Dannika Horvat is a Melbourne-based renaissance woman who has scooped up awards for her filmmaking and has a solid photography portfolio. Dannika is her musical venture, along with band members Liam Parsons, Stefan Blair, and Paul Ceraso. The band recently released an EP entitled For Peaches, and today we’re happy to premiere the video for their track “Cake”:
In late October, I spoke with Dannika about personal pop songs, dipping your toes into many mediums, and her major love for VHS tapes.
ALLYSSA YOHANA: I work a lot with different mediums, and I’m always curious about people who start with a visual background and then decide to do something TOTALLY different. What is different for you about the creative process with filmmaking versus music making?
DANNIKA HORVAT: I’ve always been somebody who loves singing, but I’ve never really been a musician per se. And I’ve always been like, “Filmmaking is MY thing.” I found filmmaking because I loved writing, I loved photography, and I loved performance and music. I put them all together, and they created filmmaking. When I found that medium, I was like, “That’s MY medium.” I love filmmaking 100 percent, so much. I still wanted to sing, and I was surrounded by talented musicians in my life, and I was like, “It would be cool if we could one day write music together.” I tried a few times with Liam, the guitarist of the band. He’s my housemate and one of my best friends. We wanted to make music together, but it never worked out. And then I picked up a guitar, and that was when we were able to collaborate and write stuff together. It was at a period in my life when I had just finished studying film. I didn’t know what my next step was, and so I bought this bass and started writing music. It was a cathartic release. My music, our music, is quite personal. It’s very much like writing in a diary. My films and photography are my perception of the world around me, whereas my music is a voice straight from within.
When I was watching the video, it made me think of the personal pop song, and how more and more people are realizing you can pick up a guitar and TRY.
Yes! You can just do it!
It’s not as scary as you’d think it would be. The same thing goes for your music video: It made me think about people picking up a camcorder that was, like, in their parents’ basement or something. The home-video effect is so cozy that I almost feel like at the end of the video someone’s mom was going to come out with snacks or something.
Exactly! I have such a good relationship with VHS. It’s what all my home videos are shot on, and I love watching my old Christmas videos on VHS. That medium makes me feel like I’m in this warm hug or embrace.
How much influence did you have over the video? Did you shoot it? The video and the music seem so personal.
The video was entirely Hamish [Mitchell] from Solitaire. He makes incredible music videos. He loves VHS and works in that medium a lot. We shot it at Liam’s house. The room that we shot it in is where we recorded the EP, and it’s also where we wrote everything. It’s important, and where we started. It’s a beautiful house and a special place. It came together so quickly. Hamish was following us with the VHS recorder. It was beautiful how I didn’t know what he was focusing on while shooting it, and I liked watching it back and seeing the things he chose to focus in on. It was interesting to see what another person does in the medium I work in—to completely remove myself from it and be in front of the camera instead of behind.
There are so many people with a four-track recorder and a guitar in their bedrooms exploring their own perspectives with the same tools. What recording was like?
We were always going to do it at Liam’s house because Liam and Stefan recorded it, and they had their reel-to-reel at Liam’s parents’ house. The scale in which we saw this was quite small. It was almost a project where we were like, “Let’s see what happens if we do this. Let’s hang out with some friends and see what happens.” I’ve been surprised by the reception. I didn’t anticipate so many people getting to hear it, which is special. We didn’t assume much. It wasn’t even a question of whether we were going to do this in a studio, because we were like, “We’re going to do this at Liam’s house. Where else would we do it?” I like the intimacy it gives it.
I’m thinking about the people who will be reading this, and let’s say they go and order a bass online—
I hope they do!
[Laughs] because they are listening to you or whomever—so whose music made you go and buy a bass?
Right now I’ve been listening to Solange’s new album.
Oh, hell yeah!
Which is amazing. [Laughs] Frank Ocean’s new album, Beyoncé’s new album, and Rihanna—they’re the big guns. And then I listen to a lot of Good Morning, which is Liam and Stefan of the band’s other band—they’re incredible! I was brought up on Carole King and Joni Mitchell. They’re home. I love Karen O, I love Angel Olsen, what else… [Laughs] Oh! Mac DeMarco and Dick Diver! A weird mix of things. It’s either messy personal bedroom stuff or it’s POP music.
Let’s say someone is a painter and feel like they will always only be a painter, but want to try something new. What advice would you give them?
I would say to try it. Do it, because you never know what you’re going to get unless you try. It’s pretty basic, but it’s huge. The fear of the empty page is immense, but you have nothing to lose. [Music] is a new medium to me, and it’s not something I’m totally comfortable in yet, but there is this whole other world that you might find a special place in. Also, you don’t have to share it—it can be for you, which can be really powerful. I never thought I was going to show people this music when I started. It started with me writing with the bass guitar, that was it. I started recording it on my phone, and I sent it to my friend, and then she was like, “This is beautiful, you have to go and make this!” And that’s all the encouragement I needed. It’s special if it’s just for you, and then maybe it’s for somebody else, too. ♦