“Cash, Diamond Rings, Swimming Pools.” It’s catchy. It’s fun. It’s been stuck in my head for about three weeks.
I got the chance to catch up with D E N A, Bulgarian (Berlin-based) vocalist/songwriter/pop/hip hop artist/badass at South by Southwest for a quick chat. Before we got to the official interview, we met up at a party at Icenhauer’s on Rainey Street (I may have creepy-fangirl approached her in the bathroom before meeting her professionally…it’s fine).
Once we met up, I went with her to grab a taco from one of the food trucks, followed by a cupcake and some coffee (thanks, Jonas!).
After geeking out for a little bit about going to see Icona Pop at their show at The Belmont later that night and how much we both love the show Girls, we got down to business. So check out our interview below, and be sure to become as obsessed with D E N A as we are.
Vinyl Mag: Are you excited to be playing SXSW?
DENA: Totally! I’m super looking forward to it. We already played a gig last night that was kind of a warm up, so yeah I’m looking forward to playing Thursday, Friday, Saturday.
VM: So, how was last night?
DENA: It was great. It started a little bit with technical complications, of course. Like we had a cable that had broken and stuff. It took us some time, but we found a substitute and rocked the show. It was cool.
VM: How was [audience] reception?
DENA: I was really, totally, stoked how it turned out, because it was a very short showcase, you know…twenty minutes, which is usually – for that time – crazy from the beginning. We played two tracks, and then from the third one everyone was super feeling it, and it was super crowded although it was super late already. It ended like a crazy cool party.
VM: What people are you most looking forward to seeing?
DENA: I’m looking forward to seeing Icona Pop tonight and Charli XCX. I’m going to see [Charli XCX] for the first time ever, so I’m excited.
VM:I know you’ve done some audiovisual work. What are some of your other creative outlets?
DENA: Audiovisual is a big term. I’ve done some animation, some motion graphics, and vector animations, drawings, and video editing and photos…everything. But parallel to that, I was always writing and making songs and composing.
VM: Do you ever implement that other creative stuff into your musical career?
DENA: Yeah, well that’s very interesting, because sometimes I have the feeling that it’s totally working separately. But in the end – always when I direct everything and have the last word and just create a vision and work with other people – I see that it’s a great mixture of everything I’ve done so far. The interesting part now is that I get to work with other people and just combine and join forces on projects and work together on ideas. It’s more exciting.
VM: Do you have any collaborations coming up or do you have any collaborations that you want to do?
DENA: I currently have collaborations going on. Just actually last week, there was a track that came out where I’m featuring my friends, they are called LCMDF – two sisters from Finland and based in Berlin – and the tune was actually having to premier one day before my last video on Friday. I don’t know if you saw it. And then I also try to write right now for other people. It’s super exciting and great because I love words…like, lyrics. And I just wrote a tune for a German producer called Robot Koch, which is going to be his next single now coming out like on a major German label. It’s very exciting, because a lot of cool people are remixing the track, and it’s just so interesting to work not only on my own with what my own head is producing, but placing content for other people that I like. It really is something that I want to develop and upgrade.
VM: So you were in a [band before this]. What made you decide to go solo?
DENA: I was in a band a few years ago where…I played synth, and my friend played drums. We were like ‘do-it-yourself’ kind of. It was like trying to combine instruments with drums and synths. It was a little bit of a funky approach to disco or house music or music to dance to…[very] ‘do-it-yourself’ everything. And then, at some point there were different things like had kind of separated us from the duel thing. And then I started to program beats and work on my own ideas. I got this beat machine, MPC, and started learning how to sample and program and play chords and kind of produce home demos and bring them to a level where I knew that the structure was ready for it to be a pop song. It was kind of a natural process.
VM: So what are some of your major inspirations?
DENA: You mean music or life?
VM: Well, either one, you know. Music, but let’s get really deep and talk about life.
DENA: [Laughs] Life, love, beats, and happiness. Good vibes…I love definitely like hip hop, and I also like the way that hip hop was produced in the 90s…and I really adore everything that Neptunes has ever produced. Right now, I realize how significant [Neptunes] is for my way of thinking structure-wise, beats-wise, and production-wise.
VM: So what is next for you besides what you’ve already told me?
DENA: Well, I just put out my new video [last] Friday…I have a lot of new tracks coming out and new videos that are now in the process to be made…I really want to put out my album during 2013, probably Fall. And it’s very exciting now to collaborate and just put out singles first with different labels. I just had the Cash, Diamond Rings, Swimming Pools EP that came out in January…and basically I’m looking forward to putting all my music from the past three years out.
VM: So everything is already written and everything?
DENA: Yeah! Well, I mean I keep on writing and stuff, but there is a lot of new material to come.
Emily is an over-enthusiastic lover of music, books, movies, fashion, and culture in general. Her love of music spans across all genres (what is a genre anymore? she waxes poetic to herself), though she was nursed on true punk and will never understand “redneck country” music – tractors are not and cannot be sexy. Emily currently lives in Brooklyn, NY and considers herself to be a great wit, though she is still waiting on validation from a credible source.