a smart interview with dumblonde: breatheheavy exclusive
Check out our exclusive chat with music’s hottest duo.
After more than a decade in the music industry, a peculiar series of events lead Aubrey O’Day and Shannon Bex to run from the tumultuous vortex of Danity Kane and into the open arms of their newly-formed electro-pop alter ego, dumblonde. Their new self-titled collaboration is available for pre-order on iTunes today (July 17) and already topped iTunes’ Dance Chart before breaking the Top 10 overall. It includes five songs now (“white lightning,” “eyes on horizon,” “tender green life,” “remember me” & “dreamsicle”) before the entire full-length record drops in September, a project O’Day and Bex funded themselves and aggressively saw through to completion.
One thing’s clear from our conversation with dumblonde via telephone yesterday: fuck the mold.
Why did you choose the name dumblonde?
Aubrey: Throughout our journey in the industry that always, in one way or another (especially being part of girl groups), put girls against each other. We always felt like we were boxed into categories or types, and this project was really our chance to release all of the stereotypes and all of the boxes that we’ve been put in throughout the years and be able to challenge them, make fun of them, reach beyond them, but starting with the name we were definitely trying to be able to play on something that has been a stereotype with us and kind of give it the middle finger.
What are some of the songs that don’t appear with the pre-order?
Aubrey: Shannon and I have different favorites, but there’s a song called “You Got Me” on the album that isn’t coming out [today], but is a really really dope dance track. We’ve actually been in rehearsals for our stage show all week long, and I think it’s my favorite number to perform. It’s a lot of dance. It’s high energy, and it takes us back to a lot of the reasons why we love to dance in the first place.
Shannon: “Tender Green Life” is one of my favorites, but the one that’s not out that’s one of my favorites is “Love Blind.” It’s kind of a slow go in the beginning, then when it really picks up it just has this really summer-time open energy feel that really rounds out the whole project and the body of work in my eyes. It’s a really dope track, and it’s one of the last ones we actually wrote for, and it really just feels every single sound that we were trying to get on this album. It topped it off.
You’re rehearsing? Do you have plans for a tour?
Shannon: Oh definitely. Being on stage is the thing that we absolutely always love to do. That’s where we started, and we love seeing the fans and be able to meet them. We thrive on the stage. That’s our heart and our passion. We love the creating process. Every step of the way we’re writing songs, we’re producing a song or creating a video/visual, we’re always thinking of the stage and how we can translate it to stage.
When does it kick off?
Aubrey: We’re actually right now in preparation for about a 25-minute set that we will pour all of our new music on, and preview all of the new music that’s dropping [today], and preview some of the songs that will be on the full album, and then we’ll go back out on tour with a full 45-minute/hour set once the full album is released. But right away, we’ll be previewing the new music that’s released [today].
What’s the collaborative process like?
Aubrey: We did everything in the studio as a team with the same people. Everything started off with Shannon and I as the artist. Candice Pillay who’s a writer, R8DIO who’s a producer and Dem Jointz who’s the other producer on this album, and we all literally sat in a room and from start to finish collectively… we usually start it off by going in the room, venting about everything that was on our hearts. Sometimes a bad day, or the last 12 years (laughs), and we start emotionally conceptualizing our thoughts. For me, I know on the titles that I created I would think of visuals, Shannon loves thinking of visuals, Candice loves thinking about words, R8DIO loves the science of the production, we all would come up with a concept that’s something that was honest to our lives and heavy on our hearts, and then we would write about it. Some days someone would come in and their energy and being in love was like overpowering to everyone else’s story and so we’d go with the feeling of being in love. Or some days the energy of being frustrated with the industry would be overpowering so we’d run with that. We come up with a name, sometimes even just a lyric, or something that really touched us and develop it from there. A lot of times in our experience in the past we’d walk into the studio with a big-name producer and they’d throw a track on us. That’s what usually happens with most of the artists out nowadays. And with us, with this project, we sat in a room and conceptualized our hearts for hours before we started the creation of the vibe of every single piece of work on this album.
So you’ve had a lot of creative control on this project.
Aubrey: We’ve had all the creative control. We actually did this entire project on our own. We brought in our label Caroline Universal in the ninth inning, but Shannon and I from day one have put together all the visuals for this project, we’ve produced all the creative of the visuals, we were able to make all of our visual aesthetics come to life… all of the storyboards, shots, creative, writing, producing, every single element of this project Shannon and I have been involved in.
Because you’ve had such control in this do you feel more pressure?
Aubrey: YES. We’ve been fucking stressed out all day. Not just all day, but for the past half-a-fucking-year, but yea of course. This is very personal to us. We really like each other, and we’re best friends, that’s something we didn’t feel before in the past. We’ve always wanted to feel it, and we always pushed ourselves to be in that place, but it wasn’t organic and natural like it is now. We can literally look at each other and be scared together. It’s like being in a good marriage finally, you know? Shit. You marry three guys that were so wrong for you then all of a sudden you found this great guy the fourth time around, and you spend half of your life not believing in marriage then all of a sudden you connect with someone in a way that makes you understand the reason why you fought for it from the very beginning.
