Photo by Úna Blue
Once upon a time, two artists lived comfortably tucked away in the Ballard neighborhood with their adorable cat, Techno, and with plenty of ideas to share with the world. Once upon a time is here and now in Seattle, and these artists perform under the names DoNormaal and Raven Hollywood. Their cat, however, will stick to his given name. DoNormaal and Raven have been heavily contributing to the Seattle music scene for years and have attracted people with their deviation from the norm and impressive talent. Last year I saw DoNormaal perform for the first time, and I was instantly intrigued. DoNormaal’s music isn’t something you can daze off on while it plays in the background. Her eerie, multifaceted, and powerful sounds incorporated into hip-hop are enticing. Her unique vocals seem to ring, flow in front of you, and bounce around in smooth slurs. DoNormaal is pushing boundaries, and she doesn’t need your approval. Recently, I sat down with her to pick her mind a little and learn more about her art.
Julia Schwab: I’ve always been curious about where your name came from. How did you create the name?
DoNormaal: I chose my name when I was 20 and living in Amsterdam. It’s a really popular Dutch phrase. The actual spelling is two words: doe and normaal. It means be cool, chill out, stop acting weird, you’re too much, take it down a notch.
JS: On that note, I’ve also wondered about the name for your artist collective, 69/50. Where did it come from and how did it form?
DN: The name came from this song that I wrote that was kind of a gibberish song. I just started with “69/50,” as just like random words, but I really liked those words. When me and Raven and a couple of our other friends like Brakebill and Wolftone were trying to figure out a name for a collective, we decided on it after throwing out a bunch of ideas. We’ve tried to create a story around it. It’s like 20/20 vision but 69/50 vision, like a weird new vision that is kind of innovative and experimental.
JS: I love that. How long has 69/50 been around now?
DN: I guess it started around 2014, and it’s gone through a lot of just trying to figure out what it is. It’s still kind of just this really open-ended energy. We have artists that we hang out with a lot and work really closely with, but we don’t think of it as a roster at all.
JS: Yeah, I like that because I think especially in Seattle things can become so separated between artists and individualized. I’ve always thought it was cool that you’re all tight but not exclusive, kind of like a community without being pretentious.
DN: Totally. That’s definitely a big part of it.
JS: Moving on to your own work, you released a full-length album, Third Daughter, this last summer. The name of the album itself and the promotion of it with “Third Daughter California” kind of allude to your experiences growing up in California. What parts of your upbringing did you try to reflect in the album?
DN: I think my upbringing is so ingrained within me, with growing up in California and moving around to a lot to different places in Southern California. Part of it is never really having a particular city that I resonated with as much as just Southern California being this land that I roamed around. I think that has affected my personality a lot. California, just the place that it is, is just such a beautiful, exciting place, you know? Being able to grow up in the sun with palm trees and going to the beach and getting your a** rocked by big a** waves, playing outside hearing the gardeners buzzing. There’s such a feeling that comes with it. I think that everything I do resembles that, but in new places people might not get those feeling so you have to try to explain them. “Third Daughter California: reflects me, being who I was in my family, and being in California.
JS: I read somewhere that you’ve been interested in messing around with making your own beats. Is that something you’ve explored more?
DM: Yeah, I’ve been producing some things for my next album, Yippee. Basically, the beats I’ve been making are very sample based. I’ve been finding these weird samples and I’m trying to use a lot of fanfare, which is like all those old trumpets. You can think of the music in Robin Hood or like the USC fight song, which is one that I sampled. So it’s a lot of trumpets and like epic conquest music, then finding fun ways to rap over that.
Photo by Brady Harvey
JS: I can’t wait to hear that! Speaking of the album you’re working on, Yippee, can you expand on the concept of the album or what you want to do with it?
DM: Yeah, so I think the music I like to make is really youthful with childish and playful vibes. “Yippee” is something that I say a lot and it has a lot of different meanings. There’s that obvious, sarcastic meaning, like “well, yippee” and it’s kind of when things are pretty f**ked. But also, there is that genuine excitement and like fun that you have if you’re making art or making music, dancing, or singing, whatever. It’s kind of combining both of those ideas. I feel like I and so many other people have been having a really hard time with a lot of confusion and mental disorientation. Yippee is like always trying to find the joy so you can escape that.
JS: Definitely. I had a question that kind of relates to that, too. In these times where obviously, there’s a lot of social and political chaos, do you see a role for music in there?
DM: Yeah, I think people always need to feel impacted by things and challenged by things, and music can do that. If you’re making music that does that and especially plays with conceptions that have been taught to us that aren’t necessarily our own conceptions, it can be something helpful. I think music can lose that unfortunately when artists just want to make a song that can be popular without creating some kind of connection with it.
JS: Have you ever felt pressure to put something out because you know it will be received well? Your music is definitely its own unique sound. Have you ever felt like you should adjust it around what you think people want to hear?
