In 2010, Ondrej Holy aka dné had big plans for his career. He ambitiously decided to work on releasing an EP, and afterwards, a debut album. However, an unfortunate setback in his health and a bad case of writer’s block reared their ugly heads simultaneously and slowly, the artist started to lose his motivation.
Just when he was about to throw in the towel, a wave of inspiration hit him, and he decided to go back to basics. He thought to himself, “What if I limit myself, and just base the album on piano and a human clap? You don’t have to find a right sound for either of them, they have had one for centuries”. Dné is a man that appreciates simplicity; he strays away from stock audios that any old youth with a computer could make use of. Dné prefers trapping sounds from real life audio – which can be as simple as moving boxes or recycling glass and plastic – and mixing them into his tracks. The result is a raw, unique sound that stands out from other musicians.
The artist’s new album is titled These Semi Feelings, They Are Everywhere, which includes gorgeous orchestrations, sample-heavy tracks and a vibe that’s a fantastic fusion of making you feel happy and sad at the same time (but in the best way). The album makes use of a mixture of instruments (which Ondrej is no stranger to) such as guitar, voice, strings and piano. It’s no wonder that Majestic Casual snapped him up to be a part of their label, because he’s got that perfectly chill out vibe dripping out of his songs.
Wonderland gets the privilege of premiering his track “Driving A Car While Listening To Bill Burr’s Podcast”, and yes that is actually the real title. Ondrej makes use of cheeky, literal song titles throughout his album, to accurately represent the real life themes the tracks are based on, including romantic misunderstandings and late-night chats. Other great names include “Public Making Out Is Ugh” and “Asos Model Crush”. You can expect the same carefree vibe in this track as in the rest of his album, and it’s sure to leave you feeling longing, uplifted and optimistic, all in one giant wave of sound.
How would you describe your sound to us?
I like melodies that are on the border of pretty and the good type of sad. I don’t like sad melodies that are invasive and take energy from you. I wouldn’t want that. I always make sure they are kinda uplifting. Then I use a lot of organic stuff, background noises and textures. My focus for this album was piano and human clap. I love these sounds, they are instantly good. I don’t enjoy looking at a list of 1000 synth presets or browsing through endless banks of drum samples. I deliberately limited myself for this album, otherwise I would never finish it. Too many options scare me.
What’s the inspiration/story behind “These Semi Feelings, They Are Everywhere”?
The title basically means when you live your life, go out and meet people but have trouble finding somebody you feel passionate about. Instead you just live a long series of these semi feelings that are ok for the moment but don’t leave a significant memory in the long run. That’s still so unreal to me, you know, to meet a girl, fall in love and actually want to spend time with her, I mean weeks, months, years just being together, going to IKEA and doing stuff. Love stories. I have the little ones, I am ok with that. I just had to name my album like this because I happen to live it.
What’s your favourite track off your album? What kind of songs can we expect from the album?
I like all of them. To me, the album plays like one coherent piece. Songs are separated but still blend in together. Anyway, expect a single happy tear at the end of the road.
All of your track names are so cheeky, we love it! (Especially “Asos Model Crush”) How did you come up with the song titles?
Thank you. I want my music to be as personal and real as possible and since I can’t sing I have to deliver the message in a different way. Every title means something specific, some are obvious, some just little jokes. One song on the album is called “Reality Swallows Pusheen Cats” which basically means when you talk to somebody online, getting possible signals and thinking the other person is interested in you, then you meet in real life and it turns out things are not that hot after all. Basic experiences, really.
What’s it like being signed to Majestic Casual? How did that come about?
It’s very cool. I didn’t plan any of this. When I finished my album back in 2015 I didn’t have a manager or any contacts. My plan was the usual – send a bunch of emails to labels and hope that somebody opens them. Then one spring afternoon my friend Igor (of DEATHS) came to chill at my place. He sat on the couch and sent my album to some people via his cellphone. We were getting instant reactions. I remember that being a very intense afternoon for me. One of them was Josh, my current manager, he has a lot of connections to labels and music people in general. He sent it to Majestic, they liked it and that was it. So thank you Igor, Josh and Majestic. You’re sweet.
What’s your creative process like when you’re creating a track?
I start with a little piano melody or just some simple beat. To do that, I either record something or take existing audio and find random cool sounds. Let’s say you have a 5 minute video of somebody recycling plastic and glass, they’re moving boxes, walking around, putting PET bottles into containers. All of it makes sound. You just have to watch for the right ones, then you make a beat out of it, use single sounds or cut the low end and use it as a background noise for your track.
Then I play some melodies over it and when I am lucky it all clicks together. It usually takes a lot of time, false starts and discarded versions. I am not an immediate type of artist that could make a song on a laptop during 2 hour bus trip.
Not being classically trained, how did you learn to make music and play instruments so expertly?
I am no expert, trust me. I just play some tones and follow my ear. Throughout my teenage years till 22 I had played drums in bands. We never actually made it to the stage, we were just rehearsing, breaking up and rehearsing again. Around that time I found out I could write a song by myself. I started to learn guitar and piano by just playing it. Never actual chords from a textbook. I guess I was lazy. I was past that child phase where you have to learn or else you’re grounded. To this day I don’t know what scale or chords I play. Sometimes it’s annoying, it would be great to instantly know my options and what can follow after certain chords. I’ve tried couple of times to learn it, I just don’t have the discipline for it.
The album was a 5-year long process, what challenges did you face, and what did you learn during that time?
I started working on the album back in 2010 and didn’t finish a single song for it till 2013. I had a major crisis. I had made a lot of piano melodies, I just didn’t see a finish line for them. I began to hate music making. You work on a track all night feeling like this might be it. You go to bed full of hopes. Then you listen to it the next day and it sounds like shit. The night was just playing you. I had a hundred of those nights and no prior success that would calm me down and tell me it was gonna be alright. I was really self-conscious as a producer. All 17yo soundcloud producers were much better than me. I think I started to panic at some point. I was trying out random things without a confidence that would justify it. I was ready to give up. Music was an ocean of possibilities and I hated it. I needed some boundaries, a concept that would limit me. Piano and human clap. Go.
Also, my health. I have a rare type of Muscular Dystrophy (kalpain 3). MD generally means that your body is not able to maintain muscles, or only in a limited amount, so you are losing them. There are many types of MD, mine is somewhere in the middle of severity. They found it when I was ten, I got a wheelchair when I was twenty, now I am thirty. I live on my own, I can take care of myself, drive a car etc. Thing is, I am getting weaker everyday, and with this natural progression there is a possibility that in 5 years my hands will get weak to a point I will not be able to play piano or any instrument. That was kinda haunting me through my years of crisis. Music is the only meaningful thing I do, what if my body doesn’t let me and I am not able to finish the album in time. Would be a bummer. It’s cool I made it.
Who is an artist that you would love to collaborate with?
Toro y Moi is a boss. I just feel he would be far ahead of me in everything. So I don’t know, I don’t have any collaborative goals, to be honest. Making something together with friends sounds nice.
Who are your biggest influences?
Ambient and folktronica from Japan around 2005-2010, I grew up on that. Then Khonnor’s 2004 album Handwriting for melancholy and production, that’s a big one. Raleigh Moncrief’s 2011 album Watered Lawn for some beats and production. Shlohmo’s beats around 2009-2011. And French Kicks’s 2004 album Trial Of The Century for crispiness and overall mood. Love that album, the way they engineered drums is incredible, their hi-hats sound so pretty. That goes for all of their albums, this was one is just superior in songwriting.
What are your plans for the future?
To write new songs. Meanwhile would be cool if Drake or Kanye sampled me. We can chill.