There’s a track called You Wish on DENA’s debut album Flash. In the space of three minutes it gives the finger to patriarchy, directly references Skee-Lo’s biggest hit and single-handedly justifies her position as this month’s cover star. If there’s one ‘girl power tune’ on the record, she says, this is it. Tongue-in-cheek, this is not.
“I know that I say things in a funny way, but I really meant everything totally seriously when I wrote it. I came up with You Wish on Valentine’s Day, I was just pissed about guys, like ‘fuck that shit, I can make it on my own’.” And how. We meet at a studio in Seven Sisters, a part of town so up-and-coming that last year saw a Costa appear in less time than it takes to say “I’m not sure we’ve considered the social consequences of gentrification properly”. Costa or no, Haringey’s still a fair way from finding itself in vogue or, as DENA did last month, in Vogue. The fashion mag’s site premiered the video for album highlight Bad Timing, a track which oozes pure, unadulterated R&B cool.
“That was a little weird!” she admits. “Vision and style is important to me in a natural, spontaneous way and that’s why I was really honoured by Vogue.”
Despite her assertions that fashion isn’t something she’d want to do professionally, it’s clear she’s having a lot of fun as she cycles effortlessly through pose after pose for the camera. “I’ve never lived that model life, and now I’m getting to combine it with my music in the front perspective. The luxury about it is that I’m allowed to have an opinion when I do shoots, it’s not like I’m just being used to sell clothes.” Her glee when she’s given the opportunity to don a shiny, gold-fronted top for the shoot suggests, however, it probably wouldn’t be too hard to convince her otherwise.
At some point I detached myself from the Bulgarian language.
While Flash is a remarkable album by anyone’s standards, DENA’s quick-witted way with words is especially impressive. Born in Bulgaria and now residing in Berlin, it’s fascinating how she’s jumped from one tongue to another, settling on a third and choosing to write solely in English. “I’m super interested in languages, they’re keys that open you up. At some point I detached myself from the Bulgarian language. I mean, I still speak it, but like someone who hasn’t lived there for many years. I’d be interested to write in Bulgarian at some point, but so few people in the world understand it, unlike English which is a universal tool to express yourself. English is also so much closer connected to pop culture than Bulgarian or German.”
Perhaps not surprising then is DENA’s desire to spend more time in our humble city. “I’m really psyched about London. People here care about music, it’s the place where pop matters. In Berlin it’s not really like this – there’s great techno and electronic scenes – but it’s often that people aren’t really obsessed with keeping up and following the latest thing.” A different world it may be, but for its apparent lack of songwriters Berlin has an abundance of producers. As DENA ponders her follow-up she admits her current home has its uses. “On Flash, I composed all of this. I’m meanwhile brainstorming already about new topics, new songs and I’m thinking ‘hey, I’ve played everything’. I feel like I’m repeating my chords and beats, so I’d be super interested to work with other people and just go crazy with the writing.”
It feels strange to hear her discussing plans for the second album when the first has yet to be released. As we chat, though, it becomes clear that while DENA the artist may draw from the past, Denitza the person dwells only on the future.Does she listen to Flash at all? “Never. With the whole production process and everything, it’s just… it’s important to have this distance. I’m rehearsing a lot so we play it all the time anyway, but I feel everything should be free.”
As she gathers her things in preparation for her next engagement, she laments the fact she never gets to spend enough time in London. But she returns in April for a live show at Birthdays. There’s plenty of time to acquaint yourself with Flash before catching that gig, which we cannot recommend you do enough.As DENA herself puts it:“The album is just onecaptured version of the songs.”
Buy: DENA – Flash
Live: Birthdays – April 15th