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Noon Records Interview: Duszno

Duszno, a shoegaze band hailing from the vibrant musical landscape of Warsaw, emerged from an unexpected genesis in February 2023.

What began as a simple post on a Facebook group evolved into a harmonious convergence of five like-minded individuals, all driven by a shared passion for creating ethereal musical landscapes.

With a keen desire to strike a delicate balance between the cacophonous and the serene, Duszno‘s music is characterised by swirling layers of sound, where distorted guitars punctuate the dreamy atmosphere. Drawing inspiration from the rich traditions of both shoegaze and dream pop, the music of Duszno left a lasting feeling on me when  I first heard the EP on the iconic DKFM shoegaze radio. From then on, I was hooked, and quickly became a fan.

In this interview, we discuss their debut EP, “Washed Ashore, released in November 2023, as well as the origin of the band, studio setup and future aspirations. I hope you enjoy reading their story.

“In my opinion, every song from Washed Ashore has that unique nostalgic core inside of it, I’ve felt it even in more energetic ‘Sinking’ – missing something that I can’t describe using simple words.” – Karolina

Hey Duszno! Can you tell us a bit about how Duszno came together as a band and what inspired the name?

Piotr: Duszno started on Facebook, when I posted on one of Warsaw’s groups dedicated to finding musicians to work with. I finally found some confidence to start a shoegaze band I’ve always dreamed about, but I did not have any musicians I could do that with in my circle of friends. It proved really successful, more than 10 people replied to me.

I’ve invited some of them to come for a rehearsal and we kind of went from there, with me, Robert (second guitar), Ula (bassist) and Mateusz (drums). Karolina (vocals) joined after a while when we had some first ideas to work with.

As for the name, we collected some ideas from each of the band members and took a vote. Duszno was actually my idea, so I’m glad it won! I wanted something short, catchy-sounding and in Polish. English word for Duszno is ‘stuffy’, but I think it sounds better and has a little more meaning in Polish.

“I think it describes shoegaze quite well, usually shoegaze is very dense-sounding, with guitars filling the mix without leaving much ‘air’ in the room.” – Piotr

 

How did the idea for the debut EP ‘Washed Ashore’ come about, and what does it represent for the band?

Piotr: From a musical perspective, we wanted a way to show some of our early work to kind of ‘announce’ ourselves as a band. That’s why the material is diverse, representing different ideas we’ve had in our heads. What stitches the EP together are lyrics, building nostalgic atmosphere and revolving around water.

Thanks to releasing the EP we were able to play our first gig and get invitations to play more, not only in Warsaw. I feel like it was a good way to start.

Artistic Process

Your music is often described as a blend of dream pop and shoegaze. Could you elaborate on how you approach merging these genres in your creative process?

Piotr: I think that the labels we and others put on our music are just a way of positioning ourselves on the genre spectrum, not something we actively think about during our creative process. 

Blending influences comes naturally I think. I really like classic ‘‘loud-quiet’ dynamic in songs, so often verses are naturally more ‘dream popy’ and choruses and bridges more ‘shoegazy’ I think it can be seen pretty well on ‘Shore’. If you look at “Surface”, the use of synth organs references Beach House a bit, but lead guitar, especially as the song goes on, gets more aggressive and last chorus features a heavily distorted rhythm guitar. So blending these sounds come naturally, because these genres are close to each other and use similar effects & instruments. 

I think it also comes naturally from our experiences and main influences we draw from. I look at My Bloody Valentine a lot when thinking about rhythm guitar, crafting distorted, wall-of-noise sounds, but others can prefer a bit more ‘airy’ sound, so we try to balance that.

Duszno - Shoegaze and Dream Pop band from Poland
The music of Duszno is inspired by the rich traditions of both shoegaze and dream pop.

What influences or experiences typically inspire your songwriting and lyrical themes?

Karolina: I see writing as a self-reflecting process. My main goal is to be authentic and to bring all kinds of emotions to the table. At the same time, I like mixing them up with a little bit of mystery. While writing Washed Ashore I was thinking about the town I’ve been to during the summer holidays – Tynemouth in Northern England, especially its exquisite shore with high cliffs and priory ruins surrounded by a cemetery. I wanted to somehow bring the atmosphere of that place into my lyrics.

“I also draw my inspiration not only from my recent or past feelings but also from every little special interest I am currently having. This time it was mostly Tarot cards, Nick Cave’s love songs, and modern psychology topics that stole my attention.” – Karolina

Musical Style and Studio Setup

How do you achieve the balance between the “noisy” and “airy” elements in your music, both in the studio and in live performances?

Piotr: I think a lot of what I said in question three applies here as well. As for the technical element, I think that using distortion & fuzz in the right moments allows you to achieve that balance. If you want to clearly separate pieces of a song, stepping on a distortion pedal at the right moment is really helpful.

“Playing dynamics is also important, especially when playing with a lots of delay. Striking a chord once gives you these nice, airy swells slowly dissolving into nothing, but when you start to strum faster the repetitions create tension and make the sound denser, sometimes also breaking rhythm structures.” – Piotr

I also really like songs that are distorted from start to finish and using other pedals, whammy bar and varying the lead also leads to great effects. Combination of using whammy bar, reverb and distortion basically reduces guitar sound to a texture, strums become less pronounced and everything gets blurred together. If you pair that up with an airy lead, it becomes really dreamy, even though its a wall of noise.

