Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) wants to convince Americans that she should be the next president of the United States — but her own cousin thinks otherwise. That cousin just happens to be Nika Danilova, a.k.a. goth-pop singer-songwriter/producer Zola Jesus.
“I’m not fucking around with my Bernie support,” Danilova tweeted earlier this week. “He’s running against my cousin. I’m going against bloodlines for this shit!” In case her support for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary isn’t clear, her Twitter display name also reads: “ZJ for BERNIE SANDERS 2020.”
i'm not fucking around with my bernie support. he's running against my cousin. i'm going against bloodlines for this shit!
— ZJ for BERNIE SANDERS 2020 (@ZOLAJESUS) February 3, 2020
“I thought it was funny,” Danilova tells Rolling Stone of her tweet, which had amassed nearly 20,000 likes at press time. “I’ve mentioned that she’s my cousin a couple of times, but I just wanted to make it very clear that I had a choice to make. I love my family, and I love the Klobuchar side of my family, but I definitely believe in Bernie’s platform way more. So it is what it is. Just so you know: I’m going out here on a limb right now, against my own blood, for this shit.”
While she and Klobuchar do share a family connection, she adds that she comes from a large family, and they haven’t actually met.
The singer-songwriter’s political awakening was a gradual process. When Barack Obama was in office, she says, she felt like the “world was working for me.” Around the time Donald Trump took office in 2016, she became more aware of the cracks in our country. “As I’ve gotten older, it’s been really hard for me to see how broken our country is, how deeply broken it is,” she says.
Danilova has decided to come out strong on social in support of Sanders because she feels like artists have the responsibility to “push culture forward and push society forward in new ways.”
“Because we’re the ones responsible for taking human emotion, taking human experience, and digesting it,” she continues. “What we contribute is a re-metabolization of culture and society and history and people. I feel like I have a duty as an artistic figure to promote my own ideology about what world I want to live in. I want to move forward with that vision of a future that I feel is more inclusive. We’re losing our sense of society.”
As such, she sees Sanders as a fellow artist: “He’s seeing how the world can be better and he’s seeing what needs to be done.” Sanders is running on a platform of Medicare, college, and housing for all, among other issues. He’s drawn broad support from other musicians including Cardi B, the Strokes, Jack White, Ariana Grande, Vampire Weekend, Bon Iver, and more.
“Bernie means well and means what he says,” Danilova says. “I believe that he will not only bring change into our government and into the administration and to society, but he will bring a movement of change. He will open up the floodgates and people will be able to look at society differently, look at their place within it differently, look at their neighbors differently.”
Danilova stresses that she doesn’t live in a big city, but in her Wisconsin hometown. Her family moved there as a child, when she was known as Nicole Hummel. “There are homemade Trump signs just down the road from me,” she says. “This is middle America that I live in, and I want these people to be taken care of, you know? I see the division and I see the lack of education in my [neighbors’] politics.”
In the midst of all this, she’s planning to head out to a cabin for a few days soon to work on new music. Zola Jesus’ last album, Okovi, arrived in 2017.
“Artists are pressured these days to put out new music constantly, without having that time to reinvent themselves or to try something new or to take a chance,” she says. “I want to be able to make the next thing that I put out feel like a departure: ‘She’s had time to grow and work through her trauma, work on her bullshit, and really deliver something that’s new.’ It takes time to really be able to get to that kernel, that pearl at the end of all your work.”