The Do – Breaking Out of The Playground

May 21, 2009 by  

the-do-4

Bloody crikey. The dø’s MySpace page has clocked up a total of 4,409,027 plays. That’s a lot of listens for a band I’ve never heard of. They’re clearly famous somewhere. I wonder as the elevator descends to their dessing room if they’ll care at all for the obvious questions I’ve got in my pocket. They’ll have heard them countless times.

I have prepared myself with a web browse and so far I have learnt to pronounce their name (doe), which stems from the first note in the phonetic scale, and that they are Finnish Slash French. It dawns on me where they might be famous: the continent, that mysterious musical wasteland that gave us Whigfield, Serge effing Gainsborough and Ace of Base. (Ok, I’ll reluctantly admit I like some of that. But only drunk.)

The thing is, that bit of Europe that’s over there has been quietly making some lovely sounds. It’s just they don’t let us at it too often. Every now and again they dare to come and mingle with us monolingual heathens and share a bit of it, and we try and understand it, and it makes our simple, nodding little heads happy. The Scandinavian music scene has long been teeming with good bits, with Erlend Øye championing the good ships Kings of Convenience and Whitest Boy Alive with a firm hand on the till, and ScandoNøvan outfit Röyksopp succeeding in critical and commercial joy in the UK.

The male half of the outfit, Dan, greets me in their dressing room, and he seems a polite and friendly chap, if a bit road worn. He offers me an orange juice (which I accept because I thought he said there was going to be rum in it, mistakenly) and away we go. Mid way through the interview Olivia joins us from her sound check, and we continue.

Dan comes accross as a fairly serious chap, admitting he only began working with Olivia under duress on a film score, preferring darkened rooms and solitude to craft his art. He tells me his first exposure to music was to his father’s jazz record collection, and as he was growing up sought out Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, all fairly cerebral stuff for a nipper. He adds that he hasn’t ceased working with Olivia since they began, and I sense there’s a synergy that keeps them together.

Do you still feel a connection with your own songs, playing them night after night?

Dan: “Depends on the night, on the song, on me, on Olivia. You never know why a song may work one night and the next be crap. You don’t know why… It’s a magic, like a mechanism, complex.”

Has there been a particular moment with an audience that you remember at extra special?

Dan: “We played a festival in France, to 50,000 people. A sea of that many is very impressive, and when you hear them, before you go on stage, it’s quite amazing. I wanted to cry to say the truth, but you go on stage and hear… it’s magic. It wasn’t the best gig. That was another time, because we were so intensely connected, musically.”

Can you tell me the albums that have changed your path or the outcome of your music?
Olivia: “I think there are three albums that we listen to together, that have shaped the dø,”
Dan: “Kid A, Medulla, by Björk, and The Information, by Beck.” “Medulla, especially,” Olivia rejoins.

If you could be one other person on earth, who would you be?

Dan: “Johnny Greenwood,”, unhesititantly. “I am so jealous of him, he has the time to do film scores and compose music for movies. ‘There Will Be Blood’, I didn’t know it was him! I thought the music was fucking amazing, and when the credits came, I saw it was him. And what he has acheived with Radiohead…”

Olivia smiles, “A moomin. Things are so uncomplicated for them.”

Later on that evening in the hall of KCLSU it’s clear that the international nature of London’s universities mean that the dø will be playing to a very full room. Olivia and Dan take stage in front of an embellished drum kit complete with an overhead spiral rack of tin plates.

Since the interview, the weary dressing room boredom has evaporated, and they look every inch absorbed in the earnest moment of their music.

Earlier Dan had told me the song of their he was most proud of, and enjoyed playing the most was ‘Playground Hustle’, and it’s this they open with. It’s a scrappy, shouty, jubilant anthem to youth, “We are, not afraid, of you grown ups! We’ll go ask the queen of this kingdom if you won’t let us play with screws, and hammers!”. Olivia yelps with a charming innocence. She is elfish, with pretty, angular Nordic features, made diminutive by the Gretch she plays with surety. With just her, Dan (on bass and keys) and their drummer, she holds her own as an adept musician.

Slow burning single ‘On My Shoulders’ is a soul-soaring high to an agreeably long set. They have a confidence that their epic success elsewhere in Europe has given them, playing longer than most new bands would dare. They are keenly received, and are drawn out for an encore by the insistant crowd. They’ve been mesmeric to watch, as musicians that play because they must rather than for rock ‘n’ roll posturing.

As I leave, I recall earlier that day when I’d asked them if they could choose a decade to be part of musically, and Olivia had diffidently replied, “No, we don’t want to look backwards, too many artists do that, trying to think how it’s been done before, but we are here, we’ve been lucky. For us there is no better time or place.”

I think I’d have to agree.

By Hannah Lanfear

www.myspace.com/thedoband


Comments