DoNormaal: A little bit of everything
by Keenan Ketzner
photo by Helen Moga
We live in an amazing time for music. The boundaries between genres, and how we think songs should be written and presented, are changing rapidly. Mostly thanks to the internet; but you also need a hint of creativity to spark that flame of true artistry, as is the case with Seattle artist DoNormaal.
DoNormaal is the solo project of Christianne Karefa-Johnson, a nomadic and queer songwriter whose artistry spans many sounds. Part rapper, part singer, part spoken word, enmeshed by hints of cloud rap, R&B, trap, alternative rock, and certainly anything in between that she can work into her music.
Growing up (an aspect often reflected in her lyrics), she lived an admittedly introverted life having moved various times throughout her childhood. This is where she developed a very close bond to her siblings, as well as an interest in poetry and art.
“I’ve always been a big music fan since I was little, but it wasn’t until I was in college until I finally considered getting into it myself…,” Christianne said of her entry into music. “And I did poetry in college, where I ended up meeting some other kids who were also doing poetry and rapping, and basically decided to try it out myself… It’s one of those things that seem hard at first, but I think because something I’ve been already doing my poetry has always been very rhythmic and has a musicality to it, that it seemed like a natural, and separate thing from my poetry.”
After putting music out there and gaining some confidence in the field, the first DoNormaal album was born. Jump or Die is an intimate pastiche of nostalgic memories. Hazy vocal hooks fluctuate over near-subharmonic bass, creating a lo-fi soundscape reminiscent of a mental stew. It’s explosive and low-key at the same time.
Along with her inherently euphonious combination of sounds, the lyrics of both the first record and the second record, THIRD DAUGHTER, strikes a particularly aching chord with their brutal honesty. There’s a lot to unpack in nearly every song, which rewards the listener the deeper they get into one of DoNormaal’s albums.
Generating her lyrics is an interesting process. After finding a particularly good instrumental online in which she wants to collaborate on, Christianne goes into a meditative state and starts freeform associating ideas until a song is formed. “I’ve been rhyming so much since I was young, that [the lyrics] just kind of pour out of me… And I don’t even know what the song is about until it’s all written, and I can step back and see, oooh, that’s what I was talking about.”
Each song seems to be a caricature of some aspect of herself, exaggerated and shown off with authority. This really comes through in her live shows, in which she says she has performed hundreds of, sharpening her talents each time. These, along with the visuals in her music videos, have become another aspect of DoNormaal’s artistry. In an average live show, DoNormaal will physically change into another character through body language and facial expressions.
“I do like a lot of smiling, and a lot of frowning, and sometimes moving really joyfully like a child, and sometimes walking really guarded like a macho dude… and I jump between these different altered identities and it comes across like a flash of characters. And I don’t know why I do that, but I think it’s because in every song I try to… embody every emotion imaginable: sadness, happiness, boastfulness, cockiness, vulnerability. I try to smash those into all of my songs, so when I’m performing live, that’s what I do to emphasize that.”
See DoNormaal perform on June 8 at Western’s Lawnstock. Find some of her creative gems online, with a new album on the way that focuses on futuris, and human-technology communication. Follow her social media for updates and listen in through Bandcamp and Soundcloud.