Unedited conversations between artist in a productive critique discovering thesis and processes behind the work.
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Conversation between Donzii and Olivia Ramos.
RAMOS: Hi guys
who is on the chat right now?
its Jenna now
the boys are coming
we all here!
so happy to have you guys back on the magazine
so what has changed since we last chatted?
Its so nice of you to have us back we are stoked - so many things have changed since we last spoke
haha Internet delay - - - I think the last time we talked Jenna and Dennis were living in Brooklyn. We relocated to Miami last year around October.
Our band exploded a month ago and we now have a new guitarist
His name is Nick.
Say hi Nick
Nick: ciao Olivia!
So then you guys are a quartet now?
or is Nick taking the place of Doug?
Nick: No, unless we consider our drum machine to be a person too
that is entirely up to you
Dennis: Our original guitarist left the group, still a trio
Jenna: We miss Doug, but are really psyched with this new configuration.
Jenna: We played at Gender Blender last night.
can't wait to see footage - I had to be in SF and missed it
so how does that work? the transition I mean
Nick: Its exhilirating. Most people find change to be a nuisance but I'm enjoying the challenge of forging a new future and something cute.
Dennis: I have had some difficult moments dealing with it, emotionally and physically. It happened super fast and at a time when we had a couple shows booked so we had to work fast. Learn old parts, write new parts, get it to point of being presentable. it has definitely tempered us as new band mates.
the most important thing is that the three of you are on board and committed to making it work
Jenna: Totally! It's working. We got great responses last night after we played.
Awesome - everything happens for a reason ... I am curious, in a band of three, everyone has a lot of influence on the sound, lyrics, look - will DONZII pivot with Nick's personality and dreams?
Dennis: Yes its already morphing since he joined
Nick: not sure if pivot is the right word .
it will be an addition of the continuum that donzii has already embarked on
and found inspiration from
my apologies, pivot is such a tech startup thing to say
Dennis: Nick has a lot of jazz influence, and we are kind of a darker / art rock vibe
Jenna: haha;). I have been inspired by the transition greatly. My lyrics and singing are shifting and transforming in a really positive way.
Jenna: The vibe also has become a bit more light hearted and sexy.
dark art rock meets jazz deff sounds innovative
tell me a bit about the creative process now
... I mean now that it is the three of you
I've always wondered how a song comes together
Nick: We've been running most of the songs we were previously working on. We have changed things about them, getting to know each other through the music we already have and sharing past inspirations to inspire new paths in composition.
that's a smart way to go about it
Dennis: One of the first things I got when I stated playing music was this Dr. Beat metronome that we use all the time to find where grooves and melodies sit the best. We've been playing a lot of repetitive stuff just getting locked in with each other so we can start being able to communicate through the music / through our eyes without talking about it first. Running the old material is a challenge because its coming from somewhere else, and we are making the next steps in developing our songs and style.
Jenna: We have been writing new songs that have some of the old feel but with a new energy that I think will make people dance more.
and in regards to subject matter, lyrics, how do you choose a thesis, and at what scale? for example, is it on a song basis, or album, or is there a general thesis for the band that sets up some kind of structure for each individual song?
Jenna: I write the lyrics, for the songs. A lot of the songs are inspired by my poetry. In terms of theme, much of it is existential in nature with a focus on how people relate to each other. I also have been trying to approach subjects of politics and environment.
I also like to make romantic and dancy things.
a lot can be said within the realm of people relating to each other, politics and environment can certainly fall within that - can you go a little deeper? is it more about empathy in general? or do you have a more specific intention in mind?
It is about empathy! Good word to use. Sunrise carried me to a distant place
gunna send you some lyrics:
Sunrise carried me to a distant place. What is this feeling? Anxiety? How do we walk next to each other, standing still? Thinking ill of one another, before the fall. I can feel it, its in the air. In a time of question in a time of question...
Thinking ill of one another, before the fall. - I find that a very nice warning to all, of how to not spend your energy and if so, it means you will soon see your demise
ha, well at least that's what I got .. and I agree with the statement and very much appreciate that it is part of your song
Jenna: Thanks pal
so then Dennis and Nick take these words and create the music? or is the music happening in parallel? how does it come together?
Dennis: We try to compose the songs around a beat that has a good feeling. Next we try and find a bass line that we can vamp while Jenna writes lyrics. Then the guitar gets dialed in. When we're getting ready to perform I'll go in and start adding fills and structure to the drum track that stay out of Jenna's way. My biggest concern is sound spacing or voicing; making sure everything fits in a place that doesn't interrupt anyone's part. Sometimes things go differently, say we're writing a more blended song, but that arranging style is still embedded in my process.
what kind of documentation is used? is it traditional sheet music, or some other kind of diagrammatic structure?
Dennis: We have most of our songs laid out on staff paper. Not necessarily the melodies, but the chord changes, measures and sections are all there. It makes it easier when we're rehearsing and we farm it we can see where we didn't count right. The other method we use is just recording right off the bat, and that tends to solidify an arrangement pretty quick.
gotcha - would love to see an image of one of the docs
I find it fascinating, these docs, probably because of my architecture background - it's not so different
it means you are able to take a look at the song from an objective perspective, from a structural perspective and see if the continuity, balance, pace, and in a way it is a completely different narrative
In fact, you can design from there - have you ever done that?
instead of putting down on paper what you hear - design on paper and then try it
Dennis: Usually the song gets mapped out in a pretty standard grouping of measures i.e. 8 bars intro / 16 bars verse 1 / 16 bars chorus etc. That gets boring quick, and while we are still working with mostly even numbers, we will look at the chart and say "we did a similar structure in that last song, lets break this one up differently" so instead of things happening every 16 or 32 bars, we'll throw a 4 bar instrumental break, or do a 24 bar verse and 32 bar chorus. Not really noticeable or daring per se, but if you keep dividing everything super symmetrically it gets tired.
of course - but there is more to it than timing no? there is all kinds of symbols for emotion - crescendo, diminuendo, staccato... I'm trying to go back to music theory here but not a lot is coming up.
the point being, or rather the question - can you compose a song from the paper without every playing a note?
Nick: Absolutely, thats composition from a hard look at the word, you know? Its a powerful tool to have. It takes time to see the benefits from doing it. Being that the music is of a particular emotion while at the same time being uplifting, its not the most natural for us to approach it that way. Being that a large part of Jenna's role in the band, the performative side, its hard to choreograph things on to paper.
yes I can see that - would make for some pretty cool looking documents tho
so what are your goals as a group in the next 6 months?
Nick: Smoke weed
Jenna: eat lots of sandwiches