Today sees the release of Chicago-based heavy rockers Djunah‘s debut album ‘Ex Voto‘. Eat This Music first caught wind of the duo with the release of their single ‘Animal Kingdom’, however, since the release of ‘Animal Kingdom‘, Donna and Nick have put together a fast, impactful 12-track album that showcases not just two people smashing instruments together, but a whole lot of time to showcase their tribute to the ultimate meaning of ‘Ex Voto’, which is “paintings”.
Eat This Music recently had the opportunity to have a chat with Donna from Djunah on the release of the album. Speaking on the story of the album, Donna explained that ‘Ex Voto’ takes its name from a given “tribute to a saint or deity for presiding over a healing or recovery from a tragedy.” For Donna though, the album is essentially a tribute to her own self-healing. “Self-healing is “when you preside over your own physical, mental, and spiritual care”, Donna adds. Ex Voto “is to honor people who have had to search for alternative methods of healing for their pain, such as gut healing or energy healing.”
Now that ‘Ex Voto’ is out, Donna expressed how it is a big relief for the album to be out. Donna has “been working on many of the songs on this album since before the band even formed,” so the fact the album is finally out to the world is a “relief”.
The above statement does not do justice as to how much Donna and Nick put into the production of the album, in fact, speaking on the influences for the album, Donna explained that the “music is highly emotional, so most of it is based on” her own “experience, personal and political.” Much of the “songwriting process is based on how different sounds feel physically in” Donna’s body and also what “sort of emotional response they evoke” in her. A “lot of the early work in” Donna’s creative process “is very intuitive, almost like sculpting without a specific vision in mind.” And then once Donna has finally landed “on a vision” for a song, Nick and Donna “work together to execute the different parts.”
Donna’s old band, ‘Beat Drun Juel’, broke up before Ex Voto “could be made”, so Donna “had a moment where” she “had to choose whether to scrap the songs” she had “already written and start over or whether to see the album through to completion.” Donna believed “so strongly in the material,” she just “had to finish it.”
“Seeing the album through to completion was healing in itself. It’s definitely the album I needed to make, not just an album I wanted to make.”
On why Djunah wanted to release the album now, Donna explained that they had recently “opened for Kurt Ballou’s band, Converge, in August” 2019, And since “Kurt recorded the album” with them, they “thought it would be a good moment to announce the release so everyone could hear what an amazing job he did.”
For those still unsure of what to expect from Ex Voto, Donna states that the album is “both a solid, straight-up rock album” and also “a pretty unique sounding collection of songs.” Djunah does not “fit neatly into any one genre or lineage of bands,” so, essentially, if you’re into “a lot of different genres” and “have a pretty broad knowledge of music,” you will “probably like this album.”
Still unsure where to begin? Well, Donna has you covered, however, it just depends what type of mood you are in. “If you’re looking for something straightforward and accessible, “Animal Kingdom”, Donna states. And if “you like rippers, “Yarn”, is the song for you. And, finally, if “you want something that’s really going to blow you away, “Nurse and Nun.”
Still unsure whether you should give Djunah a chance? Well, Djunah is two people,” but they “play three instruments.”
“Nick plays drums,” and Donna simultaneously plays “guitar and bass (with her foot).” Everything Djunah does “is 100% live—no loops, no samples, no backing tracks.” Donna is “really proud of that fact.”
Djunah’s debut album ‘Ex Voto‘ is now out through digital streaming platforms.