By Evi Pineschi
Photography by Emmanuella Zachariou and Noelle Duquette
In a society where distraction is prioritized, it is rare to find media that treats its audience with gentleness and understanding while simultaneously keeping them at arm’s length. DUVV’s latest work WITH YOU IN MIND is a dreamy and immersive mixtape that captures this abstract feeling; it invites and entices you, but also keeps its distance. DUVV is a Trinidadian-American singer who presently resides in Seoul, South Korea. A college exchange program serendipitously introduced her to the Korean music scene, where she has returned to explore the city that had inspired her love of singing.
The ten-track mixtape features DUVV’s dulcet voice coupled with otherworldly beats and harmonies, creating sedimentary layers of raw emotion in each subsequent song. Exploring themes of love, solitude, religion, and identity, DUVV takes the listener by the hand and leads them through the corridors of her mind, evoking a tenderness that is rare in today’s music world. Invoking these feelings of vulnerability was no accident, as DUVV explained that she “wanted to be more open with who [she is]” on this album. Every song has a distinct yet unpredictable arc, continually taking its audience by surprise. The track “WATERS (BLUE SCREENS)” begins with a dreamy piano intro, conjuring a sense of nostalgia. Then, the almost robotic voice of DUVV echoes across the track as it gracefully transitions into a more energetic beat. Once the listener begins to grasp the theme of one song, DUVV has already transitioned into the next. “I got more experimental not just in what I was singing about, but also how I sang about it,” she said, explaining how her process allowed her to explore and play with genre.
DUVV’s work has been categorized as R&B or alternative pop, but she finds these labels restrictive. They take away from her ability to delve into her music without established limitations. In a country as ethnically homogenous as South Korea, exposure to other cultures is often seen through a very specific lens. “In Korea, most of what is learned about black culture is through media, and sometimes that media is not accurate, or it just doesn’t tell the full story.” Navigating the musical climate of Seoul has provided its own unique experiences for DUVV, such as one she had at a hip hop festival: “I was the only foreigner on the lineup, and I did not sing any hip hop at all.” She laughed and described it as interesting, however, saying that “Seoul has a really special ear” and that it is cool to see “how culture can fuse, combine, and shape itself into different things here.”
The process of making WITH YOU IN MIND was a labor of love. DUVV had a strong desire to make something authentic and powerful, but lacked the understanding of how that would take shape. “I felt [this project] coming out of me and developing and growing, but starting it was rough . . . There were ideas that I scrapped and things I realized didn’t fit and that was frustrating because I wasn’t even sure what the project was yet!”
Besides the struggles with pinning down a concept, the creation of WITH YOU IN MIND suffered a host of other difficulties. From language barriers to illness to inexperience, DUVV stated that “this project brought out some of the worst in me I’ve ever seen.” The disappointment that she experienced manifested from the internal pressure she was exerting on herself, rather than from a producer or studio. “I was under so much stress working on this project . . . I was skipping meals, not sleeping, not eating well when I did eat. My body was just beat up because I wasn’t taking care of it.” The widespread belief that if one is not constantly working on their craft they are a failure was a feeling that colored DUVV’s own experience. “It can take a toll on your mental and physical health,” She said. “Rest is important for making your art, too.”
Having been a part of the Seoul music scene for just a short time, DUVV’s musical journey has only begun. Pursuing art, especially in a foreign country, can be daunting, but DUVV’s determination has yielded significant growth and understanding which will undoubtedly be applied to her next project. While DUVV did not elaborate on what that project might be, she wanted to clarify the intent of WITH YOU IN MIND, describing it as the “feeling of being alone with everything going on around you, but there are people going through the things you are going through. Even when there’s chaos, you’re still not alone.”
DUVV would like to acknowledge the producers Smells & Reno, Hae, Tama Rhodes, BRLLNT APRO, MOON YIRANG, and G-Slow, as well as Poclanos for their support. DUVV’s work can be found at www.iamduvv.com and on instagram and twitter @iamduvv.