“Dogmatic dotty double doolally doppelganger!” is definitely one of the quirkiest album descriptions I have ever heard, but upon listening to The Do’s A Mouthful it all makes sense. The French-Finnish duo formed of singer Olivia Merilahti and musician Dan Levy has to be one of the most exciting musical propositions of 2009. They don’t fit into the trend of female solo singers, nor do they base themselves around an acoustic guitar. The Do are an exhilarating of free form jazz and melodic vocals.
Take the initials of their first names and Do is formed, which coincidentally is “both the starting point and the end of the musical scale, two extremes.” Though this could not have been pre-arranged, the result is apt for a group who like to experiment with music. The word conform is not in their dictionary. Having met whilst working on the soundtrack for the film “Empire Of The Wolves”, the duo instantly clicked. They worked on several other soundtracks before breaking away from the genre to work on a debut album.
The journey was one of patience, you have to be patient to make sure you are releasing something personal.
Musicality was in both their bones. Olivia started out on the piano and guitar before graduating to singing for local bands during her teens. Meanwhile, Dan played the saxophone before trying his hand at theatrical compositions. The turning point was meeting each other. “We recorded our first song the day we met, and since then we’ve kept on working and composing intensively for other soundtracks and contemporary dance. There was no plan to put up a band in the first place. We just had so many songs that it was logical to start our own project and give it a name.”
Though unplanned the progression felt right and neither fought it. They have their different influences. While Olivia sites Bjork, Alicia Keys, PJ Harvey and Thelonius Monk, Dan brings elements of Bela Bartok, Fank Zappa, Stravinsky and Radiohead to the table. “Things worked out naturally, I have always been more into songs and melodies, Dan more of the studio animal. When we’re in a rush, or touring, I write the basis of the songs and the lyrics, then Dan arranges and reshapes them. But when we have the time, we spend days at our studio together and we record everything we can, in no particular order or logic, we end up with ten songs in a couple of hours… good or not good, but that’s a lot of fun!”
The bond between the Parisians is apparent, they are a good team and their strengths compliment the others. “It didn’t take long, it all started with 4 tracks that we put on our Myspace player, at the time when Myspace wasn’t very popular in Europe. We got more and more attention and a network of fans started to grow. Record labels came to us.” There is a spontaneous dynamic evident in the resulting music. It is easily apparent why the journey to debut album A Mouthful was uncomplicated. However, the artistic integrity of their work was important. “ We realized that if we wanted to stick to our own idea of our music, we’d have to finish the album first, and wait for the right record label to accept it as such. The journey was one of patience, you have to be patient to make sure you are releasing something personal.”
It was a shock for us to realise that on stage you couldn’t do anything you wanted…
The immediate interest in the material, meant that The Do had to get themselves out of the studio and straight onto the stage. “It was a shock for us to realise that on stage you couldn’t do anything you wanted… the album is rich in its sonorities, we had to rethink our music completely to be able to play it on stage, without losing the details to it.” It was immediately obvious that the heterogeneous approach adopted in the studio could not be directly translated to a live set. “So on stage we have a drummer, to whom we conceived a drum kit of kitchen pans and pots. I play the guitar and Dan plays base and keys. It’s much more electric live.” Though the music may not be an exact replica of the studio, Olivia feels that it is for the best as “there’s no point” in attempting recreate an exact copy as it would remove the group’s vivacity.
This summer Olivia and Dan will get to know European venues well. They hope that as their popularity on one side of the big pond grows, that new interest on the other side of the pond will be created. If they don’t get to America some time soon, then they would “love to have Goran Bregovic to play the guitar and sing”.
Debut album A Mouthful is out now on Get Down. For more details visit their official website