[osheaga preview] Q&A: Sonia Kreitzer of Brooklyn R&B project Doe Paoro

Montreal's OSHEAGA MUSIC AND ARTS FESTIVAL is just three days away, and I am close to combusting with excitement. I've tried to listen to nearly every band on the lineup to make sure I didn't miss anything, and it's a damn good thing I did, otherwise I might have skimmed over the spacious and meditative vibes of Brooklyn-based R&B project DOE PAORO. I got to catch up with Sonia Kreitzer of Doe via Skype to talk about the upcoming weekend, and how consciousness, silence, and ego work together as influences to her music.

How did you make this transition from your old band, a soul/jazz band to a dubstep/R&B band?
R&B and soul music has always been my musical choice to listen to, so that was the natural thing that came through me but I think this time instaed of being imitative like maybe my previous projects were, it was just an attempt to articulate something that was specific to my experience. Definitely all the time I spent meditating and doing yoga traveling by myself have been an opportunity to make that clearer to me.

I just started doing yoga yesterday. It’s… really hard.
It gets easier man!

So you were writing and recording these songs and you weren’t aware of the comparisons to dubstep or James Blake or anything?
No! I seriously didn’t. I’ve been so off the grid for a year because I was traveling that I’ve missed this whole movement, and besides, the only thing I was listening to before… I wouldn’t say it was a rut, but it was more of a habit of exclusively listening to Motown soul and 90s R&B. so it was just surprising to me when I came back and had all these new sounds in me and I was experimenting with them and seeing how they came out. And I really love James Blake now that I’ve heard him.

Do these comparisons make you feel differently going back and listening to the album now?
I think that comparisons are a natural thing because we always kind of relate our experience to something we know, so that makes sense if you’re doing something that’s a little bit fresh in some ways. The natural trajectory would be to create some sort of Venn diagram of different influences, so it definitely doesn’t affect me looking back to it, because it’s already been made and my feelings on it are done, but it’s certainly inspiration for the future, at least in terms of finding other people who are sonically inspired by the same thing. One thing I discovered in the process of writing this record, which James Blake also does, which I think I will continue to expand on for a second project, is kind of like this lyrically simplistic mantra, just one or two lines that are really important to him, which he puts through what I like to call a “car wash” of sonic experience, where you continue to transform it and you find something new and surprising again.

What were the dominant emotions and feelings and thoughts that went into the songs?
Definitely a lot of heartbreak, it’s interesting now that I’ve finally come through it. Between you and I, It’s nice to be on the other side of that because it’s this form of desperation that comes from attachment and falling out and making sense of people still being alive but not being in your life, which is a weird concept. With death there can be more acceptance. [The album] was very close to my heart when I was making it and it’s starting to become less relevant to my experience, but there’s going to be a phase two with that.

How long has the band been around?
It’s been pretty fast, man. I came back from traveling last July, I came back to New York City in August, and the album came out this past February. Most of the songs are written with Adam Rhodes, who plays keys in the band, between me and him, and we bring on some other guys for the live set, but I write all the songs and then most of them involve him and his production. So it’s been really fast.

You've garnered a lot of hype in a short amount of time: you have the opening slot for Osheaga, you’re getting a lot of really good reviews, how does it feel to have this project take off so quickly and positively?
Definitely really exciting, because I’ve played music for years with little to no interest. You know, we’ve played shows where the band is bigger than the audience, just struggling trying to figure out what hits. It’s unsurprising though on some level because the music for me that I’ve made with this band is all about emotion and being as vulnerable as possible and that’s the first time I think I’ve done that. I was aware that I was in a creative state I had never existed in before, and I knew that it was really present for that moment, so when things really started picking up, it was really exciting, but I also felt it coming on some level.

This is a really cliché question, but where does the band name come from?
It’s really about rewriting female mythology and a connection to nature, woman as connected to nature, and of course the voice being a conduit of that through me and “paoro” is derivative from a Mari myth in which it means something akin to “goddess of echo” essentially.

Do you have any non-musical, physical or otherwise, influences to your sound?
Meditation. Silence for me is a really big inspiration and taking time in silence, reflecting on that space, visual artists like Marina Abramovic I find really inspiring in terms of her work dealing with presence and connection to people and the body. I’m really interested in anything that deals with the body.

I really like the idea of mediation in tandem with a description of your music. I feel like your songs are very open and I can wander through them. How does meditation affect your music?
I don’t believe that any good music comes from ego, and I’m not saying ego in a western sense, we’ve always got such a big ego, in that we’re self-serving, but ego in terms of the accumulation of your experience and yourself as you know it. I think that good art comes from a place that’s sort of universal. It’s like you snatch something from collective consciousness that you’re a channel for that’s arlready on other people’s minds, which you know, you could say what kind of happened with me and the James Blake thing… you know I think mediation comes into that force field because when you take time to be silent you just experience the world as separate from your thoughts and you experience it as it is. I personally practice the vipassna meditation, which are 10-day silent retreats. You can do that in Massachusetts actually, there’s a really good center there.

Doe Paoro has barely even had a past, but what do you see for the future?
I think we’ll definitely looking to tour a lot more, and international touring is something we’ll hopefully see in the upcoming months, but my focus for me is making a second project now that we have more resources in terms of production value. I wanted to self release the album so I could have it be my own thing without anyone coming into it and try out a bunch of ideas and see what hit and what didn’t, and I think I got a lot of information from that. Moving forward, I think it’s going to be more of a merging and abstraction of R&B including the mantras, continuing to develop my own style and do something that’s more epic than the last album, but something that touches and continues to be driven by emotions.

What are you looking forward to most for Osheaga?
I’m looking forward to seeing all these other cool bands and getting inspired. Taking notes and hearing what other people are doing. This is also the first international festival and our first show in Canada, so I'm really excited for that.

Did you hear Snoop Dogg changed his name?
No! What did he change it to?

Snoop Lion.
I think it’s a good thing. Of all the animals they could have chosen to name himself after, why a dog? Time to highten himself to the next level.

It’s definitely more majestic.
I’m proud of Snoop for elevating himself.

Last question: Whitney or Etta?
Oh, come on! That’s hard, man, that’s really hard. But I think it would definitely have to be Whitney in my experience.


Doe Paoro perform Sunday August 5 at Osheaga Fest at 1pm. A perfect reason to not get totally hammered the night before; This is not a band to sleep on.

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