New Obsessions and Static Phantoms open the show.
Named after an Italian speedboat company—corrupted with an extra i—Donzii was started in 2015 by vocalist Jenna Balfe and musician Dennis Fuller. The tumultuous journey leading up to the band’s first full-length release included numerous lineup changes, musical rupturings, and principled denials of industry rot, but the wedded core of the band, Balfe and Fuller, have maintained a pyre that finally alights on the debut album Fishbowl. A time-bending melange of genres, this definitive statement crystallizes the band’s post-punk vision: a unity of go-hard industrial bangers, darkly ambient balladry, and new takes on the funk traditions of No Wave.
Balfe and Fuller, both from Miami, met on an island in Biscayne Bay, the body of water separating Miami from Miami Beach. Balfe woke up in a tent and saw Fuller arriving in a boat, shirtless and donning a rainbow bandana on his head. “He had these nice vintage guitars and amps with him in the canoe,” Balfe remembers. The two spent hours picking up trash, but Balfe disappeared the next morning. Fuller didn’t see her for six months. An artist whose practice includes dance movement therapy, performance, and DJing, Balfe reappeared, and Fuller—a classically trained percussionist and film scorer—quickly fell in love. “Jenna's musical catalog is like, so much more vast than mine,” Fuller says. “It's one of the reasons I fell in love with her.”
Formed during jam sessions at a dilapidated suburban mansion from the ’70s, the Donzii galaxy has included a number of supporting musicians over the years, helping to form their poly blend of electronics, bass guitar, ‘80s utopian guitar and Balfe’s hauntingly spirited vocals. Drawing from the combustive family dynamics of all great bands—the sometimes sexual tensions, the creative jealousies, the red-hot chemistries—Fishbowl, recorded in studios from San Francisco to Hialeah, brings back nearly all the former members. The result is 11 infectious tracks, forming a Frankenstein’s monster of a record.
The first track, “Rightway Highway,” is an anthemic jam about escaping life on American Interstates. Guitarist Danny Heinze, the third permanent member in Donzii’s current lineup, delivers a panoply of loose yet virtuosic hooks on the track. Then there’s “Grave,” a synthy, slimy evocation of sex in a cemetery, which sits nicely next to “Baby Wilder,” a vampiric work of darkwave through-the-looking-glass. “Penetrate” is a seductive slapper of now-or-never fun.
Balfe’s poetic lyrics spill from many inner dimensions and intentions: “A lot of my inspiration comes from wanting people to think more deeply about being able to exist in a way that is more joyful,” she says. “Not in Live Laugh Love kinda way, but in a way that encompasses the material grossness of this chaotic life cycle with a little chuckle beneath your breath. Like watching sweet little pink flowers grow atop a pile of decaying bones and compost.”
Inspired by the full range of feelings on planet Earth, from the darkest corners to the sunniest days, Balfe and Fuller are allergic to trends but resolutely of the moment. Donzii is a therapeutic exercise in sincere and honest expression, a confrontation with demons, a celebration of getting lost. In many ways Donzii is not a normal band. But, as Balfe says, there is one rule of all great music that they follow: “We do it so people can dance.”