Danny and Danielle are best friends who’ve recently begun recording under the moniker Magnolia. They’re an unlikely duo on first sight, but the more time I spent talking with them the more I peeped how they balanced each other out, like true Gemini. Their album Perspicacity Over Paradox is available to listen and download now.
Y’all started off the project with a 13-minute song in “trippin for a second” but it works though. What mad the two of you bold enough to do that?
Danny: I just knew it was a ballsy way to start off and I just decided that we were gonna do this.
Danielle: I was a little hesitant as any artist would be if their producer made such a ballsy decision, but we talked about it and decided that if the listener couldn’t make it pass the first song then it was their loss. Plus it acts as a great transition from our last work.
So this isn’t you guy’s first project?
Danielle: This is our first “real” project but we’ve done some things before.
Danny: We’ve been making music together since ’09. It started off as nothing serious, just me playing guitar while she sang in my backyard. But when Clift [Bored Lord] and I started our Oxford Icebergs project we brought Daniele in on that.
What kind of music was Oxford Icebergs?
Daniel: Just a bunch of shitty drum wear and borrowed keyboards.
Did it sound like this album?
Daniel: Yes. I would say this is the evolution of what Oxford Icebergs began. But between that we have about 8 albums worth of music together just sitting on my hard drive.
How’d this project get started?
Danielle: I called Daniel on New Year’s Eve, 2015…or New Year’s Day.
Danny: Actually, all of New Year’s Day, I was asleep in the bed, hungover. I didn’t wake up until January 2nd.
Dani: Well, fuck, I texted him. But I just had the feeling that 2016 had to be different for me. My son was turning 1 years old and, T.M.I., but I’d just stopped breast feeding him and I hadn’t really gone anywhere without him or done anything for a year. After I stopped breast feeding I decided that this year I’m going all in. I wanted to make an album with Danny and I wanted to start on my photography. And that’s what I did.
What goes through your mind when you’re breastfeeding your son? Is that too personal a question?
Dani: Not at all! I’m just like “You’re not gonna die today, baby!” It’s funny, but really “I love you so much and you’re gonna be so healthy and big.”
Daniel: I remember you telling me about the Platinum Breastfeeding Club.
Platinum Breastfeeding Club?
Dani: Yeah, it’s all just made up but there are different levels depending on how long you breastfeed. At 6 months you get a gold star. I did a year so I had, like platinum nipples.
Dani: It was a good year. I got to lose myself in my son and then find myself all over again.
So how did being a mom change your music making process?
Dani: Well of course as an artist I still do this art thing for me. But I know one day my son will listen to this album too and I couldn’t help but think about that when I was writing a lot of this album. We all lived through the tension of the last couple of years and my son, Sean is a quarter black. I know most people will identify him as being a white male but I want him to know that he’s more than that. We all are, and we have to embrace that fact and just because you may be able to pass as white that doesn’t make you translucent. It’s who you are.
I can definitely feel that in the song lyrics. A lot of the lines seemed like really bold declarations on the last year or two. There ain’t no good in everyone, there’s no love in this place if you can’t respect my race, if you don’t see a problem then you are one, and No one really cares what hurt feels like. Are these your messages you want delivered.
Dani: Definitely. You hear things growing up like “no one’s out to get you” and “everyone is inherently good” but there’s a lot of hatred still ingrained here. Is not overt hatred no one’s gonna run up screaming insults, probably not. But I think that a false sense of safety can be dangerous for everyone.
What do you think about that, Danny, as a white man? The fact that a lot of us feel that it may go back to how it was when even overt hatred was common in this country?
Danny: When you listed all of those lyrics from the song it made me have a moment. Like the line “I just realized no one cares what hurt feels like” to me it’s just a part of the song which is a part of this project that I’ve been working on for months. But hearing it mean something to you makes me remember all over again that it really could go backwards. Those words mean something to people who have just as many feelings as I do.
Why the title Perspicacity Over Paradox? I had to look up the meaning of perspicacity and it means, pretty much, being able to perceive truth around you. I still don’t get the whole title, though. Care to explain?
