Interviews

Enter the Donzii Universe with the Band's New Single "Grave"

Donzii is growing and taking up space.
Donzii is growing and taking up space. Photo by Mauricio Abascal
Donzii is more than a band. Donzii is an experience, a convergence of energies and talents that form a rare kind of creative universe: Donzii's universe.

Whether on a record player or onstage, the Miami-based band opens the door inside each of us that holds back both our dark side and a deep craving for physical fun. Donzii gives audiences an emotional experience that reflects our inner life as we trudge through crisis after crisis, but with dancing, music, and some serious sexual energy. Its ability to tap into those feelings landed it on the indie label Grey Market Records and in prime spots at music festivals like III Points, Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival, and South by Southwest.

Front-person, performance artist, and activist Jenna Balfe uses clever, sometimes humorous lyrics, fabulous fashions, and her authentic dynamism to draw in crowds. Meanwhile, the band creates a captivating atmosphere, with Balfe's husband, Dennis Fuller, on bass and drums, Danny Heinze on guitar, and Violet de la Guardia and Mauricio Abascal on keys and backup vocals.

Community is a big part of what makes Donzii more than a band. Friends are often crucial to the band's performances and videos, sharing ideas and contributing choreography, dance, sets, costumes, and body painting.

"Having people be part of the Donzii narrative, people that I care about, or people that I meet through the experience of this project, creating that community, makes the music alive and palpable for me," Balfe says. "It becomes this actual universe that I'm feeling and seeing and interacting with."

The band's music is very much a reflection of the Miami environment — the glittering Magic City that's also a slowly sinking target of climate change-fueled superstorms.

"Growing up here, it's this beautiful place, and there's subtle, beautiful nature," Balfe adds, "but there's something that can really pull you in, something magical, swampy, and very grounded."

Balfe remembers regularly running away from home when she was younger and being a part of this "dark mystery, these trees, the swamp, the air, the weird dilapidated buildings." The more sinister side of the tropical town and the threats of climate change, she believes, "puts us all in this default aggression." And all of that is represented in Donzii's songs.

The dive is also profound for Fuller, a classically trained percussionist, and film scorer.
"I feel like our music is anti-development," he says. "It's about, in the most reactionary sense, the building and construction and adding shit on top of shit." And that's reflected in the decision to clash with classical musical structures. "Thematically and empirically, we're more dissonant, and the music complements that sentiment of anti-development." They use audio effects you might hear in Halloween music to invoke the feeling: "Why do I feel hyped up but unsettled at the same time?" Fuller says. "And that's the kind of world we live in."

But it's not all serious. The music is "also infused with some element of joy. That's kind of where my melodies sit in this structure. We love playing with that," Balfe explains. Her words, tone, and facial expressions highlight the comedic irony of these times and this city. "Yes, there's a lot of tragedy and pain that I personally as an activist work to change, but there has to be a point for my own mental health that I laugh."

Donzii just released its latest single, "Grave." It's Balfe's favorite song from the band's upcoming debut album, Fishbowl, set for release on December 1. Fuller says the album, written and recorded in 2020 in San Francisco with Soft Kill bassist Shaun Durkan, has a more complex sound than previous releases. "A lot of the stuff we've done has been really stripped down, post-punk stuff, Fuller explains. "This one has synthesizers and some strings."

Balfe says Fishbowl is "like a variety pack of musical styles. It's like you went to the store and said, 'I want one of every genre you have at Spec's' or whatever. We were feeling really rebellious." That mix of styles was done purposefully. "It just frustrates me to feel like I have to be a brand," she laments. "The frustration of 'I have to be a marketable thing.' The algorithm for the market economy. Having all of these different genres and styles is like, 'Don't pin me down!' Look at who I am wholly; look at this entire project; look at all of these people. It's not about selling this thing; it's about experiencing this thing and opening your mind beyond having a closet of 12 consistent pieces by all the right designers. We're bigger than this."

Fuller agrees: "You go to a developed community, and every eff'ing house is the same thing. This album is like going through a million different neighborhoods."

Haunted House Party Livestream. With Donzii, Mixx Piggy, Angelfire, Nicholas G. Padilla, Club Amnesia, Stranger Cat. 10 p.m. Friday, October 28, via instagram.com/_donzii.

Donzii. With Glove, 10 p.m. Saturday, October 29 at Gramps, 176 NW 24 St., Miami; gramps.com. Tickets cost $15 to $18 via eventbrite.com.
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Liz Tracy has written for publications such as the New York Times, the Atlantic, Refinery29, W, Glamour, and, of course, Miami New Times. She was New Times Broward-Palm Beach's music editor for three years. Now she plays one mean monster with her 2-year-old son and obsessively watches British mysteries.
Contact: Liz Tracy

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