French countryside inspires The Dø

French duo The Dø – singer Olivia Merilahti and multi-instrumentalist Dan Levy – took complete artistic freedom as they composed sweeping soundtracks for films like “The Passenger” and “Empire of the Wolves” and dance productions “Perle,” “Prologue” and “The Bridge is Broken.” But for their latest CD, the overseas smash “Shake Shook Shaken,” they decided to box themselves in, digitally. “We realized that we didn’t want real drums, and guitars didn’t really work, either,” says Merilahti, who relied on keyboards and added six-string to only one frothy cut, “Despair, Hangover and Ecstasy.” “It was a challenge to make this supposedly cold material as warm and human and gentle as possible.”

You and Dan live in Paris. But you record in an old 19th-century brick water tower in Normandy?

Yeah. Actually, we were looking for a house in Normandy, in the countryside, not too far from Paris. And a friend of ours was selling this incredible place with an actual red brick water tower, with four circular bedrooms inside it. So we built a studio there, and it’s really inspiring, almost medieval. It’s really great to be out in the middle of these fields, making music.

How strange is it to sleep in a circular bedroom?

It’s a weird feeling. That’s where we live when we’re working on the music, and you can go up really high inside the tower – it’s really tall. But when you wake up there, you just have to open the window and see that nothing has turned ’round, and see that you’re still in the same place, and that you still have the same view on the same field. But it’s an amazing view from up there.

Aren’t there wild boars in the French countryside?

We do have some boars. But there are definitely these animals that….I can’t remember what they are called in English. Like Bambi? Ah, yes – deer! There are deer all around the house, and they jump like kangaroos when they see us. Plus, there’s a lot of birds and foxes.

It’s only two hours from your house. But it sounds like another world.

Yeah. You don’t need to go that far to really get out in the middle of nowhere. And I love doing that, because I used to go to our studio for four or five days, then come back to Paris. And while I drove, I’d listen to the demos of the songs, testing them on the way back. And some of them worked very well in a rural landscape setting. But others worked better when I arrived in the very urban suburbs of Paris. And I loved the contrast of that.


The Dø

Where: Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St., S.F.

When: 9 p.m. May 29

Tickets: $13 to $15

Contact: (415) 861-2011,

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