Jim Hendrix impersonator sires 80s NYC disco-pop wild child. Are you gonna go her way?
The lineup: Zoe Kravitz, James Levy, Raviv Ullman, Jimmy Giannopoulos.
The background: “Would you take me to the West Side – would that be alright?” Zoë Kravitz ever so politely enquires on Drive, the lead track on Lolawolf’s debut EP, released in January 2014. What will she do when she gets there, we hear you ask. “I could stare out your window,” she coos, then pauses for dramatic effect, “and fuck you tonight.” Okaaay. Wonder what her dad makes of that. Turns out her old man is Lenny Kravitz, if that makes a difference. Probably not. Bad language and rapacious desire must be hard to swallow, never mind whose daughter you are. But still, that’s Kravitz (Zoë, not Lenny) for you: she plays it sassy with her band Lolawolf, who come dressed in sweet (sheep’s) clothing, so watch out. This is sugar pop with R&B flavours and a switchblade under the strawberry candy carapace. She’s backed, not by sessioneers but the band Reputante (who are signed to Julian Casablancas’ label) and they look like Bowery bums straight outta New York back when Lou Reed was getting – or giving – street hassle. Think Solange if she joined the Strokes and they finished that album of Quincy Jones-produced pop they were once rumoured to be making. It’s indie, but since when did that stop certain people crossing over into the real charts? As Pitchfork said: “Drive strikes the balance of Chromatics’ bleary synth-driven brightness and Lana Del Rey’s detached-yet-dramatised longing.” We don’t even know who Chromatics are, but it still confirms our point.
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Zoë, also an actress, was playing an anorexic in a film called the Road Within, as you do, down to 90lbs, an emotional and physical wreck, going out of her tiny (actually sizeable) mind. Suddenly, Lolawolf hoved into view and saved her. “Music was like my therapy,” she says. She drew on Fiona Apple and No Doubt – not that you can tell. Influence-wise, we can hear early Madonna, 80s new wave/synthpop and high-sucrose R&B from any era. Drive is pure Lana del Lennox (they love the Eurythmics) with a surging chorus: this is definitely one of the better examples of the scions-of-stars genus. The titles alone reek of 80s goodness: Drive, What Love Is, Wanna Have Fun – just watch the Cars, Tina Turner/Foreigner and Cyndi Lauper sit up and beg. Not that they’re cover versions, but the component parts, from instruments to lyrics, suggest a thorough immersion in the period. What Love Is is cute yet cutting (“Why can’t I be faithful?”), the sort of pretty but playful pop you might have thought they didn’t make anymore. “I like it when a song sounds happy and makes you want to dance, and then when you listen to the lyrics, they’re kind of fucked up,” she says. Wanna Have Fun – about a threesome gone wrong – slides along seductively, with languor to spare. Give Me More is like Little Boots if she was a badass from the Bronx. Chainz is wild. Kim Wilde. She’s a kid (well, she’s 24) in America, getting into the groove, dodging preconceptions – “I represent, to some people, this socialite-y, fashion-y, bitch girl and that’s not at all who I am” – and looking for new ways to outdo her guitar-shagging dear old dad.