All the travel has kept her out of the studio, and 2012 could mark the first year since 2009 -- when the Wisconsin-raised drama queen dropped her debut, 'The Spoils' -- that she hasn't released new material.
"I'm starting to feel a little overwhelmed with ideas," Zola tells Spinner. "It's been getting a little stressful knowing I still have so much touring to do when I feel my ideas are starting to fill me up."
She's not talking about words or music, per se, but something more abstract and ethereal -- a multimedia cloud of inspiration she somehow draws from and turns into her frosty synth-pop epics.
"What happens is I have an idea, and it can exist either as a song or an image or as words," she says. "Right now, I have these concepts, whether they're music or visual ideas or just little kernels of things that inspire me. I try to figure out how i can translate those into all the different mediums, particularly sound. It's a little bit harder because sound ... it exists in your head, but to bring it outside of your head is more difficult."
It's all about having the right "tools," she says, and on her most recent album, 2011's 'Conatus,' she had no choice but to build them as she worked. Otherwise, the sounds in her head -- dark, romantic keyboard swells and howled, almost wordless melodies -- might never have made it to tape.
"I had to learn how to be a producer and keyboardist and a drum programmer to get those things out of me," Zola says. "I think I became more and more proficient in all those areas, to where it can be easier to communicate those things, but the biggest fight is to get what's inside out."
Even after she returns from Europe, she might have trouble getting started on her next album. She makes her home in Los Angeles, a place whose beauty, she says, is exceeded only by its noisiness.
"I'm really trying to escape the city at this point," she says. "There are definitely pockets of quietude in the hills and all the great parks that have been maintained here, but not enough to live here and feel like you can create anything new. There's so much stimulation that it's hard to believe anything new can be created that doesn't feed off that already preexisting stimuli."
Her need for total silence fits with her stage persona, but Zola is no skulking loner. To hear her music and peg her for depressed or antisocial is to assign far too much importance to one aspect of her creativity, which itself is one facet of who she is.
"I think people get caught up in the preconception of who they think a figure is because they put out a record," she says. "That human quality might be forgotten about or overlooked, and you start to look at musicians for just what they're putting out. I'm extremely dynamic, and anyone who truly knows me or even meets me for five minute will realize that."