March 26, 2020

doNormaal is a writer and a recording artist experimenting in morbid, emotional prayer. She was born and raised in Southern California by her mother with her four siblings and lived a nomadic childhood moving to several different cities, states, and countries where she picked up a variety of different influences that make up her mis-match aesthetic. She met her partner, the artist Rave Holly, while studying poetry, literature, and filmmaking in New York and moved to his hometown of Seattle as a young adult where they started the music collective 69/50 with fellow local artists Wolftone and Brakebill in 2014. She stayed heavily active in the local scene until a recent move back home to California to continue pursuing music. Currently, she is staying with her mother in Palm Springs as she finishes her third album title "Yippee" and gears up to move to LA. In her work, she obsesses over themes of childhood, play, family, heroism, magic, trauma, divinity, death and the way it informs an examined life.

Cover Portrait by Coco @Cocotakemyphoto

doNormaal – Wannabe (prod. Wolftone), Dir. Hype Itemson

How has living in Seattle affected your music?

I’m not really sure. I’m still trying to unpack Seattle. It was a legendary journey of epic proportions and it definitely changed me as a person. I was often very depressed living there, and yet I tried to shine as hard as I could in the ways that I could. I’m a natural born contrarian, so it’s possible that the general gloomy, low energy, hyper chill vibe that Seattle often has to offer subconsciously pushed me to go sunnier, sillier, cuter, bubblier, more loving, more cocky, more celebratory in my music. It’s hard to say though, because while I was making a small amount of music before getting there, Seattle was the first place I really started to explore myself as a recording artist. The producers I met and became friends with played a big part in helping me shape my sound. Raven and I made a really sick life there together, we played all these shows, and had all these animals and did whatever we wanted in our apartment and that alone created a lot of inspiration. I can definitely say there are few things as slept on as the Seattle art scene. There’s so much talent in that little corner of the country. The opportunity to really sink into a local DIY scene and be there, be present, affect people I actually saw around all the time and broke bread with was kind of the dream. Maybe even more of a fitting dream for me than shooting to mega international fame at 20 and touring and press conferencing throughout that time. If you had asked me at 20, I definitely would have said the latter is what I wanted for myself. But because I just went with the flow of my life and took the path of least resistance, I ended up with an experience much cooler than I could have ever imagined. So Seattle is just going to be forever embedded into my story as a human and therefore into my music. I’m very proud of the creative legacy I crafted there.

photo by Helen Moga

What kinds of things are influencing your music right now?

Time. Death. Love. Obsession. Compulsion. Responsibility. Anxiety. Tolerance. Child-likeness. The amazing word “Yippee” that can be said in response to anything, mean everything, and is also the title of my upcoming album. The birds chirping in Palm Springs. The mountains. It’s so stunningly beautiful here. My cute mom that I live with and her unique, hard-working, spacey yet on it, empathic way of moving through the world. The way she deals with death in her work every day with such understanding and compassion. Loneliness, because I don’t know anyone in Palms Springs besides my mom. Missing my partner. Coming here and moving in with my mom after living this super independent life all of my young adulthood. Waking up and taking walks every day, trying to understand the last 7 years. Getting to stand back and see all the incredible highs and lows of it all. Just being in this transitional space that I know is temporary and studying and appreciating the stillness of it while also trying to visualize and ready myself for my next chapter. Those are all things that have been coming out in the music lately.

How did your interest in music begin?

Emotional hardships probably. It is the great mood stabilizer. Since I was a kid music has helped me to contextualize, understand, and get through the difficult moments and celebrate the good ones. I started out as an avid listener like most artists. I always loved to rhyme. I’ve been writing poetry and little songs since I was very small. I fantasized about rapping, but it took a few very talented rapper friends I met in college to encourage me to start making music and they really helped me on my journey to taking myself seriously in that way. What has hooked me more than anything is being on stage. Rapping on stage for the first time was an epiphany for me. 

What other musicians are you interested in right now?

There’s a young rapper named Hook from Riverside, CA I have been listening to. She’s experimental and innovative and swaggy. I like that she’s from the Inland Empire too, because that’s where I grew up. When i grew up there I got clowned on by other SoCal kids because it’s kinda out in the boonies and there’s not much but some dirt bikes, tons of land, strip malls, and tracked housing developments. Real suburban sprawl. But I always felt there was something cool about it too. I’m glad there are artists coming from there and showing that. I’m a big Rico Nasty fan too. I listen to my boyfriend’s music a lot as well. He goes by Rave Holly and has a very cool innovative style, like a SoundCloud crooner reimagining old folk and alternative rock in the context of the present. His fearlessness and sensitivity have influenced my music a lot.

photo by doNormaal

Who would you ideally like to collaborate with?

