With Her Acting Career On Fire, Lola Kirke Is Now Turning To Music

“Picking up a guitar and playing it is actually kind of like a tiny political act”

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein, Styled by Jenna Igneri, Hair by Blake Erik and Make up by Regina Harris, Props courtesy of ACME Brooklyn

Late last month, Lola Kirke took the stage at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn, New York, to celebrate the release of her debut, self-titled EP. Flanked by five other musicians (including her boyfriend, Wyndham Boylan, who also produced the record), she played bleeding-heart, country-dusted rock, marking her official foray into a professional music career. In that world, Kirke is still a relative unknown. For the tour she just completed—an 8-stop jaunt between New York and Los Angeles—she traveled in a small van with friends and collaborators, playing at intimate clubs along the way. And yet two weeks prior to the show at Baby’s All Right, the 26-year-old performer found herself on the cover of The Village Voice. That’s because, in Lola Kirke’s other life, she happens to be an actress on the cusp of stardom.

Kirke, who grew up in New York City to artistic parents (her father is the former drummer for the rock bands Free and Bad Company; her mother owned a popular clothing boutique in Manhattan's West Village), wanted to act since she was young. But when she left the city to study at Bard College in New York's Hudson Valley, other artistic pursuits began to take hold. While majoring in film theory, Kirke took up music, guitar, and singing with friends, and eventually formed an alt-country band, She Rose. But when Kirke returned to the city after graduation, with her sister Jemima a star thanks to her role on HBO’s Girls, the acting bug took over, and Kirke quickly found work, first in a small but pivotal role in David Fincher’s Gone Girl, and then as one of two leads in Noah Baumbach’s well-received indie, Mistress America.  

Now, Kirke sits at the top of casting lists across Hollywood and is one audition away from the role that will launch her to rarified movie stardom. But until that happens, Kirke is thrilled to follow her artistic muse wherever it leads her. She just wrapped her third season as the ambitious oboist Hailey on Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle, and will next star opposite Jemima in writer Emma Forrest’s directorial debut, Untogether. We recently spoke with Kirke, who splits her time between New York and Los Angeles, about why she felt the need to start her music career now, how her college experience changed her life, and what she’s learned about Hollywood. 

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein
Styled by Jenna Igneri
Hair by Blake Erik
Makeup by Regina Harriss

Props courtesy of ACME Brooklyn

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein, Knit jumpsuit by Ryan Roche, Props courtesy of ACME Brooklyn

Does being on a movie set feel like work to you? How about being on stage?
[Being on set] feels like work because it is fucking work—you work for fourteen hours a day. But, as a musician at this moment in my life, I get to call the shots, and it is still much more in the realm of passion and hobby. On set, I’m learning lines, I’m getting ready. I’m doing all these things you don’t necessarily think go with acting—I’m doing press, I’m doing ADR. There are so many other elements to it, and the actual time you get to act is probably like three hours out of the 14 hours.

You just finished shooting season three of Mozart in the Jungle. How does it feel now as opposed to the first season? Do you enjoy revisiting the same character again and again?
I grew to love that person so much more this season than I had before. Her journey and mine are something that is beginning to—not coincidentally because I play her—intersect. This season, she becomes the conductor, while this year, I decided to pursue music. We’re both expanding who we want to be in the world and for ourselves, and it’s so cool to get to try that all through her before I do it myself. Also, I think that this season there’s a level of comfort that I felt being on that set. It’s such a great set to be on. All of the actors are incredible, the people who make the show are just so fun, it’s like a big, big family. I know it sounds really corny when people say that.

You’re about to act opposite your sister for the first time. How do you feel about that?
I’m so excited because Jemima called me and was like, “This lady wants us to do a movie together,” and I was like, "Okay, sure, whatever." And then I read the script, and I was like, "This is incredible."

Are you going to find it weird?
Of course, it’s going to be weird, but I want to expand as an artist and as a person, and this is how that’s happening for me, so I’m gonna roll with it.