Ahead of her nationwide tour, The Yorker interviews the multi-talented lead singer and frontwoman of Molotov Jukebox, Natalia Tena, to talk music, films and a smattering of Harry Potter.
Hi Natalia. How would you describe Molotov Jukebox?
NT: “Have you heard the new album? It’s called Tropical Gypsy – it’s strange because we didn’t really know what we were doing on the first album: Carnival Flower was a collection of songs we liked and put together, whereas this time we tried to give it a theme and make it a chapter, so we decided to write it in the genre of ‘Tropical Gypsy’. Some clever person in the band said ‘let’s just call the album that!’ I don’t remember who said it but it was a great idea. It really helped, giving us a marker to work around and when we started deviating from it we could say ‘no, hang on, that’s not Tropical Gypsy!’ It’s good to have that.”
The new lead single, ‘Pineapple Girl’, sounds beachy, sun-soaked and joyful: quite different in some ways to the reflective, sometimes dark tones of the first album. Is Tropical Gypsy very different?
NT: “Errm, yes. Let’s go with yes. There are variations within it; there’s a mournful one, a romantic song, an upbeat one. But I think we wanted to take away elements from both tropical, South-American cultures and a bit of the Spanish – a bit of Gypsy Bulkan – which all kind of deal with big topics in their songs. Death, betrayal, life in general and how hard it is – but they all have upbeat rhythms! You know, life is hard and sh*t but sometimes life is beautiful and we shouldn’t let that stop us celebrating it. ‘Pineapple Girl’ is a happy song, colourful and fun, written about my two favourite women in the world: my best mate Oona and Danielle, who’s about to marry our bassist.”
One gets the feeling that Molotov Jukebox is a massively collaborative effort between everyone [all the band members are multi-instrumentalists] – how did that happen, did it come naturally to you as a band?
NT: “It happens from working relentlessly hard and playing together so much. You start to really gel as a band and get this telepathy onstage. It’s almost like a trance when you get to know each other that well and play simultaneously as a group of like-minded people.”
A lot of people know you as Nymphadora Tonks [Harry Potter] and more recently as Osha [of HBO’s Game of Thrones]. Has music always been a big part of your life, or something you found after acting?
NT: (Laughs) “It feels like I’ve come full circle with Harry Potter now – I actually love talking about it! The music came first though, strangely enough. The acting just sort of happened along the way and it’s something I love doing, but music was always a big part of my childhood. Family life was hugely influential in that, inspiring and encouraging my influences.”
Are you more music focused now in your career or acting, or both? What’s next?
NT: “Well I do both constantly! I’m doing a short with a fantastic director whose just won a f*ck-tonne of Goya awards, a huge prize in Spain for cinematic acclaim, and I’ve just finished filming one with an Oscar-nominated director so that’s really exciting. It’s always the way though – suddenly it all happens at once. You ask ‘if only last month was a bit quieter, why couldn’t it have happened then?’ Luckily I’m a firm believer that if you’re well organised, you can actually achieve everything.”
Tropical Gypsy is out April 15th and available to pre-order
Molotov Jukebox are touring the UK from late April, catch them at Leeds Brudenell Social Club, Tuesday 26th April