I’ve come to find that I am obsessive-compulsive when it comes to my music and that makes it hard to collaborate with people because I need all the space and time in the world to let my crippling perfectionism and inability to make decisions wreak immeasurable havoc on my creative process. I would love some Kanye production, though. I would love to collaborate on a fashion tip with Yeezy as well. I took a walk the other day during which I felt inspired to listen to my favorite Drake tracks one after the other, which I hadn’t done in a minute and I was inspired and grateful. He soundtracked my youth in a very important way. We’d probably make good music together. He’s a libra, I’m a libra. He would get a Drake tattoo, I would get a Drake tattoo. 

What do you want a listener to walk away with after hearing your music?

Self-esteem. I think low self-esteem is the true root of all evil. It hurts me to see what it does to the human spirit and the way capitalism wields it like a weapon. So many of us have just marinated in that self-loathing for so long to the benefit of people who want to take our individual power away and make us buy things and work our lives away and exchange our true potential for some faulty version that makes other people money and keeps us sad and dull. I just imagine that self-esteem is one of the key ingredients for progress. It’s very hard not to be a responsible human being and take care of yourself and others when you truly believe you have value. I like to inject the vibes of my art with underdog confidence, something to help people feel themselves and recognize the epic beauty of all the ups and downs of their personal story. Inspire people to fight for their humanity and the legitimacy of it. When I am writing, or recording, or on stage I am reconciling all of my shame, guilt, and regret and I want to bring people into that space with me. Into a knowing that they are good, and awesome, and so precious simply because they were born and are living.

Can you share one of the best or worst reactions you have gotten as a result of your music?

I like when people tell me that my music makes them wanna rap. I think that’s so cool, because they’re not seeing me up there and putting me on a pedestal that I know deep down I cannot live up to. They see me up there and I remind them of themselves. Just a unique and sensitive person speaking their truth, no bells and whistles. I’m not a trained musician in any way shape or form. No vocal training, no technical or theoretical training, barely know how to identify sounds in a beat. I’m anxious. I’m shy, a little. You can tell if you meet me in my day to day life. But that’s all a part of it. When I allow that uncertainty and vulnerability to become a part of the performance, the fear vanishes and I just enter this state of pure omniscience and I think it convinces people who hadn’t seen themselves in that way that they too could simply get on stage pick up a microphone or anything else they felt like doing and be themselves all day all night and there’d be people who’d support it. That’s the best. I think art can become really revolutionary when it feels accessible and possible when it opens a door that someone else could easily walkthrough.

What is one of the bigger challenges you and/or other musicians are struggling with these days and how do you see it developing?

The influence that capitalism has had on art culture is a stressor for me. Personally, the pressure I feel to capitalize on my art at the highest level in this current structure can be paralyzing. I see the way it encourages artists to make decisions that end up compromising the authenticity and quality of their art as well as their mental health. There is this idea that you make art for money, rather than an understanding that you make money for your art. If you put your art first, the money will follow. The whole culture of capitalism is fear-based and risk-averse. I imagine that when some artists start to feel that not making the most money, or being the most popular online as quickly as they can is synonymous with failure, they might stop taking risks, stop operating with the fearlessness that it can take to make the most revelatory work and start moving in conformist ways that feel safe. It’s not the fault of the artist, either. We are deeply conditioned to play that game. It’s survival. And maybe not everyone would agree, but that’s when art culture starts to feel like an uncomfortable thing to participate in for me. I truly believe that putting the effort into figuring out what only you can offer and sticking to your vision, trusting your path and your individuality will eventually get you the things you want, it just might take longer, or require a bit more work, or maybe it won’t. Maybe it’ll be easy. Everybody’s story is different and there are so many different ways to get to where you wanna go. So there’s nothing to fear. I wish an understanding of that for every artist. 

What do you do when you’re not working on music?

Space cadet nation dissociation station! I’d rather fantasize about art I wanna make than actually make it sometimes, which is part of the reason I have long gaps between releases. I record myself just talking into voice memos for hours. I like doing that thing where you totally psych yourself out intellectually by being like, I’m standing here thinking. I’m standing here thinking about standing here thinking. I’m standing here thinking about telling someone that I’m standing here thinking. I’m standing here thinking about telling someone that I’m standing here thinking about telling someone that I’m standing here thinking about standing here thinking. That can go on forever. I call it “killing time.” Because not only am I trying to appease my boredom but I’m actually making the past, present, and future coexist, therefore killing the concept of time. I’ll act out whole hypothetical, random ass situations as if I was in a movie. That’s when I’m feeling good, though. When I feel not so good I can spend a lot of time shame spiraling and being judgmental of myself and others, or obsessively researching about personality disorders online or trying to find proof that I’m a good person or not by googling things like “am I a good person, how do I know?”

How do you get in the mood to write?

I go “Little Christy (that’s my inner child) you’re up!” Then I say “Hey all my dead family out there, time to pull up!” And then we all just convene in the center of my brain and give each other hugs like hey hi nice to see you again and then we get to writing. It’s so lush.