Dani: Well I’ve always loved the quote “Mind Over Matter” and that’s how I chose to live my life. I don’t want to trip over the issues that come my way. I always try to maintain the mental capacity to deal with it all. Perspicacity is having the keen-ness to make sense of all the contradictions you see – the paradoxes.
Why not just title it Mind Over Matter?
Dani: I wanted people to have that same experience that you had. The not knowing what the words meant, to looking up the meanings, to putting it all together. So I used a thesaurus, I’m not ashamed to admit. I love Thesauruses.
Daniel: I remember Dani came to me like “I have the title for the project” and then we spent a while just trying to figure out how to say it.
Dani: Yeah, it took us like 2 months to get comfortable saying the words all together. And, to me, that’s ok! I don’t see any problem with learning things.
The two of you have been working together for a while. Was there a formula to your approach this time around?
Dani: Well, actually, Danny would send me a skeleton beat of the track that he’d have named already and, whatever he titled the track, that would give me my direction. We did that on all the songs except for one.
That’s actually dope as fuck.
Daniel: And the way I name my beats is the moment I’m done with it, the first thing that I hear is gonna be the name of the beat. I finished a beat and turned to Danielle and she said “hold on my bad I was tripping for a second” and I named the beat that, Trippin For A Second.
Dani: And then I named the song “Trippin For A Second”
Y’all ever tripped acid before?
Dani: Not me. Danny has.
Danny: I’ve tripped aloooooot.
Do the two of you consider yourselves woke?
Danielle: I definitely consider myself woke.
Dani: I don’t consider myself woke.
That’s an interesting juxtaposition. Why do you think y’all have differing positions, despite being best friends?
Dani: I only consider myself woke because I’m actively trying to know. I take in a lot of information, I read a lot of books, I minored in African American studies when I was in school so, in that sense, I consider myself woke. To take in information and allow it to directly or indirectly touch every aspect of your life, that’s woke.
Danny: Well, I like listening. I have a lot to say but I would rather not be vocal.
Dani: I don’t think Danny’s one to speak on experiences that he’s not directly connected to.
Are the two of you best friends?
Dani: Hell yeah, we’ve been best friends for 10 years now.
So If I said that Danny drinks a lot, is funny as fuck and he loves rap music what could you add to my portrait of him?
Dani: He’s also very in tuned with his emotions. We’re both Gemini so we connect on that level.
What does that mean?
Dani: We just have that duality about ourselves, we’re very in touch with our feelings but we have the ability to disconnect as well in order to keep our mind over matter.
And Danielle, in my opinion, is cool, intelligent, very graceful and well spoken. What else is she?
Danny: She’s just genuinely a nice person.
Did either of you guys learn something new about the other while working on this album?
Danny: Yes, definitely. I always knew Danielle could sing her ass off but after this album, hearing her range on every song has low pitches and high notes everywhere. I knew she could sing and write but with this project she put them together so well.
Dani: Where Danny would take the songs after I had recorded my lyrics, I couldn’t have imagined that. I think this is the hardest we’ve both pushed ourselves to do the best work that we can do.
That seems to be a staple of the Rare Nnudes fam, elevating a song to another level after the artist has done their part. Where’d you all get that Kung Fu from?
Danny: I’m surprised that I have that Kung Fu because I worked with Michael [Minivan Markus] and that guy is awesome.
Danielle: Yeah, Michael is so talented…
Danny: Yeah, let’s sit here and jerk Michael off for a minute because he deserves it.
Danielle: Working with him [on mixing and mastering] the last two weeks before the album went out was an amazing experience.
Danny: I gave him every stem, every track and he put them on his mini-fridge of a computer and went in.
Danielle: His ear is impeccable.
Any other shout outs?
Danny: Shout out to Charles, Michael, and Clift. Charles helped me with all of the tape samples that you hear. That was Charles and I playing the harmonica.
If you took a blank canvas and played this album at the same time, what do you think you’d paint, skills withstanding?
Danielle: I’d probably paint an oil painting – a self-portrait – with something beautiful in the background. Maybe a West Virginia mountain top.
Danny: I’d paint like some Bob Ross style trees.