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The Do1French/Finnish electro pop duo The Do have just released their third album ‘Shake, Shook, Shaken’ and will tour Australia early in 2015. Australian Musician’s Greg Phillips spoke to the band’s Olivia Merilahti about the creation of the album.

‘Shake, Shook, Shaken’ is the third album from The Do, an electro-pop duo consisting of Finnish singer, songwriter Olivia Merilahti and French soundscaper Dan Levy. For this album, the pair lived by a credo that no acoustic instruments whatsoever would be used, it all had to be produced digitally. If someone I knew had just woken from a lengthy coma and wanted to know what kind of music was being made in the world today, I’d offer  ‘Shake, Shook, Shaken’ as an example of the 2014 de rigueue. Many artists are now constructing their electronic music from bits and pieces of sounds, created first from software plug-ins or samples, then flipping it on its head and bending and stretching it in ways previously not possible. Sure, electro-pop is nothing new. Synthesised pop was a major part the 80s sound and this studio-centric method of constructing and deconstructing music is just an extension of what Beach Boy, Brian Wilson was doing back in the 60s on Smile and Pet Sounds, but never before has there been the computer processing power and the incredible variety and quality of plug-ins available. The Do are damn good at it too. The plan for this album was to use factory presets as a starting point and see where it could take them. Despite the amount of sonic experimentation though, The Do’s singer Olivia Merilahti tells us that it was important that the end result needed to be both fun and sound simple.

“The process of writing the songs was quite quick but since the sounds were really new to us, we spent a long time on the sound treatment and making them really personal,” she says. “We used a lot of factory sounds, lots of plug-ins and stuff. These were sounds which were usually looked down upon and we wanted to make them fun, to make them human and warm. That was a challenge on this one but a lot of fun too. It took a while. We went to New York for mixing a couple of times  with fab Dupont the mixer/engineer, who helped us clean the sounds. We really didn’t want to have anything too complex or too brainy somehow. We wanted something straight to the point. On the first two albums there’s this tendency to go smoothly into the songs and have nice intros and nice outros. On this one, we’d chop these bits that somehow got into the way. This time we wanted the energy.  We were really thrilled with the discovery of all these sounds which we had never used in our songs. It’s about not being bored in the studio … it’s how we keep awake and excited and keep it surprising.”

The Do2The opening track ‘Keep Your Lips Sealed’ sets the tone for the whole album. It begins with a muffled vocal and drumbeat which builds in clarity before exploding in an epic wall of synthesised drama. “That’s one of the first ones we recorded, so it was kind of logical that we put it as the opening track,” explains Olivia. “It opened the way for the album. On that track we basically had all the sounds we wanted to use, these wide pads, the synths, the percussion, and the vocals which are layered and then this hip hop vibe. So all the ingredients were in that song. It felt really natural to start the album with that one.”

The Do used so many different synths and plug-ins that it’s difficult for Olivia to specify exactly what was used on particular tracks. “We used some stuff from UVI,  they are a French company. They sampled the world’s drum machines and toy kits, it’s really complete. We had a lot of fun with that. We also recorded real synths but we really wanted it to have this plastic feel but making it acceptable and sexy. We had a Roland Juno for a while but mostly UVI sounds. Maybe I just don’t want to reveal our secrets!”

The Do have begun to tour the new album throughout Europe. With so many new sounds onboard, preparing the music for the live environment has required quite a bit of thought. “Yeah it’s been tricky,” Olivia admits. “We spent the whole summer working on the live set and finding solutions because it is a whole new project. We have a lot of synths but we also have  guitars and bass. There’s a hybrid drum kit. Dan plays the drums on stage, he’s never done that live before. It’s a big thing for him but also quite natural for him to play the drums because it’s what he loves to do. He does the beats in the studio, that’s his thing but still demanding though. We also have Bastien Burger, our guitarist who also plays keyboards and sings, plus we have Marielle Chatain. They were both with us on the last tour. She plays the synth. For the moment only synth and a little drums but she used to be a saxophonist, so it’s a little bit tricky for her. It’s like we are being really mean by not letting her play her instrument!”

The hard work seems to be paying off. Olivia tells us that she has never so much fun on stage and is looking forward to bringing the show to Australia for the ‘So Frenchy, So Chic in the Park’ festival in January. “We had a lot of fun during the V festival and was great to travel with other bands,” she recalls of the band’s last Australian tour. “We met The Kills at the time and have become friends. I have really great memories of the audience in Australia and I can’t wait to get back. We have been requested many times on social network and it’s going to be fun.”

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