„All you can do is to keep letting joy and love of making music guide you through it’s maze.” July 26, the creative duo, Donna Blue take the Ship into the realm of misty, romantic, David Lynch-like forest of tunes.

How did the two of you come together to form Donna Blue? What’s the story behind your collaboration?

Bart: We have actually been together as a couple for a long time. Ten years into our relationship we started Donna Blue, just to try out making something together. We didn’t think too much of it, just wrote a couple of songs and directed music videos with them, for the love of art and working with each other. I guess it resonated with people on the internet when we first put some songs online, and now we are here.
Danique: Yes, and we really go at this as an art project that is the combination of our two strengths: music and visual arts. A space to be playful and experiment, and use it as a means to live a creative life together and have these shared experiences. And being a couple really enhances our song writing, because we know each other so well that we work in a kind of symbiosis. In some shapes, a symbiotic relationship is a bad form. But for art it is amazing.

Your music has a distinct vintage feel. Which artists or genres have influenced your sound the most?

Danique: We pull from quite different genres, from psychedelic hazy rock to French yé yé / beat songs, and more mysterious and dreamy songs too. I can name a few names, like Nancy & Lee, Serge Gainsbourg, The Doors, Broadcast, The Velvet Underground. And old and obscure soundtracks are of great influence on our music, we love how much they play with moods and for us it is very important to be able to have a visual and sensual quality to music.
Bart: Yes, we are very influenced by classic composers such as John Barry, Ennio Morricone, and Piero Piccioni. Of course, Morricone is a grand master.

Do you have any guilty pleasure songs or artists that might surprise your fans?

Bart: Maybe not that surprising, but sometimes we blast a bunch of zeroes pop / pop punk songs in the band van on the road to a show and sing along with them very loudly. It’s maybe not yet considered vintage but it is very fun if you have a long drive.

Can you walk us through your typical songwriting process? How do you blend your influences to create something uniquely Donna Blue?

Danique: We never start a song with lyrics, we start with the rhythm and melody, which then decides the language the song will be in. We work together to spin them into songs. As we have so many of the same references when it comes to music or films, since we live together and listen to a lot of the same music, it’s easy to communicate about where we would like a song to go. We also work very fast, there can be an idea in the morning and a demo recorded by night. When the base of the song is there, I go into lyric writing and Bart starts arranging more things like strings.
Bart: Yes, and when either of us watches a good movie or hears a cool song, we’ll take it home and let the other person in on it. We can learn from the way artists used to do songwriting and make it our own. For instance, I love Lee Hazlewood’s way of making his string arrangements move around the lead vocal melody, strengthening it and answering to it. It is very interesting. We take these classic structures and put them into our songs.
Danique: The thing is, when you start to overthink something, it will become less unique. Of course at some point you have to bring logic in to make choices, but by then the general feeling of the song should be solid. You always have to follow where the idea takes you. And as we have a set of individual experiences and references that are unique to us as separate people, and the times that we live in, when we combine them into our ideas it will make a unique Donna Blue sound.

Where do you draw inspiration for your lyrics? Are there any personal experiences that particularly shape your songwriting?

Danique: I write the lyrics actually. A lot of them are about love and how I experience our relationship, but there’s also songs about the lure and hardships of the music industry, climate change, phone addiction, sensuality, social media… I believe lyrics are always personal even when I write about things that are happening outside of me, as the words always come up from the unconscious. They could be inspired by a movie we just watched, something I read in a book or listened to in a podcast, something from a conversation. They just arise like a wave in the mind
and I put all of them together in a new way, so they sound nice. I like the power of suggestion so I try not to be too obvious when writing or talking about the lyrics, I want the listener to be able to put the pieces together themselves.

Your newest album “Into the Realm of Love” came out this March. What were some of the biggest challenges you faced while making this album, and how did you overcome them?

Bart: Creatively, making a record is never straight forward, as a song or album will always wriggle itself into its own direction. No matter how hard you want it to become one thing, it will turn into another anyway, at least in our experience.
Danique: Yes, you just have to let go and follow where it takes you. When you let this sentiment guide you, it makes the process quite intuitive and playful. And of course, it is always a challenge to work on a small budget. We do almost everything ourselves, from writing, recording, mixing, mastering to art direction, stage design, styling, tour management, artwork and music videos. We love the idea of creating something that is 100% our own, but it is also hard when you have to find a work around many big ideas every time to make them smaller and affordable, but still impactful.

Are there any particular tracks on the album that hold special significance for you? Can you share the story behind one of these songs?

Danique: I love ‘On The Cusp Of Love’ the most, the whole journey of it, it’s so psychedelic, meditative, sensual and interesting. To me, it feels like the furthest we’ve gone so far on our musical exploration. And the lyrics of ‘Harmony of Spheres’ feel like the epitome of our collaboration, as it talks about about finding our unique sound while we orbit around each other like planets.
Bart: For me, ‘Aphrodite’ is special, it was made in no time at all, which in my opinion are always the best songs. This one just flowed out of us, and I love that it is a classic story telling duet á la Nancy & Lee. And ‘Labyrinthe’, which is a French beat song, super fun to play live.
Danique: Yes, that one is a critique on the music industry, which is a very strange and hard to navigate place, with many dead ends. You need very deep pockets, an insane amount of work ethic and patience, and thick skin. And even then there is no guarantee your music will reach the center of it all. It is basically a game of chance, and you have to be careful to not get too caught up into ‘making it’ because it will pull you under. All you can do is to keep letting joy and love of making music guide you through it’s maze. We wanted to make a song about this to remind ourselves and others of keeping our focus on the right thing.

Do you have any pre-show or pre-recording rituals that help get you into the creative zone?

Bart: Pre-recording, we usually get in the creative zone by going somewhere for a set period of time without too much distractions. With our latest album, we rented a cabin in the middle of nowhere in northern France so we could focus on creating. We could just write songs, record, drink wine and walk around in nature. And watching great 60s or 70s films helps us too, as they usually have great cinematography and great soundtracks.
Danique: And pre-show, we shout a little made up song with our band, to hype each other up before going on stage, it really gets a fun energy going that we can then bring to the people in the crowd.

How do you translate the atmospheric quality of your recordings to your live performances?

Bart: We have amazing musicians with us, and an amazing sound technician. They all know exactly how to make us sound cool. All members of our band love and breathe 1960s music, which really helps us to get our vision across. They share most of our influences and are particular about the right sound. We go on stage with them and do our thing and try to fully enjoy it, which translates into a good show. We bring an energy live that is different from the recordings, there’s no need for them to be exactly the same. We like to have some room to play with the songs live, add a spontaneous jam here and there, or change some of the sounds. We mainly want to bring the right
energy across.
Danique: And of course, good lighting helps. It is quite an intimate thing to play a show, you have to give in and let it take you along for the ride. Surrender to the music as the lights turn down low, some hues of red and green and blue, some fog… and then sway your body a little bit, it makes it all the more enjoyable.

How do you see your music evolving in the future? Are there any new directions or experiments you’re excited to explore?

Bart: We were actually talking about this earlier this week, we might do an instrumental album at one point. But we have also been working on a show called ‘Donna Blue Orchestra: ‘Philharmonic Celluloid’, which is a project where we perform 60s / 70s obscure soundtracks with a string ensemble.

Are there any artists or musicians you dream of collaborating with? Why?

Bart: It would be great to have had Duane Eddy collaborate on one of our songs, if he was still alive, to lay down some of his twangy guitars. Or maybe if we could let Rene Laloux draw up a music video, or let David Lynch direct one, that would be a dream.
Danique: If he was still alive I’d pick Lee Hazlewood (and Billy Strange, his arranger) to work on a song with us, because he is such an amazing master of strange and delicious pop song writing. I guess most of the musicians we admire have already died, haha.