Shannon, what is it about Aubrey that you connected to?
Shannon: The entire time I’ve known Aubrey, I’ve always respected how business savvy she is, and how her mind works. She’s amazing when it comes to that. That just expands on the creative side of things, and the depths that she goes, the ideas that she has. I’ll come in and we’ll collaborate. As far as working together in a stressful situation she’s always open to a thought or an opinion, always. You can’t help but respect when you have a thought or opinion and someone’s clearly open. They might agree with it or not, but the fact that she’ll listen and we both respect that about each other, and that is what has helped us grow even deeper in our friendship.
*Aubrey chimes in* She likes that I say all the curse words that she won’t (laughs).
Aubrey, what is it about Shannon that works so well for you?
Aubrey: You know what’s interesting? People always ask ‘oh, all of a sudden you guys are in this friendship,’ and it’s interesting because we’ve spent almost 10 years together, and in that process we never were the closest of anyone in the group until now. It’s interesting because we never disliked each other. We just never understood each other fully, and I think we gravitated towards people we thought were similar to us, so we never made that connection. It took 10 years of growing and becoming women in so many ways. I look up to Shannon, and I think Shannon has always been an exemplary woman. I think she has a patience and an understanding and a compassion that is unlike any other. I don’t really feel like I’m ever in the room with my match, and I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way, it’s on levels of your soul, your heart, your thinking patterns; being complimentary to the things I’m not good at or the things that I am good at and I really just feel that with Shannon. She’s a match made in heaven for me.
What was the inspiration behind filming six videos for this project?
Aubrey: We have seven videos, but the seventh one is actually in the editing bay so it’s not completely done. We just never got to dream big in our previous situation. We always were so limited by the emotion, or ego, or pride, or jealousy, by all the emotions, and we never got to create the art that we had inside of us. The first initial response for both of us was… we want to make visuals. We want to make video after video. We wanted to say all the things that we didn’t get to say. We want to show all the depths of our artistry and creativity. Literally every single thing, shot by shot, that was Shannon and I… all of it is stored information that we’ve gathered for 10 years of ways that we wanted to create art and never had the ability to do.
The “White Lightning” music video drops today!
Aubrey: “White Lightning” is a faaav. It’s a black & white video which was a riskier choice to start off there, especially because we are such colorful people in general (laughs). This song to us was one of our favorites. When we first started creating visuals, because of the way that it moves, we wanted to utilize filming in glitchy ways, and then editing with different techniques. We didn’t want it to feel like standard videos that you’ve seen. We wanted to create a beautiful video without it feeling like beauty shots – we wanted it to be shot in an artistic way. We utilized all these different filming techniques for every single shot. In this video, we also edited the video, there is not one shot repeated, and there’s a lot of shots because it’s a glitchy video. Some points move through 50 shots in one second.
You mentioned “White Lightning” is a ‘risky’ video. Is it more important to be creative than make money?
Aubrey: When we didn’t have control, we never made any money anyway. So, what is there really to lose? Yes, at this stage and point of our careers in music, the only thing that we love about art anymore is that we can be authentic to it. All of the games, and the manipulations, and putting the financial thoughts and industry side of it forward… it can make you hate being an artist. We’ve been at that stage at so many points. That was not a mistake we were gonna make again.
Shannon: We’re happy. We love what we’ve made and we love what we’re doing. You always have that nervous feeling of ‘will others think your kid is as cute as you think they are?’ (laughs), but there’s nothing on Earth that would have made us want to do it any other way but the way we did it.
Is “White Lightning” the ~lead single~ then?
Aubrey: There’s no lead single! We are creating a body of work and piece after piece will give another side to the story. When you receive the entire album and the entire visual product you will fully understand what dumblonde means to both of us and the message we want to send and the energy and place we are as artists.
What do you consider success in music?
Shannon: Success in music is being able to create your art authentically and make no apologies for the way that anyone perceives it. You can walk away from your musical career and your catalogue and have respect for yourself still, and that initial dream you set out for… knowing that you did not make any compromises for the success, then that’s success.
What’s something you want to tell your fans?
Shannon: Thank you. Gosh, the support is insane. I think sometimes we can’t believe the constant support we still do have, and we’re really grateful for it. We’re doing this for you!
Aubrey: It’s for them. There’s no way we were ever going to leave our fanbase in a place that we were in last year. It was more devastating to us than anyone could ever imagine. We were never going to leave every soul that came into our show with a dream that told us they believed in us hanging like that. We literally started this projected on that note, and in the process we developed this life-long friendship. We grew the most we ever have as women, and now we’ve got this beautiful child that we’re birthing back into the people that were the reason that we started this in the first place. It’s a coming full circle feeling.