This Interview is linked from the Okeechobee Official Portal Guide.
INTERVIEW with DONZII
Jenna Balfe • Vocals
Dennis Fuller • Bass
SIGT: Donzii started in 2015 in New York City?
Jenna Balfe: We did, but we didn’t really start taking it seriously until we moved back to Miami in 2017.
SIGT: You guys have a debut album coming out soon. Any titles in the works?
JB: There’s a couple of titles in the works. I think the one that we’re having the most fun with right now is ‘Goodbye Carlos’. It’s just funny to us.
SIGT: Dennis, you are just an insane bass player. You drive the songs and you really create the mood. Tell me what is your setup like?
Dennis Fuller: It’s pretty stripped down. I’ve actually been playing drums for a really long time. My background is a trained percussionist. I went to classical music school for percussion. I wanted to approach bass with a very rhythmic approach. I wanted to fill the gap I felt like was missing in the post-punk & goth-music scene where bass isn’t just meant to be this filler sound, or something that just takes up low end, but it’s actually quite rhythmic and melodic and almost sharp. I wanted to just try to make something new. As far as my live setup goes, it is pretty simple. I use an old Peavy aluminum-cone speaker to get my brightness in a live setting. And I just use two pedals: A MXR Di, which is a clean boost and distortion, and a chorus pedal.
JB: And your custom bass!
DF: Yes, and I have a custom bass which actually does influence the tone a lot. I had it made out of all Maine Maple, so it has a really bright attack. Then I had them put guitar pickups in the bass. They kind of were like, “Are you sure you want to build a bass from scratch and then screw it all up by putting in guitar pickups?” And I said, absolutely, let’s do it.
SIGT: It sounds so full. It’s got a lot of mid-tones to it. You know you’re doing it right if they’re questioning you and askin, “Are you sure?” That’s usually the right direction.
DF: Yeah! How are you going to do something different if you don’t break a few rules?
“How are you going to do something different if you don’t break a few rules?”
SIGT: I’ve seen all kinds of labels thrown out there from, dark-wave, post-punk, tropical-goth, new wave vibes, all kinds of stuff. For your new album, what kind of vibes are you going for there?
JB: Oh, man, I laugh because this album has so many genres. There’s literally a shoegaze track on it. I think as music listeners, we like so much music. We just really wanted to take an honest approach to making something that satisfied all of our yearnings. So the new album has all of this. There’s a pop song on it, like a pop-punk song. There’s industrial stuff…
DF: There’s very classic no-wave stuff… Someone who we let listen to it described it as like a Frankenstein style. We also chopped a lot of stuff away. We ended up recording, like, 20 songs. We whittled it down to 12 and I think on the record there’s going to be 11. We had a lot going on but that’s what we like. When we get together, we never really know what’s going to come out. A lot of times there’s comedy and just funny stuff happening when we’re playing. And honestly, what music is to us is just like having a good time and being able to kind of laugh at the world and just enjoy yourself. We really want to capture a lot of those moments. Probably why we were so sentimental about a lot of these tracks.
SIGT: When did you record most of the album?
DF: It was during the pandemic. We started in May of 2020 here in Miami. Then we did another week in San Francisco in November of 2020 with Sean Durkin. We flew out to San Francisco, and that was one of those moments where we chopped away a lot of the songs we had recorded in Miami to try and add another flavor to the record. And redid a bunch of them. We listen to all the stuff we did, and some of the songs were like, well, we really liked this song, but the energy is not what we envision or the tempo is not what we like, or something or other. So we rebuilt and re-recorded a lot of the songs in San Francisco with Sean. And then he flew from the West Coast to Miami, and we rented out another studio in a Hialeah at the beginning of 2021. He came down for a week and we kind of reorganized everything. And then we went to Denver to mix the record with someone else and ended up doing a little bit of production; bells and whistles, etc.. And there’s one song we did in Gainesville at Pulp Arts. Shout-out to David at Pulp Arts because they’re an incredible group and they highlight a lot of Florida artists. It’s a very nice recording studio. We were doing a live session there, and we got all day, so we wrote a song in the morning and recorded it, and it made the cut.
SIGT: How do you feel you would have experienced the entire pandemic had you not had the music and the outlet and the opportunity to create with one another?
DF: We were actually talking about this earlier today. We’re just really happy together and we laugh at a lot of the same stupid stuff. Whatever happens, at the end of the day, it’s just cool that we can laugh at this stuff and enjoy each other’s company. There’s no one else I could talk about shit with, like I do with Jenna. We have the same weird, dark sense of humor.
SIGT: That’s true, pure love. I think that’s something we all strive for as humans, to find something where we feel safe and connected to another soul, because we’re all born alone and we’ll likely all die alone. But if we can find somebody to ride the wave with, then it makes it a whole lot more enjoyable. So I’m so happy you guys found each other, and you’re creating all this art through it, and you’re delivering your happiness through your music, and you’re lifting them up. That sort of love and energy gifted to a bunch of unexpected people is really just like, how you lift people up and you go back and essentially heal them. That’s the true healing power of music is being able to change their whole attitude for that 25-to-hour time period.
SIGT: If you could pick five artists, whether they were dead or alive, to perform at your funeral, to celebrate your whole life, who would they be?
DONZII: The Cranberries. That’d be sick. Korn. Tears For Fears. Skinny Puppy. Britney Spears.
SIGT: Is there anything that you’d like to say to the fans at Okeechobee this year?
JB: We’re really looking forward to convene at this amazing event and we look forward to sharing our music and our energy with everybody, and we just hope that we can connect and receive back from them and learn and just have a fucking awesome time. We just want to hang and party and just feel the vibes of nature and music.
Interview by Mitch Foster.
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