Hey. You. Watch Dena’s “Cash, Diamond Rings, Swimming Pools” music video real quick. Done? OK, cool, because there’s really no other way to experience her poppy Bulgaria-via-Berlin sound than to just straight-up listen to it. Ever since we heard this jam last summer, we just can’t get enough of her killer singles (and style!). Lucky for us, this March she’s releasing her first-ever album, Flash, and we caught up with her to get allll the deets.
Tell us about how you got into this whole music thing.
I’m from Bulgaria originally, and I moved to Berlin. I was studying Media Theory and Visual Communications. In the beginning, I had a band, and I was writing and making beats and programming and playing cords—I was self-taught. But it took me some time to finally realize that I wanted to write for my solo project. At first, I was exploring different setups, like playing with other people, and at some point I realized that I wanted to focus on writing. So I started doing DIY beats and chords—I basically started working more on my demos. Then, I met the producers here in Berlin. What I studied was more visual, so at some point everything clicked together. I asked a couple of friends to work on videos with me, so that’s how it started rolling.
That’s amazing. How do you come up with the lyrics for your songs?
Basically, the lyrics are often the first element. Sometimes I imagine how easy it would be if I had music and I could vibe off that, but often I write before I compose. I write hooks on how I feel and compose beats and chords to it. How it happens is that I need to really experience something, and it leads me to new things and explorations.
What inspires you?
Interhuman relationships. That sounded so Star Wars. [laughs] My most common topic is friendship and love. Sometimes I cause some drama to explore if there’s next level of inspiration that can be reached. I like to search for patterns in life that repeat. This new single, “Bad Timing,” is a super personal track, but in the end I’m always searching for something that repeats. My goal is to write so people can identify with me. Well, ideally, ‘cause you never know.
How would you describe your music?
Do you consider yourself a rapper?
Sometimes in my lyrics there are so many words that there’s just not enough time to sing it. I’m not a rapper in the classic sense of the word. For me, I have such a huge respect for rappers, that it’s not a big deal to write a couple of lines and loop them and repeat them in a talkative kind of way. I think when I write, I’m inspired by the hip-hop music that I listen to, but my aim isn’t to be a rapper too or something. If the two options were to be a singer or a rapper, I would want to be a singer.
Can you tell me about filming “Cash, Diamond Rings, Swimming Pools” because it looked hella insane.
We filmed it in Berlin at this flea market. It was a super spontaneous move, actually, because I filmed it with a friend of mine from Bulgaria, and he immediately knew that this is the vibe that I was going for. It was a super great vibe—there was no problem hanging out with those people. Everyone was into it. It was super natural. We filmed it for two days. We just went there to hang out and have fun. The other day someone sent me a GIF from the video, and now I’m like, “That’s so crazy!” I don’t know if I would go now. For the first time I had this moment where I was like, “Wait, we did this? This is insane.” I never actually realized it.
So, the people at the flea market were into it?
Yeah, yeah. There are some people who definitely wanted to participate, but of course there are some people who are randomly passing by that are like, “What the fuck?”
Tell us about your awesome sweaters.
It’s so crazy–the pink sweater in “Cash, Diamond Rings, Swimming Pools.” I don’t really have a thing for flea markets, but once I was at one in London, and I got this pink sweater from there, which is funny because it went from one flea market to another flea market. It’s Escada.
We noticed you’re really into scrunchies, and we like that.
Oh yeah, that was kind of a phase last year. I also had a baseball cap moment at some point, but then I cut my hair so I didn’t need scrunchies anymore. It was also kind of a coincidence that I would always have a scrunchie with me. Suddenly, it was a thing. I think scrunchies are cool. I think they found me at the right moment.
What trends are you feeling right now?
I’m totally tripping on reflective material—like those new Nikes. I think it’s like the next level of the holograms. Sometimes I catch myself saying, “That’s so 6 months ago.” [laughs] I got this super cool Beyonce hat from a friend of mine, too.
What would you be doing if you weren’t making music?
I’d probably be a tennis teacher. I used to play a lot at the tennis club. My father was pushing me so hard to become a tennis teacher. Every time I’m in LA, I try to play tennis there.
What’s your ideal day in Berlin?
I think for a workaholic like me, a perfect day would be writing three new songs or something. Perfect day—in terms of chilling out—would be to go to a cool exhibition and good weather, which is not so frequent here right now. Just having interesting talks. It’s so cool when people are inspiring you to learn new things.
Tell us about the first time you came to the U.S. Did you feel inspired?
The first time I went to the States it was life-changing for me. It made me realize how small Europe is. Being in LA is just incredible for me weatherwise and vibewise. The coolest thing ever in the States is that people speak to each other. Everyone’s like, “Yo, what’s up?” If you see someone on the street, you’d say, “Yo, I like your hat.” If you did that in Berlin to someone, they’d be like, “Why is this person talking to me?”
Your first album Flash is coming out soon! What can we expect?
Flash summarizes a moment of my life where I wrote most of the tunes. On the one side it’s reflecting the fact that nowadays it’s so much about information flashing at us. We consume everything in glimpses. Everything has become so short. It’s so much about super quick extracts of cultural information. Also, on the visual side, there’s going to be materials that are connected to that topic. Soundwise, it’s going to be a mixture of hip-hop and dance and more mellow tunes. More singer-songwriter kind of vibes. I think it’s a good combination between different sound and style explorations that I have been through.