DELANILA, also known as Danielle Eva Schwob is an artist that needs to be on your radar. This Londoner-turned-New Yorker is bursting onto the scene with her new album Overloaded, produced by the famous David Bottrill. Her cinematic sound and composer influences come together to create a unique and enticing sound that needs to be heard. The album dropped on May 1 and NPR even included it on their list of Top 8 Albums of the Week. BTS had the privilege of chatting with DELANILA about her journey in music, the new album and what’s next for her.
BTS: How did you get started in music?
DELANILA: I’ve been involved with music since I was a kid, and grew up singing in choirs, playing guitar in bands and things like that. Then later on I went to university for classical composition, so I could learn how to write and arrange for more ‘traditional’ instruments and ensembles – string quartets, orchestras, wind players and so on. As far as how I got my start professionally, once I graduated I started a concert series/collective called SYZYGY to showcase my music and that of other young artists, and put on shows all around NYC. I met great artists through that, many of whom I still work with, and everything went from there.
BTS: How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?
It’s music that takes quiet, internal experiences and blows them up to be enormous and overwhelming in their emotional arc. It’s intense by design, grounded in songwriting and with a lot of cinematic, classical and early 00s rock influences, as well as big guitars. I call it rock with extras, but it usually gets described as alternative. People have also told me you can hear that I am a composer, I think from the structure of the songs, the chord progressions and overall scale of it.
BTS: Who are some of your influences, musically and non-musically?
Musically they’re eclectic. Artists like Bjork, Leonard Cohen, Tool, Ben Frost, The Smiths, Nine Inch Nails, as well as composers such as Arvo Pärt, Stravinsky, John Adams. I really just like anything that digs deep.
Non-musically, I’m very influenced by film and visual art. Cildo Meireles is a favourite, along with Lucian Freud, Hito Steyerl and John Singer Sargent. Then on the film front, David Fincher and Guillermo Del Toro have probably influenced this project most directly. Fincher’s visuals are the dream pairing for my music, and then the idea of creating a dream world to escape from reality that runs through Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth I come back to all the time. It actually found its way into the Time Slips Away video, with the dancer imagining a place to escape her isolation and re-connect to people from her life. Though I think it’s also what all creative people do, to a certain extent.
BTS: What’s it like when you go to record in the studio?
It’s fun! The part where you get to see all of your hard work brought to life by great players is just gratifying on such a deep level, and never gets old. Sometimes that involves intricate arrangements and parts that are written out in detail (for strings, for example), other times it’s collaborating with musicians on them in the room. It always varies.
BTS: What was the writing and recording process like your new album “Overloaded”?
It was long. I wrote most of it in NYC, worked on it more in London, tracked in NY and Toronto, mixed in person Toronto and remotely while I was in LA and then mastered in NY. All across several years and multiple studios. The first song I wrote was actually the title track, and then everything else gradually coalesced around it. Initially, it was going to be more of an electronic record, but the more I worked on it the more it became obvious how much the guitars and strings were adding, so we tracked a full band and 12-piece string group as well. With so much material recorded, mixing was a headache, as you can imagine, and I could probably have made several different albums with all that we had.
BTS: Do you have a favorite track from the album?
It changes. At the moment it’s Never Enough, which is ironic because that track nearly went into the garbage. It’s a strange song in two halves, and the ending is probably the most honest thing I’ve recorded, albeit accidentally so. David Bottrill (who I produced the record with) somehow just got me to say, or, more accurately, sing what I meant. One of many reasons why he is a genius as a producer.
BTS: What was the process like for filming the video for “It’s Been A While Since I Went Outside” during a time like this?
Honestly, it was quite straightforward. I went out with my iPhone and shot the whole thing in slow motion around Soho and Tribeca, then cut it together myself and did something approximating colour at home in Premiere. Figuring out the structure of the edit was probably the most challenging, as it was really just hours of street footage. No narrative, or plan or anything. And it’s a long song. The ending came together first, the choruses last, and overall the whole thing took about three weeks.
From a personal standpoint though, I will say that making it was very surreal and quite sad. Between shooting the footage and spending weeks poring over it, the reality of what was happening to NYC really sank in. The empty benches. The traffic lights flashing with no cars in sight. Streets where pigeons were the only living things. I’m glad I was able to document it somehow and hope the song was able to capture a little of what people were feeling in that strange moment in history.
BTS: What’s been the best moment in your career so far?
I don’t think I can pick one. I was really lucky to cross musical paths briefly with Jóhann Jóhannsson before he passed away and wish frequently that that hadn’t been the case. Other than that probably the working relationship I have with David, not that it’s technically a moment. And generally just seeing this project come together, with all of its final masters and visuals. It was done independently, with no label support, and it shouldn’t sound or look as big as it does. It’s satisfying to know that I made that happen.
BTS: Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Shows? Aren’t those from a different era? From what I can recall of this ancient time, I pretty much just do vocal warm-ups and try to make sure I have a few moments to myself to relax.
BTS: What else do you have planned for 2020?
I have some short film projects that are in various stages, another album of chamber music that’s finished, some classical commissions, more music videos coming out soon and some live streams. Plus hopefully some shows of the non-virtual variety.
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