The LA electronic duo DNDR, comprised of Ola Palsson and Ludwig Jonsson, recently released their debut single “Shine A Little Light On Your Own Mind” and are already turning heads with their upbeat and breezy tune. Although both men are from Sweden, their paths didn’t cross until they had moved to LA. Drawing comparisons to such artists as Avicci and Bleachers, Palsson’s punk and indie roots blended perfectly with Jonsson’s electronic influences to create gorgeous and upbeat music that, while energetic, makes you feel something. The duo’s main goal is to make crowd’s dance and let people escape reality for a moment. Their debut EP All We Know will be released soon and I think it’s safe to say we can expect great things from DNDR going forward! Our staff writer Emily May spoke recently with Palsson and Jonsson by email and discussed the upcoming EP, their move to LA and what’s next for them. You can stay up-to-date with the band’s music and upcoming tour dates, as well as where to stream and purchase their music on their website, Facebook, Instagram, Googleplay, Spotify, SoundCloud and iTunes.
You are both originally from Sweden. What was it like growing up there and how does living in the US compare? What are some of the differences in the music scenes here versus Sweden?
Ola– I consider myself extremely lucky growing up where I did for a thousand reasons or more. One that probably makes sense to mention here was the opportunity to from a young age learn an instrument through affordable public music schools, which for me very much functioned as a slingshot into the world of playing in bands. Living as an adult in the US compared to Sweden is in many ways similar and in many ways very very different. As far as music goes, not so much though. People play in bands and try to make it just like here. And if we’re talking pop music, a big chunk of it is probably written by swedes. 😉
Ludwig– I agree with Ola. I’m super proud to be Swedish and growing up there was an awesome experience in so many ways. As far as the music scene goes there’s definitely a lot more shows happening over here, which is very inspiring and fun. I love how you can go see a intimate show with one of your favorite bands at a smaller venue like El Rey instead of it being a commercial event at some big venue in Sweden. It makes it a little more personal if you know what I mean.
Your music combines your punk/indie and electronic influences into your own unique sound. Did the fusion of your different musical influences come naturally once you started writing music together? What was the inspiration behind DNDR?
We come from pretty different backgrounds when it comes to music but we realized before we started writing that we were drawn to the same kind of melodies, productions and structures in songs. And once we sat down and started working on the first tune it was like we’d never done anything else, it’s been very easy for us to write together.
Your music has been described as “emotional dance music”, as opposed to the “fist-pumping” style of electronic music. What inspired your style of music? Who would you count as musical influences?
In general I think most people like the energy that dance music evokes so that’s where that inspiration comes from, but as far as the emotional side of our music goes it definitely comes from growing up listening to certain bands. Listening a lot to Beach House, Eva Dahlgren, Julio Iglesias, D’angelo, Cyndi Lauper and Deathcab for Cutie to name a few has definitely influenced the emotional aspect of our sound.
Ludwig- I read that you had initially planned to become a professional hockey player but that you injured yourself at 19 and could no longer play. Having been influenced by music growing up, what led you to decide to pursue music as a career? What drew you to electronic music?
Right after my injury my brother’s buddy and now my friend introduced me to music production and me knowing I wouldn’t be able to play hockey the same way I devoted all my time to music production. Music completely filled the void that not playing sports had created. It was such a relief knowing that I now had something I could do everyday all the time, that didn’t require my body to function a certain way and knowing it would never be taken away from me. The fact that it became electronic music was because that’s what my brother’s friend was doing at the time. My brother introduced me at a very early age to bands like Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk and Aphex Twin and that obviously played a big role too. My brother has always been on the forefront of music discovery so a lot of my early influences came from him. I also didn’t have any musical training growing up so the fact that I could make music that I liked without having to play a specific instrument was pretty cool.
Ola- You have been involved in music for a while, as well, and formed the musical project Silver Pine in 2015. What can you tell me about your journey to music? Did you always want a career in music?
I’ve been playing drums since I was a kid, started playing in bands around then as well and went on to study music with the intention of becoming a session drummer, that changed when I discovered songwriting and I decided that I didn’t just want to be in the back playing someone else’s songs. I always knew I wanted to work in music I just didn’t know exactly where and how 🙂
What led you each to want to move to the US and what drew you to LA specifically? You two met in LA, despite both having grown up in Sweden. How did your paths cross in LA and what made you decide to make music together?
