Lola Kirke: “I was like, you know what? Fuck this; I’m gonna play music”

English-born American actress and singer-songwriter Lola Kirke has many talents - when she's not setting the screen alight, she's baring all on record.

Lola Kirke is in the middle of shooting a film in Toronto and wrapping another in Vancouver. Somehow, she’s still finding time to rehearse for her upcoming shows in LA and New York.

“I’m feeling really good about it!” she says of her upcoming album. “Everyone keeps asking me [how I’m feeling], so I’m like, should I be feeling bad about it?”

Since the release of her EP – aptly titled ‘EP’ – last year, she’s worked on the album while acting in various TV and movie projects.

“I didn’t always see myself doing both. I always wanted to be an actress, and I spent so much of my life acting and studying acting, dreaming about being an actor, and just listening to music.

“I’ve always loved music so much, and I didn’t see myself doing it initially, I just saw myself being a fan. I think that was something to do with my gender and internalised misogyny, frankly. I had every opportunity to learn instruments as a kid, so it wasn’t that. I just didn’t think that I was capable. It seemed like something that belonged to men, and women in rock’n’roll were to me, and I think this is accurate, more or less few and far between.”

Lola started playing music to rebel against a musician boyfriend who broke her heart.

“When I turned 18 I was heartbroken over a musician, and I was like, you know what? Fuck this; I’m gonna play music. I picked up a ukulele and made a really sad video of myself singing ‘Crazy’ by Patsy Cline in the middle of the desert in Arizona, and I put it on YouTube, and I sent it to him. Then I was like, you know what? That felt really good.

“After that, I started writing songs, and I found that they were such an amazing outlet for making something beautiful out of something that didn’t feel so beautiful.”

Nearly ten years later, it’s a different boyfriend that’s inspiring her own musical outings, and producing them.

“I always thought that that was gonna be something private for myself, and then my boyfriend – his name is Wyndham Garnett, he is the fucking best – he encouraged me to make music.

“Now that I think about it, I’m just realising that right now. He made it feel possible that this could be something that other people like, and it’s way less daunting to go about making a record when you know that someone extremely talented is going to be with you every step of the way.”

And it’s not just the music industry where Lola is hoping to make an impression – she’s got a pretty solid family to compete with. Her sister Jemima also acts (notably, she played Jessa on HBO’s hit Girls), her other sister Domino is a musician too, and her father was a drummer in two 70s rock bands – Free and Bad Company.

“You gotta stick out somehow!” she says when we mention she’s the only one in her family with an American accent. “We’ve all been living in New York for 22 years, and I think that the way that they’ve retained their British accent is the way that I gave mine up – I think it’s the same reason, which is like ‘I wanna be seen, and I wanna be different’, and that’s why I’m making a record!

“Free are a huge influence on me, more so than Bad Company which are the more known band.”

Ah, so the vintage references on her own record make a little more sense now.

“I feel like I have a posthumous influence for it, which is weird because I recently, and I mean like last month, got into that record ‘Car Wheels on a Gravel Road’ by Lucinda Williams. But I dunno if that counts as an influence if you listen to it like nine months after you finish your record.

“I guess by influences I mean the music I fucking love, from Gram Parsons and Gene Clarke; there’s also some Linda Ronstadt stuff that I enjoy. I love Stevie Nicks, and Christine McVie, and all of Fleetwood Mac. I think the sonic reference that we’d discussed was ‘Hawkes & Doves’. I’m a big Neil Young fan; it’s all recorded live, and it sounds like it’s recorded in a barn.

“What’s fun about my record is how there’s a cohesive genre to it, but the more I play it live, I’m like, what the fuck we’re going from like country to grunge to like psycho jazz? There’s an anxiety about like jumping around too much, but there’s something that’s exciting about that to me.”

Taken from the September issue of Dork. Lola Kirke’s album ‘Heart Head West’ is out now.

Words: Abigail Firth

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