“Traditional French music is too intellectual, not animalistic enough,” says Olivia Merilahti, the half-French, half-Finnish lead singer of the Paris-based band The Dø. The same cannot be said for The Dø’s recently released debut album, appropriately titled A Mouthful, which infuses whispery folk-influenced pop melodies with some serious Kate Bush–style banshee-ism. Merilahti met Dan Levy, the duo’s other half, five years ago while they were both recording music for the film Empire of the Wolves (2005), a French thriller starring Jean Reno. In a way, they’re unlikely collaborators: Merilahti was weaned on post-punk, Whitney Houston, Nirvana, and West Coast hip-hop; Levy spent his youth listening to free jazz and Bartók. Nevertheless, the couple, who formed the band about two years after they started dating, live in the suburbs east of Paris and work out of a home studio crammed with books, artwork, and countless instruments. A Mouthful features touches of ukulele, saxophone, glockenspiel, and xylophone. The latest addition to their collection is a harp, which may see action on The Dø’s next album. Merilahti doesn’t know how to play it yet, but that hasn’t stopped her from trying. “It’s like a magnet,” she laughs. “My fingers are just drawn to it.”
Photo: Olivia Merilahti and Dan Levy of The Dø In Paris, November 2009. On Merilahti: poncho and socks: Chloe. Jewelry: merilahti’s own. Boots: Vintage. On Levy: Cardigan: Missoni. Cardigan (worn underneath) and t-shirt: DKNY. Pants: Adam Kimmel. Sneakers: Nike. Right: On Levy: Cardigans: Same as above. T-shirt: American Apparel. On Merilahti: Jacket: Pringle of Scotland. Sweater: Banana Republic. Hair products: Bumble and Bumble, including thickening hairspray. Fragrance: DKNY Love from New York. Styling: Sabrina Marshall. Hair: Ramona Eschbach/Artlist Paris. Makeup: Steven Canavan/Artlist Paris. Special Thanks: Fondation Cartier.