When Djunah frontwoman Donna Diane tells us she simultaneously plays both the guitar and bass, as well as singing, we presumed she was joking. But it turns out to be absolutely 100% true.
The list of artists who can pull triple-duty instrumentals and still deliver a mesmerizing live show is likely to be pretty short. But Chicago duo Djunah, completed by drummer Nick Smalkowski, do just that, with Donna combining guitar duties with pounding a huge Moog bass organ with her foot to deliver raw, aggressive performances.
On their unusual get-up, Donna explains: “Djunah is two people, but we play three instruments. Nick plays drums, and I simultaneously play guitar and bass with my foot. Everything we do is 100% live—no loops, no samples, no backing tracks. I love the challenge of playing two instruments at once and singing.” Check out this video to see how she does it.
The duo’s latest single Animal Kingdom, which was released last month, is a raucous blast of noisy, grungey rock goodness that typifies the Djunah sound.
It dives straight into fast-paced guitars and rolling drums under Donna’s low vocals, then big guitar noise drops into another edgy verse. The guitars pick up pace as Donna’s vocals intensify, then high-pitched darting guitars come in under wild high-pitched screams. Chuggy guitars come in under more wild vocals, then it drops into a verse that brings the track to an end. It’s fast-paced and furious, and we love it. Give it a listen below:
On the track, Donna tells us: “It’s the first track on our album and a pretty good introduction to what we do. I wrote the lyrics based on Myrna Loy’s character in the 1932 film The Animal Kingdom.
“In my favorite scene, she comes downstairs in a negligee to try to seduce her new husband into staying home instead of going to his ex’s art show. After she gets him all worked up, she pulls a total ice queen maneuver, walks back upstairs, and is like ‘Don’t forget your heavy coat. Better keep warm.’ I love how evil she is! All the paranoia back then about women’s power to corrupt through sex is also very hilarious to me.”
Sex, indeed, seems to be a big focus of Donna’s lyrics, as she tells us: “I write about sex a lot. Politics too.”
To get more of a taste for the Djunah sound, check out their intense previous single Brother in the video below:
You might be surprised by Donna’s musical influences, as she tells us she listens to a lot of early/pre-war blues, soul and R&B. Her favourite singers are Tina Turner and Lou Rawls while she also loves Bo Diddley.
In reality the Djunah sound probably couldn’t be much different. In Donna’s words: “We’re heavy, noisy, and still fairly melodic. If you like aggressive guitar, big drum fills, and an even ratio of singing to shouting, you’ll probably like us.”
There’s plenty more to come from Djunah with their debut album Ex Voto, which was produced by Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou, set to be released on 1 November. They’ll then be touring the Midwest and south-eastern states of the United States, along with releasing an “outrageous video” for Animal Kingdom next month.
We love the noisy rock sound of Djunah – which is typified by Nirvana’s Blew automatically following it on our Spotify – and can’t wait to hear more from them with their debut album.