Interview: Indie-Pop Band, Donora, Talks About Musical Evolution And Upcoming Album
With infectious layers of pop rhythms and sweet lyrics, the members of Pittsburgh-based indie-pop band Donora have been crafting candy-coated anthems for over a decade. They've already got four full-length records under their belt -- but lucky for us, Donora is set to release their new album, Sun To Me, on October 27th. To tide you over, we're spotlighting "This Heart," the lead single off the upcoming record.
"This Heart" is an explosion of vibrant multi-instrumental rhythms led by rapid percussion and merging guitar and bass lines. Casey's vocals are strong and bright, belting out the hook -- "Can you keep up with this heart of mine?" -- with a playful intensity, operating with a hop-and-skip timing that experiments with musical anticipation as listeners eagerly await the rush of sparkling indie-pop unity. Clocking in at just over two and a half minutes, "This Heart" is a deliciously upbeat love story told by insistent percussion and sugary melodies.
We caught up with lead singer Casey Hanner to chat about the production process, the band's favorite memory, and their musical evolution.
The Music Mermaid: First, can you tell The Music Mermaid a little about yourselves and your music?
Casey Hanner of Donora: I'm Casey and I play guitar and sing. Jake H. is my brother and plays the drums, triggers samples from his octapad, sings backup, and records our albums. Jake C. plays bass and is the only real trained musician of the group. He is more of a lead guitarist, but on the bass. We like to make positive, fun music that you can dance to.
TMM: Describe each band member using 3 words each.
CH: I'm Simon, Beyonce, and Phoebe. Jake H is Alvin, Kelly, and Monica. Jake C is Theodore, Michelle, and Rachel.
TMM: What is the music scene like in Pittsburgh and how has it influenced your work?
CH: It's a very supportive community. Pittsburgh is a small city, but it has a large music and arts scene. Everyone knows each other and comes to each other's shows. The local independent radio station, WYEP, is also a huge supporter of local music. This kind of environment has helped us find our own sound without having to worry about trying to be a cool new buzz band.
TMM: Can you talk about the production process behind your upcoming record, Sun To Me?
CH: My brother, Jake H, has a studio at his house north of the city. It's a great space where we can be creative without feeling the pressure of time and money constraints. We did all of the writing and recording in this studio, and my brother did the mixing for the album as well.
TMM: Is the songwriting process collaborative for you guys? What are some central themes you dwell on with your newest album?
CH: Yes, the songwriting process is definitely collaborative! I think the main themes throughout this album are sun, heat, and fire. To me, that represents passion, and this album is all about living passionately. It's about having things you are willing to stand up for and fight for. It's about choosing love.
TMM: How has your music evolved since your debut release back in 2009?
CH: I think throughout the years we've learned what our strengths are (both individually and as a band) and we've figured out how to play to those strengths. We also started out writing songs all together in a practice space -- since then, we've shifted more to writing and creating in a studio environment.
TMM: Who are three musicians you think the world needs to hear right now?
CH: Like I said earlier, the Pittsburgh music scene is great! Three Pittsburgh bands everyone should hear are Townsppl, The Buckle Downs, and Nox Boys.
TMM: If you could collaborate with one musician, who would it be and why?
CH: We would love to work with Ric Ocasek on an album. We think he is an amazing producer and songwriter.
TMM: What has been your most memorable musical moment so far?
CH: One time after a show, this big surly dude came up to me and told me that our music made him "dance like a little kid." That was one of my favorite compliments ever.
The Music Mermaid: Finally, what’s next for Donora?
Casey Hanner of Donora: Good question! I was pregnant while we were recording this album and I now have a 10 month old (I almost can't believe it!) so things are a little different this time around. No extensive touring plans right now, but we are going to try to get out there for some shows, and we're always in the studio working on new stuff! A cover album might also be in the works... So who knows!
Photo by Nicole Lockerman.