“Sex, sadness, politics, country music.” Twin meets Lola Kirke

06.10.2018 | Music | BY:

“My tongue won’t tie / It’s not supposed to / Least I can’t lie like I used to.”

So sings Lola Kirke on her record ‘Supposed To’, an elegy on perfectionism rendered with melancholic yet determined vocals that soar over a traditional country rock sound.

Music is the latest addition to Kirke’s growing oeuvre. Having previously starred in TV shows such as Mozart in the Jungle alongside films like Untogether, Gone Girl and Gemini , Kirke is now bringing her performances closer to home.

Her first album Heart Head West was released in August. The record features a rich and emotive collection of songs, which mix the sound of country with cosmopolitan, city experiences. Personal and honest, what Kirke sings resonates even as the melody ends.  This November sees Kirke arrive in London to perform at the Lexington in North London.

Ahead of her arrival in the capital, Twin caught up with Kirke to talk sadness, Gram Parsons and the  power of Italian bar bathrooms.

Did your sound develop naturally or was there a lot of experimenting to find the best fit?

It came about pretty naturally. I’ve been pretty consistent in my musical taste for some time now—Neil Young, Karen Dalton, the Band and the likes of them have always felt deeply close to me, so recording live to tape and reducing the amount of “slick” just felt right. I’m also just kind of a bad guitar player and have a somewhat unusual voice (lisp, smoking for far too long, charmingly flat or at least I hope!) so the sweaty, messy, reverb sound has always been kind to me. 

Did you find it easy to create something unique which also has the recognisable characteristics of a country song?

For whatever reason, I have just always loved country music. Maybe it’s cause my big sister loved country music and I just wanted her to think I was cool when I was little. Or maybe it’s something from a past life or maybe it’s the intrinsic ability of the country format to put so simply feelings that are so complex. When a writer of any kind can do that, they’ve succeeded for me. So I guess it’s “easy” for me to lean towards a country sound but it’s always a welcome challenge to say what you’re trying to in the most effective and beautiful way.

Is there a challenge of distilling city living into a country sound? 

When you live in a city, you see so much pain and joy—the whole spectrum of life. It’s always very inspiring but also can be very sad. I’d say writing music in general makes it easier to cope with all of that, it gives me an outlet. But I’ve never felt a tension between urban life and country sound. I think they complement each other very nicely. 

How did the album come together? Did you know from the beginning what it would be or did it form as you worked? 

I’d been writing songs for a long time and always had fantasized about having my very own record. I’d been touring the songs with my band a bit and they were kind of like “Alright you have a record now let’s record it” and that was sort of the beginning. Besides the fact that the songs are written by me and mostly in the year 2017, there isn’t really a connecting theme. 

What’s your approach songwriting?

Sadness and loneliness help! I journal a lot which helps keep my lyrics coming from true place instead something more forced. Otherwise I’ve been lucky to have melodies come to me. 

All your songs seem to come from a personal perspective. Were there any experiences you drew on which surprised you? 

“Turn Away Your Heart” began in a bar bathroom in Italy. I think I was squatting to pee. That was surprising. 

‘Monster’ and ‘Supposed To’ both address the theme of being an outsider and not conforming. What do you see as the biggest challenges to individuality in the modern age? 

I suppose they do! That’s funny you picked up on that because they’re really about very different things. “Monster” is about self destruction and social awkwardness while “Supposed To” is about perfectionism… but I think all of those things connect back to individuality. I think social media really challenges our sense of ourselves and makes it very easy to compare ourselves to other people and despair about the results. At least that’s my experience. 

What were you interested in before making the record, and how did this feed into your work?

All sorts of things! Sex, sadness, politics, country music. What’s fun about songwriting is that you can make work about all your interests if you want to. 

What about Gram Parson’s music were you drawn to?

He was the first person I ever heard who fused the genres of rock and country together and he did it so well too. In the stories I’ve read or heard about him it’s clear that his and charm charisma weren’t unique to his music, that he was really able to bring that into his personal life too. He was such a leader and attracted quite the interesting following. I love how he’s still doing that to this day with his music. 

Gram Parsons songs are open and vulnerable. Do you think there’s still the same room for those qualities in songwriting today?

If there isn’t then I’m not interested! Art is all about communication and movement, and if were not communicating openly and vulnerably then we’re not moving anything.

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