from Zolita in the times to come? What are you working on now?
Zolita: In the next month, there will be a remix, new single, more acoustic videos, Q&A, and merch going up on the site! Right now, I’m working on my next EP and video which I am extremely excited about. And then touring! I will definitely tour following my second EP. 

Keep up with Zolita!
Instagram: @zolita
Twitter: @zolita101
Facebook & YouTube: @zolitamusic

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