Interview with Miami Band Donzii on their single “Grave” and their debut album
Donzii is more than a band. Donzii is an experience, a convergence of energies and talents that form a rare creative universe: the universe of Donzii.
Whether on a record player or on stage, the Miami-based band opens the door inside each of us that holds both our dark side and a deep need for physical pleasure. Donzii offers audiences an emotional experience that mirrors our inner lives as we navigate crisis after crisis, but with dance, music, and serious sexual energy. His ability to tap into those feelings landed him on the indie label Gray Market Records and in prime spots at music festivals like III Points, Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival and South by Southwest.
Front-person, performance artist and activist Jenna Balfe uses clever, sometimes humorous lyrics, fabulous fashions and its genuine dynamism to attract crowds. Meanwhile, the band creates a captivating atmosphere, with Balfe’s husband Dennis Fuller on bass and drums, Danny Heinze on guitar, and Violet de la Guardia and Mauricio Abascal on keyboards and backing vocals.
Community is a big part of what makes Donzii more than a band. Friends are often crucial to the band’s performances and videos, sharing ideas and contributing choreography, dancing, sets, costumes and body painting.
“Having people that are part of the Donzii story, people that I care about or people that I meet through the experience of this project, the creation of this community, makes the music alive and palpable for me,” said said Balfe. “It becomes this real universe that I feel, see and interact with.”
The band’s music is a reflection of Miami’s surroundings – the glittering Magic City that is also a slowly sinking target of climate change fueled superstorms.
“Growing up here is this beautiful place, and there’s subtle, beautiful nature there,” adds Balfe, “but there’s something that can really pull you in, something magical, marshy and very grounded.”
Balfe remembers regularly running away from home when she was younger and being a part of this “dark mystery, these trees, the swamp, the air, the strange dilapidated buildings”. The more sinister side of the tropical city and the threats of climate change, she believes, “set us all in this aggressiveness by default”. And all this is represented in the songs of Donzii.
The dive is also deep for Fuller, a classically trained percussionist and film composer.
“I feel like our music is anti-development,” he says. “It is, in the most reactionary sense, about building and building and adding shit on top of shit.” And this is reflected in the decision to clash with classical musical structures. “Thematically and empirically, we’re more dissonant, and the music complements that anti-development feeling.” They use audio effects you might hear in Halloween music to invoke the feeling, “Why do I feel excited but unhinged at the same time?” Fuller said. “And that’s the kind of world we live in.”
But all is not serious. The music is “also infused with an element of joy. That’s kind of where my melodies fit into that structure. We love to play with that,” Balfe says. His words, tone and facial expressions highlight the comic irony of this time and this city. “Yes, there are a lot of tragedies and pains that I personally work as an activist to change, but there has to be a point for my own sanity that I laugh at.”
Donzii has just released their latest single, “Grave”. It’s Balfe’s favorite song from the band’s upcoming debut album, Fishbowl, which is slated for release on December 1. Fuller says the album, written and recorded in 2020 in San Francisco with Soft Kill bassist Shaun Durkan, has a more complex sound than previous releases. “A lot of the stuff we did was really stripped down, post-punk stuff, Fuller explains. “This one has synthesizers and some strings.”
balf says Fishbowl is “like a variety of musical styles. It’s like you go to the store and say, ‘I want one of all the genres you have at Spec’s’ or whatever. We felt really rebellious.” This mix of styles was done on purpose. “It frustrates me to feel like I have to be a brand,” she laments. “The frustration of ‘I have to be a marketable thing.’ The market economy algorithm. Having all these different genres and styles is like, “Don’t get me stuck!” Look at who I am entirely; look at this project as a whole; look at all these people. It’s not It’s not about selling this thing; it’s about living this thing and opening your mind beyond having a closet of 12 cohesive pieces by all the good designers. We’re bigger than that.”
Fuller agrees, “You go to a developed community, and every eff’ing house is the same. This album is like going through a million different neighborhoods.”
Haunted house party live stream. With Donzii, Mixx Piggy, Angelfire, Nicholas G. Padilla, Club Amnesia, Stranger Cat. 10 p.m. on Friday, October 28, via instagram.com/_donzii.