DM: You feel the pressure sometimes, but I’m a real lover of music and I’m a real lover of art so I really like to try to create something that nobody’s heard before. It’s like a fun little challenge to see how much I can surprise people and also be really good at the same time. I don’t really give into that pressure, but you always think about it. It maybe in some moments can affect your songwriting or musical choices that you make, but for the most part I’m trying to make something very singular and it kind of requires me to move away from that, you know?
JS: I definitely see that. I’ve found that fans of your music are especially drawn to the surprises and unique atmosphere you create. Personally, one thing that draws me to your music is this sense of powerful and vulnerable feminine energy. Do you feel inspiration from your feminine experience and the idea of feminine energy when creating your music?
DM: Oh, totally. I very much feel like a woman, and I also feel masculine. I feel both of them in ways. I feel like identifying as a woman is its own unique experience and I channel my relation to that into my music.
JS: Is there anything you’ve been listening to a lot lately?
DM: Um. I listen to a lot of old stuff like old Kanye West, then even older things like ABBA and Jackson 5. I feel old because I don’t really even listen to music anymore. I can tell you what I listened to in college, a lot of Drake, Kid Cudi, Lupe Fiasco, Wiz Khalifa. Killavesi is a new artist I like a lot. I’ve also really liked Lil Peep’s music. He contributed a lot in a short amount of time.
Photo by Victoria Holt
JS: I know you enjoy a lot of different kinds of music, so did you always see yourself becoming a hip-hop artist? (If that’s what you would maybe define yourself as).
DM: I think that hip-hop is a universal path. You can really do whatever you want with hip-hop. I do have a lot of influences. I’ll listen to a lot of classic rock, and I feel very inspired by Led Zepplin, Pink Floyd, Elton John, Jimmy Hendrix, Nina Simone. I do feel like a hip-hop artist because I think hip-hop is a mood and everyone has adopted it, even the pop artists. Everyone is making hip hop music.
“Hip-hop is a mood and everyone has adopted it.”
JS: Totally. So, you’ve been in the Seattle music scene for quite some time now. What positive and negative things have you noticed about this music scene?
DM: I’ve never really been as deep in a music scene as I have in Seattle, so I think in general there’s just good and bad things about every music scene. The good stuff is that it’s a city that, even though its segregated in a lot of ways, has a lot of connections between people. It can be easy to know each other and meet each other. I feel like that really helps the music scene. We’ve been trying to do multi-genre shows for a long time and what that does is it like cross pollinates the music scene. I think the genres here have kept people separate for a long time. I think the main focus for so long has been rock in Seattle, but there’s really amazing hip hop here. The good thing is that we’re starting to see shows that mix things, and we’re seeing people make music that isn’t easily classifiable. There is real talent here. We have the ability to connect with each other if we want to. I guess the same parts of it that make it good make it bad. People are really competitive. It has a “who’s the big fish in the small pond?” mentality. I think there’s a resentment towards grandiosity and confidence, maybe especially coming from women.
JS: Yeah, building off of that, I was wondering what kind of treatment you’ve noticed as a female identifying artist. I know that’s such a big can to open, but are there a few things you’re willing to share about that?
DM: It’s definitely affected me. I think it’s good that I’ve had my partner and my partner is also part of the scene because I think that if I didn’t I would run into a lot of sh*t I wouldn’t want to deal with. But at the same time, dudes are just going to be weird. They’re weird with single girls, they’re going to be weird with girls dating dudes. If that’s the majority of a scene, it’s going to really affect you. People want to be supportive, but people are also just people. They have their prejudices and things that make them uncomfortable and it can make it hard for you to be yourself. The more you can be yourself, a flawed self, in front of everybody, the more people think it’s ok to be who you are.
“The more you can be yourself, a flawed self, in front of everybody, the more people think it’s ok to be who you are.”
JS: This question comes from a friend of mine. What advice would you give new artists with introverted personalities trying to put their art out there? I know you’ve talked about your dynamic as an introverted artist a little bit.
DN: I feel like I’m super shy and super introverted, but I’m also a creative person. I’m very sensitive, I’ve observed a lot in my life, and I’m very capable. If I feel like I am in a capable mood, I can go into a social situation and really open myself up and kind of get to know people and allow that, but that takes a lot of energy. Especially for someone who is an introvert, you know? I am an introvert but I’m also a musician putting my stuff out there, so I have all these people around me who would like to connect with me, but it can be hard. Like, a lot of the time I can’t even respond to people’s messages. I’m just like, at home high, and it’s hard! I have to have my cycles. Sometimes I need to stay in my house for like a week and focus on my work. I guess you just need to do what’s right for you and not feel like you have to live a certain life or move a certain way in a social community. Be yourself, be open, but give yourself time, too.
JULIA SCHWAB | Coconut La Croix Boix | KXSU Music Reporter