The DÃ are Paris based duo Olivia B Merilahti and Dan Levy. Originating from Finland and France respectively, they produce a brilliant genre-busting blend of European pop using a vast array of instruments and Olivia's stunning, wide-ranging vocals. Their eclectic debut album, A Mouthful shot to number one in the French charts and won them a big army of fans on the continent. We here at Contactmusic.com are pleased to see them on our shores and we're sure the Brits will be just as appreciative of their music! The pair answered Contactmusic.com's questions after their performance on the main stage at The Secret Garden Party - we talked about Dan's previous life as a composer and the cultural influences behind their music.
CM: Hi Olivia and Dan, where are you at the moment?
On the sunny side of the moon, taking some rest before the last few gigs on Earth...
CM: How is the festival season going? Do you enjoy it or do you prefer playing to your own crowd?
It's going well, but we had a lot more last year. We like both clubs and festivals, but outdoor festivals feel too often like a contest where the loudest band wins, and that's a shame.
CM: The DÃ is a great name, what's the story behind it?
)It is a secret chemical formula...it's just our initials put together, which results in a word that sounds and looks like the first note of the scale.
CM: You are the first act to reach No. 1 in the French charts with an English spoken album. Why did you record it in English?
Because it was the most natural thing for me, it's the language I've always used ever since I started singing. It's the music I grew up to. I speak French and Finnish and English, and they all have a specific role in my life.
CM: There is a song in Finnish on your album, what was the thought behind that? Have you ever thought of recording an album in your native tongue?
)There was no thought; the melody came out naturally in Finnish. It often happens. I use language as a tool, as an instrument too. A Tango album in Finnish? Or Christmas songs, who knows...
CM: How have your different cultures influenced your music?
The main difference is the music we've listened to before we met. My mum listened to The Beatles and Mozart, and I guess I've always kept that very melodic preference in music. I was into songs cos I wanted to be a singer-songwriter. Dan grew up to Jazz, and to twentieth century classical music. Pop music and songs were of no interest to him...but I proved him wrong! We had so much to share and to give to each other when we met, and we still have.
CM: You've got a really eclectic sound, what are your influences?
We wanted to have an album with surprises, characters, different textures. We were not aware we were recording an album until quite late, because we were working on several other projects at the time.
Traditional music and jazz are a huge part of the music we listen to, like Ethiopian music, Serbian gypsy music, or Coltrane and Thelonious Monk. But artists such as Beck, Radiohead, Bjork or even Queen have obviously influenced our music.
CM: How has your sound evolved?
We're in the studio again; we've recorded a lot already. We have a better sound now that we know how to record an album, and we have new gear too. For the first album, we'd never played our songs live before the album was released, it was quite a shock. Playing live has influenced our sound a lot.
CM: How does the creative partnership work? Who has the final say?!
Its pure team work, we both have the final say. But I write the lyrics on my own, and Dan does most of the arrangement on his own, but then we finalize it together. When Dan plays, I record, and vice-versa.
CM: You have a huge array of instruments on the album, what do you play yourselves?
)Except for the strings, we played most instruments ourselves. It's a lot about playing with the instruments than playing them properly. Banging a harp can lead to the sounds of a whole song.
CM: The arrangement of your songs is often complex. Dan, you used to be a composer, how has this affected your sound?
D:)I never planned or wished to be in band. It just fell upon me. With Olivia I started writing songs; it was very new for me. I realized I could arrange a song and arrange it with a whole range of awkward sounds. I thought songs were not very challenging, but I was wrong. When we'd finished the album we had to play the songs live, and I didn't understand why. Moving from the comfy studio to the scary stage environment was radical to me.
CM: What made you decide to be in a band instead?
D:)I don't feel like we're "a band", with Olivia. It's more like an entity, a unit.
CM: You did a huge tour last year; do you prefer playing live or being in the studio?
To be honest, we feel better in the studio, that's where we create; it's our oxygen, our lab. Playing live is magical sometimes, but as perfectionists we hardly walk out of the stage satisfied. We've learned though... But we definitely miss the creative process when touring.
CM: What's next for you guys?
We have a 10-gig tour around North America in September, and then we'll be recording album 2!
CM: That's great news! We'll look forward to hearing it! Thanks for your time.