Enter the esoteric and evocative universe that is dystopian pop. Singer, songwriter and producer Yullola takes us into an otherwordly dimension that combines divine and feminine spirits with a spooky sense of alienation. To make sense of earthly behaviours, she has created a new future in her debut album Priestess out tomorrow, October 22nd.
Formerly known as Jasper Lotti and reincarnated as Yullola, we can see now more than ever she wants to escape from limitations. Her visuals will really Take U There. In this new promising album, she takes her previous darker sounds into a more childlike appreciation for pure feelings, always with an endless attachment to spirituality and mythology. “Let’s be cute in a tragic way. Let’s dance in the destruction preceding rebirth n celebrate a new earth!”, she says. Priestess is an invitation to uncover her energy and evolution, as well as her obsession for black holes. Keep your eye on Yullola before she blows up.
You have previously described yourself as a dystopian pop artist. For those who may now be discovering you, how else would you describe your sound and persona?
Actually, someone commented on my video for Afterglowow that I “speak to being young and a freak at the age/edge of apocalypse.” I love that! I also call my vibe “ancient future.” When I write lyrics, I elucidate the current virtual ecosystem of human relationships through seeking answers in ancient sources, like spirituality and mythology. The future is ancient and the ancient is the future. And then when I produce I like to use pop or dance-influenced drum patterns but slip in weirder samples like heavy breathing, star sonification data and female choirs. I make these disparate elements sound palatable together in a synchronous sonic goo.
You went from being known as Jasper Lotti to transforming your identity and becoming Yullola. What is the reason behind this change?
Jasper Lotti will always be a part of me and I love her, but I found myself feeling limited by being under an artist name that connotes a material person. To continue my art I needed the freedom to exist as an entity that takes on various personas and concepts. Jasper Lotti is one of many personas I’ll explore through my evolution as an artist.
YULLOLA has sanskrit origins and means stormy, surging waves. I love the dual meaning of waves in a metaphysical, esoteric sense but also the terrifying, yet delicate, quality of ocean waves. This encompasses the energy I approach every project with so perfectly. Evolution is inevitable.
Priestess is your upcoming debut album, could you give us an insight of what we should be expecting?
The energy of the music is an offshoot of dystopian pop that I call “Priestess Pop.” It’s esoteric, detached pop that scrapes at the grey area of human dynamics. I feel like earth is undergoing a collective ego death and I want to write a soundtrack to a society that’s awakening - acutely aware of humanity’s shortcomings, but [that] can also find light in the darkness. I always tell people to picture that giant cave rave from The Matrix. Priestess is playing on those speakers!
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Growing up in New York with parents immigrating from India, you stayed connected to your roots as you studied Bharatanatyam (a classical Indian dance) as well as traditional Indian music. Can you see how your background shaped the melodies you create?
Totally. My training has just latched onto my melodic instincts. I still listen to a lot of Indian classical music as well just to keep my brain on its feet. A lot of it boils down to having a much more intricate scale system and vocal inflection than Western music.
You have stated that there is a deep connection between this new album and anime, ancient Japanese and Hindu mythology, and cosmology. How does it resonate with the alien pop priestess you portray in this new album?
I started watching anime revolving around priestess characters and supernatural women, and I related so much to them, particularly in Inuyasha, Evangelion and Visions of Escaflowne. So I wanted to create a fictional world where I myself am a priestess. I combined my love for goddess mythology and black holes with narrative sensibility from anime to create Priestess. I approached this project like a musical anime, in a way, I wanted to create a narrative beyond the music. I play the somber Priestess, trapped inside of a black hole and extremely curious about the universe, with nothing to do but steep herself in fantasy writing [and] warped, detached pop music. A lone egg calls out to her from the cosmos, and she defeats the vortex guardian demon, breaks free from the gravity prison, and saves the egg. My dream is to make this an anime!
In other interviews, you have brought up that you have synesthesia, and it is known that many artists who experience this make it a part of their art. How does your perception affect the music you create?
I’m overly sensitive, so any slight perceptive input, like the way a cloud moves or the shape of someone’s ponytail, can inspire a melody or an entire song. I’m constantly overstimulated even in mundane situations, it’s a blessing and a curse. I have to record voice notes and write in my journals or Notes app in the moment or else my mind will explode from trying to contain my thoughts. I also channel melody through my body, I compose songs starting from movement.
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You are actually a published scientist. How has this knowledge helped you create the atmosphere that surrounds Yullola or in other words, the universe of who you are as an artist?
It’s not so much the knowledge but the approach. I see my art as research, each project is like a different study with it’s own hypothesis, scientific method and findings. I’m also just a giant, curious nerd, so I like to approach things from an analytical, investigative perspective. I’m still a 'published scientist' in a way but just working with different mediums and tools.
You’ve explained that movement and dancing take a big part in your creation. Have you also imagined yourself performing live on stage while putting together this project?
Absolutely, I’m developing choreo for live shows that incorporates movement from my songwriting process. I’m super duper thrilled to share.
Your single Is It Love or a Pyramid Scheme is as catchy as it is intimidating and powerful, especially its visuals, it perfectly resonates with the concept you portray. Where do these unique conceptions come from?
The process of this album started with a massive ego death after my grandfather passed, and I found so much solace grounding myself in mythology. Humans have always repeated the same stories and embodied the same archetypes, another example is the zodiac signs. We’re such predictable creatures, this comforts me so much. So through this journey, I found myself in the darker, more absurd portrayals of the goddess archetype and divine feminine. In this video I play the Japanese female long-neck demon Rokurokubi, the Egyptian goddess of the sky Nut, and Hindu goddess of time Kali. When I was a kid I would imagine entities from different cultures hanging out as friends, so I also wanted to honour that vision.
Yullola is always accompanied by mesmerising photography, such as in the cover of Priestess as if we take a look at your Instagram profile. You have self-directed your videos, but are you always the creative mind behind your artwork?
Usually I come with the central concept, and then I love collaborating with others to flesh out the surrounding world. I have very specific visions so collaborating with others is super exciting to me, it feels really sacred. Like for the Priestess artwork I worked with my amazing art director friend Isha Dipika Walia, and the process felt so nerdy and special. I stay in the mindset of a student, constantly learning from my friends and environment to incorporate into my art.
I personally find it absorbing how you write about love and relationships and combine it with a cyber-futuristic vibe. How do you manage to go beyond the standard when talking about such common topics?
I spent most of my childhood alone because my parents moved around a lot and I was bullied in school, so I naturally developed a detached, kind of anthropological perspective on human relationships. Even now when it comes to love, I live vicariously through my friends and learn through them, it’s weirdly healing for me. And I’m obsessed with sci-fi and concepts of the future, so I like to feel like I’m living in a sci-fi novel when I write lyrics.
What songs are you most excited for the audience to hear and which one keeps a special place in your heart?
Other than the singles already out, I’m super pumped for Sell My Soul 2 U and Bb Plz Don’t Go. But honestly my fav is the last track, Ur Not My Type Ur Just Some Type of Way. It’s a slow bop that’s just too real, even for someone like me.
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