Home // Music // Interviews // Introducing: DENA

Introducing: DENA

Since first making waves with her goofy, brilliant breakout single ‘Cash, Diamond Rings, Swimming Pools‘ back in 2012, Bulgarian-born, Berlin-based Denitza Todorova – henceforth to be known as DENA for the good of our tired tongues and typing fingers – has been trading in a heady mix of Balkan beats, hip-hop and RnB.

Now lining up her debut album, Flash (due March 11 on Normal Surround/!K7), whose 10 tracks rein in on that moment in which the darkness is suddenly brought into illuminated focus with all secrets revealed, the stage is set for DENA to move onto a more global stage.

Ahead of Flash’s imminent unveiling and a show at Dalston’s Birthdays on April 15, we caught up with the ascendant Miss Todorova to find out about the infinite inspiration of Destiny’s Child, the process of making Flash flesh, and how she’s not so much a rapper as a rhythmic singer. [Pedantry forever.-Ed.]

Planet Notion: Tell us a little bit about how you first started making music?
Denitza Todorova: I started by singing in choirs at school and that was my initial approach to music: the choir experience. My father used to play in a band and he has a guitar at home but it was funny as my sister was taking guitar lessons and we were learning music, but I never actually learnt to play anything. Then I moved to Berlin. The first thing that happened was I started a band with a friend of mine. She was a drummer and we had this funky DIY thing going on for a year. This was my first encounter with playing some basement gigs so that was when I realised music was what I wanted to do.

PN: Your music is quite a unique mix of 90s dance, RnB and Balkan beats, what sort of artists did you draw influence from to find that sound?
DT: I think influences are quite unreflective as I never hear something and think ‘Oh my God, I’m going to do it like this’. I think the creative process is based on taste and what people like to hear, but also so much of it is detached. It’s a personal vibe. At the time I was writing the album, I did hear tons of Destiny’s Child and I had this flashback experience of appreciating the whole history of that group.

There’s this Beyoncé album called B’Day and I discovered that around 2009, which was super late. The vocals in Destiny’s Child songs were something I was super inspired by in terms of the way they almost rap but in a sung way. I have a big love of hip-hop and rap but it’s not that I am a rapper. When I write those words, it’s more like a writer’s process and then rhythmically singing, rather than getting on the mic and going (raps): “Get on the mic, the beat is on, and freestyling.”

PN: You’ve got a really great image going on, is fashion something that you are interested in?
DT: It’s funny how one fashion thing leads to another. I think there’s a super interesting friendship between fashion and music. The most important thing is that I write and play music but I enjoy fashion from a healthy distance. It’s an influential aspect on the music I am involved with, rather than part of my job. Thank God I don’t have to make money out of it.

PN: Talk us through the process of writing and preparing Flash.
DT: There were three stages to it. First was the actual writing and composing, which was the fastest bit I think. Then it was so much about producing the songs together with Jonas Verwijnen [producer]. The process was oriented around my initial demos so I wasn’t left feeling as though it was I writing a song and then someone else taking it to an unrecognisable place. Everything stayed attached to the initial versions. Jonas made it sound good and he added a lot of complex beats. I also did a bunch of videos. There is always this parallel visual production going on and it’s very interesting. There is a network I am building with people for collaboration on visual concepts.

PN: How do you go about developing a song into its visual accompaniment?
DT: I always have initial ideas of what it is going to be about. Then it is about developing the whole structure. I think the latest video turned out way more minimal but it’s good. I’m really interested in the video production process. I studied Media Theory and Visual Communications so it’s very interesting to combine those aspects of work. It’s not only about one. It’s multimedia work.

PN: Has the album got much of a concept behind it?
DT: Flash is about that moment where you are in a dark place and you suddenly put light into it. Things become more visible and all of a sudden you can see more clearly. It’s also a metaphor about the moment where I wrote all these songs. It’s a glimpse into that moment of writing. When I decided that this was what it was going to be about, I found all this reflective material that when you flash a camera at it, it glows. It looks invisible but when you put light on it, it goes crazy. I want to make a backdrop out of it.

PN: The new single ‘Bad Timing’ sees a more sensitive side to your work. Is it written from personal experience?
DT: Everything is written out of my own experiences. In reality, 95% of everything I write sounds like ‘Bad Timing’. It’s this mellow piano tune. Almost nothing changed from the original demo. Lyrically, it’s a song about missing each other and wanting

- Sarah Joy

Header Image: Tonje Thilesen

Flash is out March 11 via Normal Surround. DENA plays Birthdays in Dalston on April 15. Tickets are on sale here.

Leave a Reply