Live you sometimes have to tone down the craziness a little bit so that everything doesn’t disintegrate into a noisy glob of sound, but other than that the rules are similar i think.

Could you walk us through your studio setup and any particular equipment or instruments that are essential to your sound?

Piotr: We were recorded & mastered by Kuba Korzeniowski in Zamiostudio in Warsaw. I’m not really that competent to talk about recording tricks, so I will focus on what I know – guitar pedals.

My go-to weapon is Boss BD-2. Even though it was created as a ‘blues’ pedal, it gives you a great variety of distortion sounds to work with, and when it’s cranked up, it can really turn into a noise machine. I was inspired to buy it by a youtube channel called pedal partners which is a really great place to learn about effect pedals that can be used for shoegaze. When I watched one of their videos in which they played MBV’s Sometimes using just the Blues Driver, I was sold. 

“A trick I like to use for creating walls-of-sound uses multi-tap delay to achieve loud swells of sound from a single strum. On very short delay time, the taps almost start to blend into a single swell a couple of seconds long.” – Piotr

If you apply distortion before or after, you get this massive noisy swell, almost hiding your strums entirely behind a wall of noise. You can hear it in the bridge of Shore and I’m sure I will be using it more in the future.

Releases

‘Washed Ashore’ marks your debut EP release. What was the journey like in crafting these tracks, and what messages or emotions were you hoping to convey through this collection?

Piotr: I think the most interesting part of this journey was to get to know each other. We’ve started as total strangers and most of us are introverts, so it was hard at the beginning to suggest alternative solutions or express our opinions clearly. I view these songs mainly from this perspective.

Karolina: When the instrumental version of a song is ready, I write lyrics and compose a vocal melody. During that process, I respect the atmosphere that other musicians have created and I work with that, adding my part to it.

In my opinion, every song from Washed Ashore has that unique nostalgic core inside of it, I’ve felt it even in more energetic Sinking – missing something that I can’t describe using simple words.

While writing and composing my parts I’ve realised that somehow songs make sense in a specific order.

“‘Shore’ is just a beginning, an introduction to the melancholic atmosphere of the seaside, a place where it all begins. ‘Surface’ goes from the seaside deeper into the cold sea and speaks about darker feelings, but it also mentions hope.

Where ‘Sinking’ is about diving into the unknown waters head down and taking a leap of faith. The last song – ‘Sunlight’ is full of incompatibilities. It’s about being stuck in a pattern that was supposed to be already broken, but it wasn’t. We return to the beach, but just in a different way than we wanted.” – Karolina

Future Aspirations

Looking ahead, what are your goals and aspirations as a band? Are there any particular milestones or achievements you’re aiming for?

Piotr: I think our main goal for now is to release an LP. We’re working on new songs, we have lots of ideas that we need to turn into full tracks. Being optimistic, I would like us to record at the end of the year.

We also want to get better at playing live, so we’re grabbing any opportunities that come our way and try to reach out to other bands to play with us in different cities in Poland. I think the most exciting event we’ll be a part of is the second edition of Karków Shoefest, a mini shoegaze festival, which will take place March 15-16. 

As for the future goals, we’re taking things one at a time. I realise how difficult it is to break through to a wider audience, especially when playing shoegaze in Poland. I would really love to play Off Festival in Katowice at one point, because this probably most iconic Polish festival when it comes to showcasing independent music. All three of Ride, MBV and Slowdive had played it in the past, so why not us?

How do you envision your sound evolving in future projects, and are there any new musical territories you’re eager to explore?

Piotr: For now I expect our sound to get a little more focused and ‘ours’. It’s natural that you start wider and then find a formula that works for you. So I would think our next release will be a bit more coherent. At this point I think we will be working to find a sound that works well for us and for all our different inspirations. I don’t expect any drastic changes for now.

“As for the future, who knows what will we be creating within Duszno later. I would like to try myself at ambient one day and I know that Robert is also trying something in post-punk direction. Will these ideas be incorporated into Duszno at one point, or will we work on them separately? We will see.”- Piotr

Duszno - Shoegaze and Dream Pop band from Poland

Closing

Finally, where can listeners find more information about Duszno and your music, and how can they support you?

Piotr: We have social media profiles we try to update regularly on Facebook and on Instagram.

To be up to date with our music, follow us on YouTube, Spotify or Bandcamp where you can buy our music.

If you are living in Poland, chances are we’ll come to you town in the near future, so watch our social media channels to be informed!

Is there anything else you’d like to share with your fans or potential new listeners?

Piotr: I think we have a pretty interesting shoegaze/dream pop scene in Poland forming up, so check out other polish bands out there. I’d recommend this Spotify playlist to start with. As my personal recommendation I would choose Zachwyt and Panic Forest. I think it’s important to look at the local scene and support each other.

I hope we gave you a reason to go and check us out!