Ludwig– Since I can remember I’ve always romanticized about America. Everything on TV and in the movies growing up was American so the interest for the U.S. was born pretty early. Obviously that’s what movies are all about but everything just seemed so much bigger and more exciting over here. I went to Colorado as a 4-year old and I still remember that trip clearly as I remember feeling like I was in a movie. Small stupid things like eating Nerds and drinking Dr Pepper to bigger things like the insane landscapes. After my injury I didn’t really have anything that kept me in Sweden (aside from family and friends of course) so a move to the states made a lot of sense to start a new chapter. Me and Ola met in a class that was a part of a music production program and we kind of instantly buddied up. That specific class was very peculiar (we didn’t learn a lot haha) and I think that in itself helped the bonding experience. After the class we started talking about collaborating but Ola moved to Portland and I was doing other stuff so nothing really happened. When Ola moved back to LA in late 2017 he hit me up and we decided to meet up and try some things and from there it was just on.
Ola– I had been playing in a band in Sweden for a while and when that kind of ended I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I had been coming to LA every other year for a while to visit friends, so when when a close friend back in Sweden decided to move to LA and asked if I wanted to come too I just went for it. I got into composing and scoring pretty soon after moving but when me and Ludwig met up again l realized that it was time to get back into songwriting.
Ludwig- You have also done work in commercial post-production, composing music, sound designing and editing. Do you feel that you have a unique perspective on things, being involved in both sides of the industry? What led you into that line of work and what have you learned about yourself and the industry in the process? You also write music for other artists, commercials and web content and edit videos for various other projects, as well as perform in your ’80s inspired project Twins. Do you feel that staying involved in so many other aspects of the industry keeps you inspired?
I wouldn’t say that it’s given me a unique perspective necessarily but it was very helpful in understanding the importance of deadlines, finishing projects and dealing with clients. It allowed me to get a better understanding of the other side of a creative project. I stepped into that world in a pretty dark period of my life so it was never a passion driven move but more one out of necessity. That time and those experiences kind of cemented what I already knew deep down, which is that I have to work with passion driven things as opposed to stuff that’s controlled by money or anything else. I love any form of creation whether it’s producing music, working on a website or taking photos. It’s kind of a blessing and a curse because there’s always something to do but it’s hard to hit the off-switch and just not think for a second haha.
Your debut EP All We Know will be released soon. What can you tell me about the EP? Ola- I read an interview in which you mentioned that there has been an ease and positivity that has acted as a guiding light for the whole process of writing and recording the EP, that there was no struggle with it. What do you think created such a smooth and effortless process? What do you think makes the two of you such compatible musical partners?
Ola– We talked about it before we even started writing, that ego and weird agreements had no place in the process. It needs to be fun and light and it needs to be about the songs, not us patting our own backs. We’ve kept everything out in the open so if something comes up we’ll talk about it and solve it immediately. Like I mentioned before we tend to be drawn to the same type of melodic structures and productions but come from different enough musical backgrounds that it’s still super interesting to each of us what the other one comes up with.
Ludwig– I agree a hundred percent with everything Big O’ just said.
Your first single “Shine A Little Light On Your Own Mind” was recently released. I read that you created most of the structure, production and melodies for the song while in the same room, a process not used for many of the other songs on the EP, which were worked on remotely. Is there anything you prefer about working remotely on songs and then coming together to finish and develop them or do you find that working together in the same room is ideal? How did you reach the point where you were comfortable sharing simple ideas or things that weren’t done yet and work on them together?
Ola– As far as coming up with ideas for songs it doesn’t really matter if we’re in the same room or not. But once we have that first demo or structure it’s definitely easier if we’re sitting next to each other, it just goes faster and it’s also pretty amazing to be able to share the excitement when someone comes up with something awesome. Same thing there, we talked about it. That if we were going to do this properly it had to be completely open and without judgement. It’s only really hard when you send over the first one.
Ludwig- You have mentioned always having struggled with accepting that you wanted to pursue a career outside of the norm, in your case music, having grown up in an environment where having a “normal” occupation and a stable income is what you should have. How did you overcome that hurdle to pursue your passion? Ola- Have you ever experienced any similar hurdles or have you always been confident in your pursuit of a career in music?
Ludwig– I think I’m just a pretty stubborn person. I have a pretty good sense of what makes me happy. :). Hockey was my passion and all my dreams were based around that and when that wasn’t an option anymore I refused to give up on my passion so instead I changed it to music. After putting in as much time into music as I had into hockey and still feeling I had so much to learn I realized that this was something I would never stop doing. Having a clear passion that makes me happier than anything else has always helped me overcome any hurdles.
Ola– I realized really early on that I wanted to pursue music and luckily my family and friends have always been very supportive. But I’ve had a job on the side my whole life up until I moved.
Ola- Your daughter is on the cover of the single for “Shine A Little Light On Your Own Mind”! Is she pretty excited about it? How does she like the music?
Yeah she’s stoked, but she’s also stoked about most things in life so I’m not sure if it’s the tunes.. 😉
What’s next for DNDR?
We have 5 more songs coming and will start playing shows in the next few months.
Check out DNDR’s newest single “Still Here” below: