The New York based artist names Seoul, Korea as her main source of inspiration for her new EP.
The New York based artist names Seoul, Korea as her main source of inspiration for her new EP.
Text: Brandon Tan
Acquaint yourselves with emerging singer songwriter, DUVV, who hails from New York, but launched her musical pursuits in Seoul, Korea. Today, the songstress who now also claims title of producer, releases her latest EP, ACID, for which she sourced inspiration from the buzzing Korean club scene. DUVV has called that same scene home for a year straight, before her return to the motherland in March. Now, she finds her feet in New York, navigating the city she had departed from with a newly equipped sense of herself and her music.
The artist's latest project, ACID, identifies a number of dichotomies present in the club scene, opening up discourses that are not typically held. The artist shines a critical light to the comforting, yet fleeting moments of escapism we seek in nights out under strobing lights. There is also an underlying tone of irony throughout the project, which DUVV has purposely incorporated through the slow pace of some tracks, including “Kite In the Sky”. She claims, “It’s the slowest song on the project, but I still play it in the club,” achieving an odd harmony between the pulse of the space and the pace of her music, all while maintaining the message. The sorceress of sound includes six tracks on the EP, which you can listen to below alongside our exclusive interview with DUVV.
So you began your musical pursuit after a trip to Korea in college. Can you talk a bit more about that?
Yeah, that was five years ago! So when I started playing around with the idea of singing, I was finishing my sophomore year of college. It really came as a surprise, because I was in Korea for non-music related purposes. I was there doing an exchange program for my studies. So, I knew I wanted to do something creative, I wasn’t sure how. It was something I just tried out on a whim. It ended up being really, really great, and I stuck with it.
The real wake up call was during graduation when I had to commit. I couldn’t call it a side gig anymore, because I wasn’t in school anymore. It totally jarred me. What I did was after I graduated, I released a project, and took a one month trip to Korea, because even though I started music there, I was doing it in my room alone trying to figure things out. I didn’t know any DJs or the right clubs to go to or anything really about the music scene. I didn’t know much about KPOP, about underground, about anything! So I went back for a month just to see if it would work, if I could pursue music, by going back to where it all started. It was a really great trip. After those four weeks, I decided to come back and live there for a year to work on music.
What was it about Korea, maybe it wasn’t the country, but your time alone there, that inspired your music? How did it all start?
Well that’s the thing! I think there’s a certain part where it could’ve been London, it could’ve been Johannesburg, it was just about me being in a different space and asking some serious, existential questions, about myself. You know when people go abroad, there’s that urge to try new things and explore.
I started out on a really basic level--finding instrumentals online and singing over them. I really didn’t know what the course of being a songwriter or singer was, so I was just feeling it out. Learning as I went. I released my first ever project that same summer. I started playing around with music in June and released my first project in August of that year, of 2013. It was just something that I enjoyed, but a lot of it, leading up to this year, was just discovery. It’s easy to forget that there’s also a person behind the music, so while I’m making these things, I’m also going through things in my life that are completely separate to my music. Self-exploration and all of that. That helped shape where my music was going, because I don’t know… There was never that one big moment that made sense. It’s been a bunch of small triumphs along the way.
Right and music, as an art, really is a form of self-expression, so whether deliberate or not there are always going to be moments that translate into the work. Would you say for you it’s more deliberate what you decide to include or open up about with your music?
Yeah, I can be quite cryptic. It’s always cool listening to records where the artist is super blatant you know, like “my girlfriend left me and now I’m crying,” like blatantly stating what happened. Whereas I’m like, “One door has closed and another has opened,” you know? Haha I can be really abstract about it. That said, on this project, on “ACID,” the most straight-up, word for word, song is probably “Kite in the Sky.” It really touches upon depression and sadness, and I purposely use very basic language to strip it down. There is power in that type of writing, but I do tend to be more cryptic about the emotions. That’s just part of my personality, too. Sometimes when I’m dealing with something, I’ll just bottle it up until I know how to deal with it. I do try to be direct, because that helps people understand the music and the meaning.
How do you feel about genres and categorizing your work?
It’s not about not wanting to put myself in a box, but when I started music, I would say I’m a singer-songwriter. I can appreciate jazz, elements of rock, pop, etc. When I listen to something and it rhythmically matches what I’m writing. I didn’t start with a genre, so it’s hard to follow one all of the sudden. But I will say, these days I’m feeling more of an electronic, uptempo direction. I’m just open to different styles.
I think it’s also reflective of people, which finally we’re starting to understand! Music is totally getting harder to define because in that element, we kind of see the pointlessness of boxing ourselves in ways that just don’t really benefit anyone. You know, you can have someone who’s an Iranian bread-maker who lives in Harlem, whose kids studied in China, you just don’t know! There are so many mixtures of cultures and identities, so it’s great to have music going in that direction to reflect the different influences that could exist in one person rather than reducing it to one word.
Right. So let’s talk a bit about the new project. I understand that the Seoul club scene is the main influence of the EP?
Yeah that’s definitely the main source of inspiration for the EP. I’d even say that the club scene in Korea was one of my first steps into music. Being in the club as often as I was, haha, and just seeing what it was like, I was inspired by the pulse. I remember when I performed my project there, “With You in Mind,” I was experimental and playing around with my sound. When I performed the songs, I performed mostly in clubs, and as I was performing, I realized that I was off the pulse, and it was awkward! That was a huge learning experience for me. Even if I am experimenting and trying new things, there’s a pulse I want to follow. That whole experience was cool. Being able to make a song that someone was able to drop in the club, adapting my music without losing its meaning or the quality of the writing. That was super influential. It hasn’t only touched this project, but I think it has changed my songwriting, period. Even, “Kite in the Sky;” it’s the slowest song on the project, but I still play it in the club.
So how long have you been working on the project, and how did it develop?
So in this case, I had the name before I even knew what it was going to sound like. I knew I wanted to work on a project called “Acid.” It’s crazy how it all happened too, because I started in January, with “Was You,” which is the first single and video that we released. That was talking about how a club is a place you go to to escape, whether you had a hard day at work, or heavy family stuff. When you’re at a club, you’re with hundreds of people around you dancing and laughing, but they’re all actually crying. So I wanted to talk about the dichotomy between why people go to the club, what their faces look like, but what they’re actually feeling. It’s not really a discourse, but I want to make it one. It’s all about escapism, going down to this underground space, it’s dark, there are no windows, alcohol, drugs. I want to talk about how this phenomenon of escape is not effective, it’s temporary, fleeting. You kind of wear yourself out avoiding something you’re going to have to face anyway. I’ve done it, we all have. I just wanted to open the conversation.
That whole concept for ACID, it built itself as I was going. There were demos that I was working on, which became songs that I never included, and that has never happened before, but I could just tell when a song didn’t fit. I was shaping it as I was going.
What was it like to break into the Seoul club scene? How did you establish that relationship?
The seed was planted when I made that trip to Korea for a month. I just reached out to DJs or people I saw at the parties, other artists and producers, whoever got back to me, I was down to meet with. THey were super welcoming. The project that I released then, it wasn’t mixed, it wasn’t mastered, I was still figuring out myself, but the response was really warm. It was warm enough for me to even come back after that month to live there for a year. It was so welcoming. This year, the pick up started with just the collaborative project I did with With You In Mind in 2016, but it was a lot of putting myself out there, which was pretty uncomfortable for me. My Korean is pretty low! Being invited to parties, but not able to socialize at a lot of them was kind of hard. So I had to go through that, and decided to study Korean so that I could communicate with people. Once people felt more comfortable speaking with me, things began to develop and open up. My first performance in Korea is actually the same place I’m having my release party next week, so it’s nice that it has come full circle.