Introducing herself to listeners with a tantalizing array of neo-soul, jazz pop and RNB, DVNA’s debut EP ‘All My Friends’ is an impressive and self-assured collection of tracks. The Gold Coast based singer-songwriter bursted onto the scene in 2018 with ‘Girl On The Move’, and since then has performed at huge events like BIGSOUND and Laneway Festival and played her own headline shows.
These nine tracks formed an incredible foundation for her as she really hones her sound and proves to everyone that she doesn’t need to tweak or change her sound for anyone.
I recently chatted to DVNA about the Jazz Club concept behind her debut EP ‘All My Friends’, the creative process behind the cheeky ‘Why You Gotta Be So Nice’, and found out what recipe she screwed up while baking during lockdown. Check it out BELOW;
THOMAS BLEACH: Your debut EP ‘All My Friends’ is a very cohesive and playful listen that really introduces who you are as an artist. But what do you think is the most surprising thing that people are going to hear or learn about you on it
DVNA: I think people may be a little surprised about how cheeky with my lyrics I can be. I don’t really reveal too much of my body, and don’t present myself in an over-sexualised way, but my lyrics kind of expose that side of me which I think is pretty fun and may shock people. I write these songs in a pretty indirect way though, figuring out ways to say these things without actually saying them.
TB: ’Why You Gotta Be So Nice’ is a playful and fun song about a guy being too nice to you and wanting him to rough things up a little. So can you explain to me how this song creatively come together?
D: This song was written in a hotel room in Melbourne city. I was working on the EP at the time, and had these types of conversations with friends so many times before, so it was only a matter of time before I wrote about it. It went through three different versions before settling on the final one. The lyrics are super cheeky, and fun, and are meant to be quite lighthearted.
TB: ’More To Give’ feels like the perfect climax to the whole EP as it brings together all of the sounds you hear from keys, to the sax to the bass. It gave me a bit of an old school Alicia Keys feel to it. So what was sonically inspiring you throughout the whole EP?
D: Ahh Alicia Keys is an icon, thank you for that reference! I was inspired by a plethora of different artists, conversations, people in my life, places that I had been, and also by what was happening to the world during 2020.
I was listening to a lot of UK jazz at the time, artists like Tom Misch, Jorja Smith, Yussef Dayes and Daniel Caeser. So my music was naturally starting to head in that direction. I have tried to marry soul, RNB, jazz and reggae together in one big melting pot of fun, and am hoping that these songs will connect and resonate with those that need it most.
TB: The EP is divided into different sections by ‘The Sax Man (Intro), ‘intermission’ and ‘More To Give interlude’. Why was this something that you wanted to aesthetically do on this EP?
D: When I first started making this record, I had absolutely no intention of setting it out this way. I didn’t even think to have a conceptual EP, it kind of just happened. It wasn’t until the end of making this EP that I came up with the whole jazz club concept. From this point, I knew I had to take the listener there by using interludes and sound effects to put them in that world. I guess it’s just something a little different. Not a lot of people have coherent stories in their albums anymore. so I thought I’d give it a go.
TB: Were the interludes created throughout the process, or were they the final pieces added to tie the songs together and build that cohesiveness?
D: The interludes were created towards the end. I hadn’t really come up with the concept until after I had recorded ‘More to Give’, which was the last song I worked on. After bumping into my friend Jeff Reid (The Sax Man) in an elevator, I knew that I needed to get some sax on this record. He sent me the files, and I listened to them by themselves and formed the intro and interludes around them. From there the whole Jazz club concept came about. It conveniently came about during COVID as well where people weren’t allowed to leave their houses. This EP allows them to escape reality for 22 minutes and remember what it’s like to be out and enjoying live music.
TB: Reflecting on the creative process behind the EP, what song would you say took the longest to hone the song and vision?
D: ‘All My Friends’ and ‘Half Past Sober’ took the longest to get over the line. I had originally written Half Past Sover’ on guitar and wanted to keep it in it’s natural, raw state with no production. After tossing up on which direction to take, I ended up recruiting my good friend Fractures to flesh the song out with some bigger production.
Almost the same sort of story happened with ‘All My Friends’. Originally written on guitar and quite slow, I felt the EP needed a few more uptempo beats so fleshed it out with Fractures again. I wanted contrast between the lyrics and production, telling the story of how we usually sweep our more serious mental health issues under a rug and put a smile on. That’s what this song represents.
TB: From releasing ‘Girl On The Move’ in 2018 to where you are at now with this fully visioned EP, what would you say is the biggest thing you’ve learnt about yourself as an artist?
D: I’ve learnt to stay true to my vision, to who I am and to believe in my abilities. While my personality stays the same, my taste in music, fashion and ideas are forever changing, and I mean like all the time! I’m slowly learning to run with that, adapt and commit to each phase and era. Otherwise I would get bored doing the same thing all the time.
Thankfully I’ve got a very supportive team behind me that encourages each new vision, and allows me to express myself in any way I want. Another thing I’ve learnt is to never stop pushing yourself to learn and network amongst your community.
TB: You’ve played some huge shows over the past couple of years including headline shows, support slots, and inclusions at BIGSOUND and Laneway Festival. So what has been the most embarrassing thing that has happened on stage so far?
D: I’ve thankfully had some pretty smooth sailing shows. And I’ve always worn some wardrobe malfunction-proof clothing so nothing embarrassing in that department. I can say some stupid shit on stage though, or I forget lyrics all the time!
TB: This lockdown period has inspired some people to pick up a new hobby, or find a weird new obsession. So what has been something you’ve picked up or obsessed over during this period?
D: Apart from eating, I picked up baking! But soon discovered it wasn’t for me when I forgot the cream cheese in the CHEESE cake, or noticed balls of flour in my chocolate ganache cake. I think I may need to find something else.
TB: Let’s play a quick game of rapid fire questions. Are you ready?
D: Let’s do it!
The emoji that best describe my debut EP ‘All My Friends’ is…
D: The massaging head one!
TB: My pre show ritual involves…
D: Fireball! but also warming up, chilling with the boys, freaking out, calming down, snacks and a pump up song!!!
TB: A TV show I’ve binged during lockdown is…
D: Tiger King
TB: If I could have any superpower it would be to…
TB: Pineapple on pizza is…
D: Fucking amazing!
‘All My Friends’ is out now!