- Carola Kolbeck
Shattering stereotypes: Dolores Forever on Connection and Representation
© Photography by Dolores Forever
Dolores Forever is about more than infectious melodies and emotionally charged lyrics. They are changing the face of pop music.
Interrupting their jam-packed schedule for a quick chat with INJECTION Mag are Hannah and Julia, singers of indie-pop duo Dolores Forever. Julia, from Copenhagen, and Hannah, from Yorkshire, were introduced to each other by a mutual friend at a party who thought they’d get on well. Both have a background in music and songwriting, and shortly after, Dolores Forever was born.
Since then, the singer-songwriters have already played at major festivals such as Glastonbury and Reading & Leeds and are about to play their first-ever headline show at the Omeara, London. Their thought-provoking and catchy songs have already garnered hundreds of thousands of streams on Spotify and have been showcased on BBC Introducing.
Their latest single, When I Say So, carries on this success and grips listeners with beautiful vocals and melodies, and harmonies that remind them of the legendary Woodstock era.
Though far from living in the past, Hannah and Julia are clear on their path in the music industry and set the bar high to show that pop music is indeed for everyone but that there is always room for diversity and representation within the genre.
You’ve had major hits since you started as Dolores Forever, such as Baby Teeth, Kilimanjaro, Rothko, and Funeral. Are you surprised by their popularity, and why do you think your fans love them?
Hannah: I think it’s always quite amazing to create something from nothing. You make a song, then you finish it, and then you make a video and artwork, and then it reaches people - that process is constantly fascinating! We don’t really think about what will happen at the other end of the process until we’re at it. So it’s always surprising, I think. We can hope that people will like it, but we are so focused on making music. Obviously, it’s an important bonus that people like it because we want to keep doing this!
Your lyrics beautifully describe human relations, problems, and the nitty-gritty of friendships and romantic connections. Are those personal experiences, or do you soak up stories from other people, too?
Julia: I think a lot of them are actually very personal. They come from sitting together and discussing life, what we’ve been going through, and things that have happened in the past. And then songs sort of spring out from that. It’s not like a rule that it has to be superpersonal, but it just ends up being more real to us. And when you have to be on stage singing something, then you want to feel it, and personal songs just hit a bit harder.
In the end, what’s fun about music and lyrics is that you write the song, but it’s up to whoever listens to it to decide what it’s about.
Can you tell us a little bit more about your single Rothko - has the artist Mark Rothko significance for you?
Hannah: Again, it came out of sitting and discussing things, and I suppose the concept came originally from the angle of post-relationship hindsight and thinking about whether that person truly did understand you.
And we both really enjoy Rothko’s art; there are so many layers of interpretation of Rothko’s artwork in the same way that there are many layers of interpretation with human beings. The big feelings and complex emotions really fascinate us, and I think there’s a mirroring in his art with that concept. Also, it just sings a bit nicer than van Gogh! [laughs]
Julia: There is also this idea of these big paintings, and it’s like: I thought you saw me, but you didn’t even see me…and I was right here! You know, that kind of image as well. Like, if you’re standing in front of a Rothko, you can’t not see it! It’s like that idea, too. So it just fits really well.
© 'Orange and Yellow' by Mark Rothko | Courtesy of Shutterstock
Your single, Conversations with Strangers, was selected for BBC Introducing late last year. How did you feel about this epic reception of your new single?
Julia: Incredible! We love BBC Introducing; it’s such an amazing platform for emerging bands like us to be played on the radio. It’s incredible!
Hannah: It’s always an amazing feeling when people are connecting with the songs because we’re in our little world, and it makes loads of sense to us but finding that it also makes sense to other people is cool, very cool!
Conversations with Strangers has turned into an interesting and fun, let’s call it “social experiment” where you are asking your fans to message you their secrets. What were the best secrets people told you?
Hannah: We were just trying to think about the differences between talking to someone you know versus someone you don’t know - sometimes that’s quite liberating, the safety in anonymity. We found that people were really open to being very personal and sharing some really deep stuff. So, it was eye-opening and sort of comforting that people do want that in life: chatting with a stranger. It has its purpose. I don’t think we’ll go into any specifics for you, though. [laughs] You’ll have to go to our TikTok!
The video for Conversations with Strangers is beautiful, and a work of art, so simplistic and so real, and the outfits are fabulous. Julia, you were pregnant when this was filmed, which is something you don’t see very often. Are you aware that you're being quite revolutionary as a band?
Julia: I mean, it was just what was going on at the time. I love that video so much! We made the video with our friend Francesca Allen, who is phenomenal, and we've done all our visual stuff with her over this last year. She has great visions and great ideas, and the outfits are great! We’re super proud of that video, and I am proud that I was pregnant in that video - my son was born ten days afterward! But also, I feel like it shouldn’t be revolutionary; you know, this is life! Pregnancy isn’t a thing that should be hidden away in music or women. It should just be part of it. And I think it’s beautiful to see a representation of all sorts of things, whether it’s being pregnant or anything! There should just be space for everything; there should be platforms for everything because when you can see things out there, then you feel a connection.
Hannah: Pop music shouldn’t just be representing one type of person, age, body image, experience, class, whatever it is; there is room for everyone, and art is more interesting when it’s varied, when it’s different people’s lives and experiences, and that’s what we firmly believe in. And like Julia said: That was where life was at at that moment, and we’re very proud that we carried on and made an amazing music video that we all love.
You’ve talked about being a woman in the music industry and how blessed you are to have such a supportive team around you, but also that you’re ready to set the record straight should anyone try to undermine you because of your gender. What advice would you give to women starting out in the music industry?
Hannah: Be resolute about what you want, and I think you have to set yourself strong boundaries. Showing weakness can, unfortunately, be exploited at times, so if you’re certain about what you want and how you want to achieve it, then you can’t be swayed by other people. That’s not easy, though; we all have moments of weakness. I think there’s a great support network in the music industry these days, and many people want to look out for each other, especially when you’re newer in the industry, especially among women.
Julia: Make allies! Make teams! And also stand your ground. Believe in yourself. If you know something is right for you and what you want, then keep believing that, and don’t let anyone tell you that it’s wrong or that it should be different. You know better at times!
What can fans expect from your upcoming gig, and can you share with us your plans for 2023?
Hannah: Loads more music is what we’re aiming for this year. We are busy finishing some songs at the moment, and we’re so looking forward to releasing them! So, we’re just super excited about developing Dolores Forever and showing people what we’re about.
Julia: Yeah, so we’ve got the headline show on 15th February at Omeara, London, and we’ve just finished a run of dates supporting Spacey Jane on their UK Tour, which was so cool! We’ve got so much going on right now, it’s almost like exploding, but it’s all such amazing stuff, it’s such a ride, I love it! We just can’t wait for people to hear the new songs! We’re such songwriters, after the last song we wrote, we said: This is the best one, and we want to keep making more songs!
© Photography by Dolores Forever
It’s clear that Hannah and Julia are not just changing the face of pop music but are carving out a career on their terms and for the love of songwriting and telling relatable stories through their music. They are candid about what’s important to them and relatable through their authenticity and wicked sense of humour.
Already tipped by major music brand NME as a future festival headliner, big things are just around the corner for Dolores Forever. Their talent and love for music shine bright, giving strength and hope to their fans and aspiring musicians - and setting an example of being unapologetically yourself.
Follow Dolores Forever on Instagram and TikTok, check out their website, and listen to their latest single, When I Say So, on Spotify! You can also sign up for updates on upcoming gigs here.