For Miami postpunk band Donzii, 2020 was shaping up to be the group's biggest year yet. Two weeks into the new year, having toured the East Coast in support of their latest EP, Gladugly , the members of the eccentric quintet found themselves opening for the iconic British synth-pop group New Order at the Fillmore Miami Beach.
"That was the top — it was such a big deal for us," Donzii vocalist Jenna Balfe says. "New Order is postpunk — they started what we're doing, and we're so honored that they actually liked our music. We really couldn't have gone any higher."
Everything was set: After a handful of local shows, the group would head cross-country in April to record in San Francisco and then tour the West Coast for the first time, with shows lined up from Los Angeles to Seattle.
Then, in mid-March, the novel coronavirus dragged all of the hard-earned momentum to a halt as their itinerary for April and May was stripped down one gig at a time.
"[This] was going to be the biggest year we could've imagined," Balfe sighs. "And April was going to be our biggest month."
That's because performing live constitutes the primary source of revenue for bands such as Donzii.
"That was a considerable chunk of my income," Balfe says. "Other band members rely on it too. It's obviously been very tough on us."
Yet one calendar item survived the pandemic: this Friday's release of Donzii's new single, "Burn," which is slated for the band's yet-to-be-titled full-length album due out later this year.
Over a ghoulish, hypnotic bass line, "Burn" has Balfe belting out lyrics rich in visual imagery. "They're based on these memories that I wanted to introduce to the audience," she says. The song is a lurky anthem, appropriate for anyone driving slowly around in South Florida with the windows down. There has never been a Donzii song like it, yet it's precisely what Donzii is: dark, powerful, and groovy.
Balfe says she had an indescribable premonition to release the single ahead of schedule. "I had a weird feeling at the end of February to release one song — to get it out into the world," she elaborates. "I got everyone onboard to release this one song that we produced ourselves."
Now that the bandmates are sheltering in place separately, they've swapped weekly (sometimes twice-weekly) band practice at Balfe's studio at the 777 Mall for group phone calls.
"It's just so weird and isolating. It feels so weird not to play music with the band," Balfe says. "We miss everybody, and we're scared and can't do anything about it."
One silver lining is Balfe's marriage to Donzii bass player Dennis Fuller. Hunkered down at home, the two have been working on music together.
"We're trying to do a few things — doing some supergoofy stuff, a couple of horrible folk songs," Balfe says with a laugh. "We're going to feed it back into the project at some point."
In the coming weeks, Donzii will release a music video for "Luxury Condo Theme," a song that appears on Gladugly. Set in a neo-futuristic poolscape, the video is directed by Miami filmmakers Kali Ann Kahn and Claudia Rodriguez.
And if things get back to normal in time, Donzii will perform at the rescheduled III Points festival in October.
"We don't know what the hell is going on," Balfe says, "but we're all really excited to get back on track."
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