For the weekend Global Hit, The World’s Adeline Sire tells us about a French band that likes to think outside the French box. The name of the band is “The DØ” – it stands for Dan and Olivia, Dan Levy and Olivia Merilahti, who make up the band. Download MP3
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MARCO WERMAN: Finally, it’s global hit time, today, The World’s Adeline Sire tells us about a French band that likes to think outside the French box.
ADELINE SIRE: The band’s name is The DO, d-o, with a slash across the O. It stands for Dan and Olivia, Dan Levy and Olivia Merilahti, the two halves of the band. Levy’s part Tunisian, part English and grew up in France. Merilahti is Finnish and French and grew up between Helsinki and Paris. Both musicians now live and work in the French capital. But they don’t exactly wave French flags in their music. For starters, their first album, called A Mouthful is sung almost entirely in English. When The Do released their album in France, it soared to the top of the charts, a first for an album with no songs in French. Many other French bands have produced English-lyrics albums, and some have reached international success, in part because of that. But Olivia Merilahti, who sings and writes the lyrics, says in this case, it was not a calculated decision.
OLIVIA MERILAHTI: We’re both after something open and free and a little more international. So I don’t know. We don’t think about it. We are French, obviously. And we have different cultures and I’ve been involved in Finnish language and English language and I’m travelling a little. So, I don’t know, if feels really natural.
SIRE: In fact, Dan Levy, who composes the arrangements, says the language they pick to sing in is almost irrelevant.
DAN LEVY: People ask us why we’re doing this in English and not in French and not in Finnish or some kind of Finnish. We are not talking about the [SOUNDS LIKE] whole vision, you know. We’re just talking about music.
SIRE: You don’t even want to be a French band. You don’t want to be identified…
LEVY: I don’t care. I don’t really care to be a French band. We just…
MERILAHTI: That’s what we are mostly. I mean we don’t want to try to run away from it. Certainly not.
LEVY: Me, I’ve got two [SOUNDS LIKE] pounds from another country and with another culture and we just – when I was kid I was listening to Ella Fitzgerald and John Coltrane and [INDISCERNIBLE] Orleans and jazz and nobody told me that those guys was American or sing in English. I was touched by the music.
SIRE: Ok then, with The DO, it’s all about the music. And a colorful sound texture inspired by jazz and classical music, with moods that change from track to track. This track is called Playground Hustle. You hear the voices of children and adults in it, but they’re all sung by Merilahti. And the tune uses a combination of sounds you don’t often hear together. Merilahti’s voice has been compared to that of Icelandic pop star Bjork. And it’s not just a coincidence.
MERILAHTI: She has been an inspiration since when I discovered her music when I was a teenager. I think she was the one who kind of manage to mix [SOUNDS LIKE] elite music sort of and pop music and making it really popular. I think that’s so important to be able to make something which is brainy in a way and extremely simple and straightforward. And, of course, considering she was Icelandic, I don’t know, maybe she had this extra thing that kind of appealed to me.
SIRE: You can hear some echoes of Bjork in this track, which Merilahti sings in Finnish. It’s based on a poem Merilahti wrote.
MERILAHTI: It’s a poem about nature and seasons [SOUNDS LIKE] crossing and someone keeps singing in his or her sleep.
SIRE: And it’s called Ooni…
MERILAHTI: Yes. It means you’re singing in your sleep. I guess it’s like paying some kind of a tribute to the very traditional kind of music that I know in Finland as well. There’s a band called [INDISCERNIBLE], which uses a lot of voices and traditional instruments from Karelia in Finland from the east. And I love it. I listened to that a lot when I was a kid.
SIRE: The DO just finished a North American tour and are working on their second album. Word is, there won’t be any French lyrics on that one either. For The World, I’m Adeline Sire.
WERMAN: The DO takes it away today. Our theme music was composed by Eric Goldberg. We’re on line at TheWorld.org. From the Nan and Bill Harris Studios at WGBH in Boston, I’m Marco Werman. Have a great weekend.
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