Get Familiar: Darina Miller
The voracious multi-media talent Darina Miller has been on a mission, to be more like herself every day. In this latest record titled 'Gloss of a Butterfly', we hear her as she steps out into the great wide world. It is a coming-of-age record that pushes bedroom-pop tropes with glittery crescendos, vocal features and an amazing level of polish for a debut EP. We expect great things in her future, Darina Miller also features on our upcoming Patta Soundsystem showcase for Echobox presents Amsterdam during Amsterdam Dance Event. Now is the time to get familiar with Amsterdam’s crown princess.
How did music first enter your life?
It was from a super young age while I was living in Aruba, I think when I was 4-5 years old doing ballet, listening to the piano sounds and moving on the notes. Next to that, my grandma has a big original Aruban tree in front of her house, called Divi Divi (it’s still there). Me & my family would sit there in the evening breeze during family parties, and play the guitar, tambourine and this instrument called the Guiro, but instead of using the made-for instrument, we would use a cheese grater to create the same sound.
While I’m doing this interview, I’m reminiscing back to those times, it’s crazy how I forget that those moments really formed me musically as well, back then, I was just admiring my family being super cool. My mom was also always listening to Lucky Dube, UB40 & Bob Marley on DVD, she would play them while she was cleaning, or we would have Friday evenings with her friends, and then we would all look at those concerts and sing along. I would also do a lot of karaoke through the WII with that game called Singstars, I swear I already thought I was a rockstar back then while singing. Those memories are always with me when I’m in the studio, that’s what I want people to do with my songs and concerts, to inspire and to create moments bringing people together.
What musicians did you look up to coming up?
Certain phases in my life matched with particular musicians, when I was an 11-year-old kid, it was Justin Bieber in his ‘Baby’ era because he was so musically talented! When I was 13, I can name Destiny Child, Nelly Furtado, but it was really Timbaland, the man behind the productions, that inspired me. His beats are sexy, club, feel good productions that slap.
When I’m in the studio, and I really want to make a sexy song, I refer to the time that Nelly Furtado - Promiscuous girl came out, that’s one of the sexiest songs ever. Also, the first time I received a CD was from Gorillaz, my favourite band of all time. At the time of making my EP, I didn’t want to be influenced by a lot of musicians, I just wanted to learn their techniques.
What are some of your earlier attempts at making music before you were doing what you do now?
I went to music classes from a young age, I would say I was 7 or 8 when I started with the basics of music, playing the flute, and reading notes. You had to do the basics of music before you could choose an instrument, so I chose the piano. I was in piano classes and singing classes. I really wanted to be a musician, and those were my first attempts at understanding the techniques. I did several performances at that time with the flute, piano, dancing and also I used to play in musicals.
You have a very analogue sound, so for the gear nerds out there, can you let us know what you’re working with?
Haha, yes! Basically, when I start a new session with a new producer, I always let them listen to Portishead because that’s the quality and emotions I want the listener to feel and what I strive for. After that, we use plug-ins like the gross beat. In the studio where I recorded 4 of the 5 songs, we used a Neumann TLM 103, that’s really my favourite mic. The way it captures the frequencies is gorgeous. After that, my mixing engineer Tom Ruig made sick edits to it, he always strives for the analogue sound in his mixes, as that’s where he comes from. For the master, we had Sam IRL create a very analogue master to it, he used a Studer A810 tape machine, from the early 80s, and analogue EQs. I won't go into full details on the process, but it really made the finishing touch.
Your energy for creation is exceptionally infectious, how do you stay so motivated to create?
I’ve been creating since I was a young kid, I used to have to craft Wednesdays with my mom. We would choose something to craft, go to the art store, get all the things necessary, and go back home to spend our entire afternoon finishing our art project. This was normal for me, writing, making stuff, reading books and music were things that I did every day. For me, it’s weird if I don’t create something, I just can’t.. haha literally, I can’t. When I feel sad, the first thing I think of is going to the pink studio on Singel, to be in a bunker where I can just freestyle on a beat to get my emotions out and, after that, create a song out of it. Or when I feel happy, I want to create a video to capture those special moments or even when I’m out with my friends, I always have my camera with me, because I love taking pictures of them. They are beautiful. For me, it’s in emotions where I create and choose what I create. It’s so deep in me, it would be weird for me not to spend all my time making beautiful projects. My motivation comes from seeing my goals and where I want to go. I want to be rocking on a world stage with my girls jumping in a moshpit, or doing a stage dive during my shows, man. That's just what I want to do on the weekends, and during the week, I want to be busy creating new art pieces every day without the stress of a boss or money.
Who are your favourite people to collaborate with?
Ok, I'm not sure how to say this, but I love working with gear nerds in general. Those musicians love the technology behind it, and those love analogue. In my free time, I smoke a joint and watch tutorials about how to use a plug-in and interviews with people like Steve Albini. I love learning in general, so for me to learn from the people I collaborate with is bliss! Oh yeah, important I also love people that finish their projects!
What journey took you to where you are, in terms of the aesthetics that you appreciate in music?
Going back to where music started or where some songs are sampled from, listening to Jazz every day and appreciating the magic of how it’s recorded. I love the crispy sound. For me, the journey was to find my way into the old techniques but make them modern, and that was by doing it myself and producing myself. Understanding how producers sample songs, so I have the knowledge to talk to producers about how I want it to sound. Reading books and films on early age rockstars, Bikini Kill, Joan Jett, and females that made a difference. Also, going to concerts and seeing how the performers I admire use their vocals and breath.
I suffer from asthma, so at the beginning of making this EP, I had to use my inhaler consistently in the studio, that's how I would start my sessions. I can say my journey was about learning the things that I liked or wanted to be better at but did not understand the process yet.
What is special about the scene in the Netherlands to you?
For me, this scene is also my family, I’ve made a lot of friends while working and creating art. I think it’s a beautiful place where we gather to create and have fun moments together.
I grew up in Amsterdam being reckless, meeting my friends at Central Station, Perron 2 with my best friends Ray & Tirino, skating, making videos, smoking and being the only girl in the group. I remember Ray and Tirino bullying me so much when I was young, but they made me tough for the world.
For me, this scene is the most artistic, humble and open-minded scene in the world, and that’s because we love ourselves and trust in our craft. Nobody can tell us shit. That’s the mentality I grew up with and will also stay with for the rest of my life. This scene is not about age, gender, or how rich you are; if you have a great idea and it benefits the culture, everyone is open to listen and help.
What does the rest of the year look like for you?
Working hard. Finishing my next project with Daze Bower, working on the Life of The Reckless expo in Paris for next year, doing shows, and going to Paris\ London to see my friends. Throwing a big Christmas dinner with my friends and my infamous NYE party.
I’ll be mainly focused on digging deep into my art in a peaceful and patient way. I feel like with my following projects (my second EP and exhibition in Paris), I'm researching my traumas based on the themes of love, friendship and the perspectives of others on this.
What do you get up to when you're not working on music?
I’m either editing videos or content, taking pictures, searching for new music or anything for Life of The Reckless. Life of The Reckless is the place where I express my art, and I hope others also feel the freedom of using this channel to do that through our Instagram or events. As I said, I’m always creating or working… If I'm not doing this, I'm most likely sleeping or eating.