RUN LOLA RUN
Zoë kravitz’s musical hobby just might catch up to her acting career—whether she wants it to or not.
On a crisp night in early November, Lolawolf make their live debut at New York’s Mercury Lounge. A single chord reverberates as thee band’s frontwoman steps forward, slightly hidden under a slouchy black sweater and long bangs. She shuts her eyes, clutches the mic stand, and sings her first line—a little off-key, but not a catastrophe. The second one’s better, delivered directly to a group of vaguely famous-looking fans air-kissing their way to the front: “I could stare out your window and fuck you tonight.” The fans whistle, the singer smiles, and the room—now wrapped in a fuzzy blanket of synth strains, guitar squalls, and electronic drums—sways.
A few weeks prior, Lolawolf were just another mysterious, blog-approved buzz act, swirling an intriguing mix of glistening ’80s pop and unsettling darkwave. But tonight the secret is out: Something of a Brooklyn supergroup, the band is made up
of members of Reputante fronted by Zoë Kravitz, star of X-Men: First Class, friend of Karl Lagerfeld, two-time face of Vera Wang, sometime Swarovski designer, and, of course, daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet.
Seated in NYLON's SoHo offices a few hours before the band’s inaugural show wearing faded skinnies and an even slouchier top than the one she’ll change into later on, Kravitz looks, understandably, exhausted. In addition to Lolawolf’s self-titled EP, she has several films coming up—including next month’s super-hyped Divergent. But the 25-year-old jumps into action when the opportunity arises to tease her band’s bassist, James Levy, and keyboardist, Jimmy Giannopoulos, for being eight years her senior. She claps her hands and mutters, “dirty old men” before exploding into laughter. The band’s drummer, Raviv Ullman, 28, a.k.a. Phil of Phil of the Future fame, also runs Lolawolf’s label, Innit Recordings.
Shrouding their identities was Kravitz’s idea. She didn’t want anyone to listen to Lolawolf—or worse, not give it a chance—simply because of who she was, having already experienced eye rolls with her first band, Elevator Fight, for being an actress-turned- singer and the child of a popular musician. “I just wanted people to listen to the music,” she says. “And then you can trick those who’d already said nice things, like, ‘Too late! You said you liked it!’”
Lolawolf started like so many other bands: as a group of friends, bored, looking for something fun to do. “We were walking down the street in Williamsburg and heard that Joe Jackson song—‘Is She Really Going Out With Him?’—from a car,” Levy says. Kravitz mentioned that she thought it might sound cool sung by a woman. Within 10 minutes, she was in Giannopoulos’s apartment, laying down vocals, changing the song’s key, making it a touch darker.
A short while later, Kravitz was in Los Angeles, filming The Road Within, in which she plays a girl suffering from anorexia. “It was a really intense role, and I wanted something to do when I wasn’t shooting,” she says. She asked the guys to fly out, and every night for a week they’d meet at film executive Bruce Cohen’s house behind the Chateau Marmont (the American Beauty and Silver Linings Playbook producer also happens to be Kravitz’s godfather). “We’d bring all of our stuff to this beautiful, empty house where we were too scared to touch anything, and we would record,” she says.
They wrote a song per day, without any preconceived notions of what would come of it. “I don’t have an R&B voice and I can’t do riffs,” says Kravitz. “For me, it’s more about being honest.” And with veracity came range, in both her lyrical content and delivery, from the detached monotone of “Drive” (i.e., the “fuck you tonight” song) to the raspier, “Oh shit, you’re actually leaving” despair of “Xplode.”
Back at the Mercury Lounge, Lolawolf end their set with an extended jam. The crowd cheers as a tambourine-slapping Kravitz performs silly dances in a futile attempt to distract her band from the steady, upbeat groove of “Give Me More.”
The song’s sentiment appears to be shared by the audience, though Kravitz’s bashfulness returns when it’s time to say good night—an adorably awkward “sorry!” whispered into the microphone. But earlier that afternoon, she’d made a promise: “If people keep on responding, we’ll keep playing. If not, we’ll just keep to ourselves.”