"I don't know much about French music, to be honest," says Olivia Merilahti, one half of French-Finnish indie pop duo The Dø. "I feel a little helpless at times." Instead, the Paris-born singer-songwriter counts "dirty south stuff," including Pusha T, 2 Chainz, and Nicki Minaj among her primary artistic influences. "I don’t embrace everything that surrounds hip-hop's over-the-top sexual aesthetic, but I think there’s something very exciting going on," she adds.
Merilahti's musical tastes are surprising, to say the least, considering she and her partner Dan Levy's sound thrives on synthetic dance beats and heavy percussion, plus the fact that the group is based in France. Their latest album and third full-length effort, Shake, Shook, Shaken (out now), tackles heavy subjects, such as fate, despair, and cosmic guilt, laid against anthemic electronics and romantic strings. We caught up with Merilahti to talk about her new release, her fascination with rap, and how to dress like a French girl. Here's an excerpt from our chat:
Who did you listen to growing up?
In my house, we only played music in English and Finnish. My dad didn’t really listen to music, and my mom never listened to French music, because she's Finnish and didn't really care. I listened to a lot of Queen. Then, I discovered the R&B divas, and then Nirvana and the grunge-punk scene. It was a little schizophrenic.
Who would be your dream collaboration?
Kendrick Lamar, for sure. He seems the most open to other genres of music besides hip-hop. Die Antwoord would also be amazing.
What's the meaning behind "Keep Your Lips Sealed"? There's a little bit of a devil's advocate thing going on.
It's about when you know something that you shouldn’t know, or when you witness something you shouldn’t have seen, and what you do with it. There's two people in the song: The chorus is supposed to be the voice of morality, and in the middle there’s the guilty character who doesn't really know the right thing to do.
You seem to have really embraced the jumpsuit trend onstage. What attracts you to the silhouette?
I was intrigued by the technical working outfit for a while, so I started collecting images of Formula 1 driver suits, and then Japanese biker gangs. I've been wearing the same red style since the beginning of this tour. It's vintage Agnès B. from the '70s, and I stick to it like a uniform. I'm having a bunch of other ones made.
Does your style differ offstage?
I love to be comfortable, which can be limiting. Generally, I like to link my stage outfit with my everyday clothes, so I've been wearing a lot of red. I also love varsity jackets. I'd say there's a bit of a hip-hop side to my everyday outfits as well.
Watch the music video for “Keep Your Lips Sealed” below: