A sweet musical landing in Dënver, Chile.
Chilean wonder-duo Dënver (as they say, “the band, not the dinosaur”, whatever that means) claim that music comes naturally to them. Mariana claims she learned to play the guitar at the same time she learned to walk – and partner Milton supports this story, finding her jerky-dancing charming enough to approach her at a party some years ago. The duo have put out a number of incredibly catchy songs in this year’s release “Musica, Gramática, Gimnasia” and, unable to stop humming them, we invited them to talk shop, share some music, and tell us why there is no such thing as a “Chilean” sound.
Tell us a little bit about yourselves; who are you? how did you meet? where are you from? Where do you live? What’s the history of the band?
Milton: Dënver is made up of Mariana Montenegro and I (Milton Mahan), we’re from San Felipe, a small town 150km north of Santiago, Chile. We started to play together a few years ago when we were still high school students there. We met each other because I had a band and we were searching for a keyboard player and then Mari started to collaborate with the band. Once the group disbanded, we started to create songs with keyboard and acoustic guitar only, and using that format we recorded our first EP, “Solenoide”.
Mariana: When we graduated from high school, we moved to Santiago because San Felipe doesn’t have any universities with art or music programs. We met and became friends with bands from Santiago via Internet and started to get some gigs with them there. After, we signed with a small indie label called “Neurotyka”, and with them we recorded our first album, “Totoral”. We played a lot in Santiago and other Chilean cities. In 2009 we recorded our second album, produced by Cristian Heyne (who is also the producer for Javiera Mena, Gepe, Supernova, etc.) though we had to wait until this year to launch it. The first single and video “Lo que quieras” won the Festival del Videoclip Chileno 2010 (the Chilean Videoclip Festival)
Dënver – Lo Que Quieras
Musica, Gramática, Gimnasia (2010)
Dënver – Estilo de Vida
How did you meet?
Milton: At a party, Mari was dancing, making really strange movements to the song Chop-Suey by System of a Down. She really caught my attention, so I started to dance with her and then we talked all night long and liked each other immediatelly.
Mariana: Hahahahaha, that’s true!
Why did you decide to make music?
Milton: I have been in bands since I started to play guitar, at the age of 14. Since then, I had been writing songs, so, for me, it’s natural. Piano and guitar are really good anxiolytics and i think this is another reason to make music.
Mariana: I’ve been into music since I was a little girl, my father was a songwriter in his youth, and he made a record. There have always been musical instruments around my house (a piano, a guitar…) and I learned to play the piano and the guitar and to sing at the same time that I was learning to speak and read. I had a band with my sisters and cousins called “Montichicas” and we made a lot of songs inspired by the Spice Girls and Supernova. After that, I met Milton and with him I’ve listened to and found a lot more music.
How would you describe your sound?
Milton: To me it’s straight-up pop, without adjectives or surnames.
What dictates your musical aesthetic? What do you look for when composing?
Milton: I like the idea of creating an imaginary culture around dënver, in which the listener shares some feelings with the characters and feels empathy and compassion towards them. I think i had a simmilar experience when I was a teenager with some bands and that made me feel less lonely. For made the new record I was very influenced musically by Carly Simon and Abba. Also there’s a lot of literary influences, the world created by José Donoso, Adolfo Couve, Andrés Caicedo and Clarice Lispector have recently influenced me a lot. In a sense, I feel like a musician with frustrated literary aspirations.
Do you think there is such a thing as a “Chilean Sound”? If so, do you have it? Why or why not?
Milton: For the last few years, efforts with a pop sensibility have been emerging in Chile that maybe could be unified in some stream, but think it’s more closely related to the intention of making pop as a genre than with any particular sound. I think it’s a different way to approach the songwriting that is maybe related with authorship and the choices of the author.
Mariana: I don’t think that a “Chilean sound” exists, music is too interconnected globally at this point.
Dënver – Diane Keaton
Musica, Gramática, Gimnasia (2010)
Dënver – Corazón de Andrés
What is your relationship with Neurotyka?
Milton: Neurotyka was our first record label but it dissapeared like eight months ago, now we working with Cazador, where we released our second LP “Musica, gramatica, gimnasia”
What do you do when you’re not making music?
Milton: I’m studying sound engineering, so I’m permanently tied to music, but in my leisure time I try to go to the movies as much as possible, to download as many movies as I can and recently I have been approaching the audiovisual world, so I made a few video-clips, like the one that promotes our first single “Lo que quieras”. I also like to make up ideas for new videos
Mariana: I’m studing Musicology, and I also work in the university library as a assistant.
Who do you dream of working with?
Milton: R. Stevie Moore!!!
In your opinion, what bands or musicians are creating the most exciting work today?
Milton: I’m very excited about a Chilean girl named Fakuta whose record I’m helping produce. She’s a great songwriter of sweet pop melodies with a touch of perversion. She’s great with lyrics. I think that 2011 will be her year. Another great recent discovery is a band from Uruguay called Carmen Sandiego, they make a really honest music, that is hugely expressive. Their record is one of my favorites this year and it can be downloaded for free here.