From a recent packed-out arena tour opening for Billie Eilish, and today's release of her new explorative EP 'comfortably in pain' Dora Jar's momentum is only getting started. When I connect to the zoom call with the bubbly singer, I’m greeted with a loud “Hell-ooo-oo!” her audio not entirely connected yet… I can’t help but laugh as I can feel her high energy through the screen. Dora Jar is one of my favourite artists right now, blending folk, electronic and indie influences into her own fresh flavour of pop.
Already, Dora Jar’s musical path is a special one. After an inquisitive “Ooooh”, according to her, the literal path would be a spiral going up and down, always getting wider - she pauses, maybe narrower? She attempts to explain to me the diagram of a magnetic field, which she says is a torus… in her eyes, it resembles an imploding donut. “It’s going in all directions, that's my path!” she says grinning. When the conversation leads to her childhood, she laughs. As a child, she was very pensive, sometimes goofy, but mostly a little withdrawn, especially in school. The topic comes with funny timing, as she has just come back from a trip to Poland, spending time with her half-brother and his two daughters who are two and four years old. “They both reminded me of me in different ways” she says. The eldest went ice skating for the first time, and every time she fell she would have no reaction. “It reminded me of me because I was secretive about my emotions as a kid, which has a lot to do with why I started writing music in the first place”. The other one was really chaotic emotional inside the house, “I saw that and was like… Yup! That was me!” she chimes.
As a child, she was always performing on her own, spending a lot of time alone in her bedroom. “I found that it became a staple for me in my boredom” she tells me. “That’s usually where I find the most inspiration because when I am lonely, the way to get out of that is to pretend that I’m being watched by angels, and that sort of helped me have fun with life while I was alone. Even when I’m alone you can catch me talking to myself or making weird facial expressions, and I’m still the same in that way”. She began playing the guitar, realising that she could write a song, and it could be entirely hers. At twelve to fourteen years old, Dora learnt how to play Foo Fighters songs on the guitar, filling in the chords with her own melodies and lyrics. “Dave Grohl is my ultimate hero” she tells me. A young Dora Jar was hard to shut up, apparently “I was always humming and I kind of had to learn not to make up songs all the time… especially in school.”, but that was how she understood the world, turning anything into a lyric…
One of the first lyrics she ever wrote was “MC squared equals E, that’s the theory of relativity, and how are you relative to me?” a standout lyric from one of my favourite songs of the year, the bubbly and vibrant ‘Scab Song’. That lyric would find its way into her music, uncovering the old note she wrote when she was sixteen. My writing is very disjointed, a collage with time would be a good way to describe it.” she admits to me, “I have notebooks that I’ll find over time and I’ll open them when I’m in a writer’s block.” At twenty-four she met LA producer Solomonophonic and recorded the lyrics for ‘Scab Song’ the first time ever. “That’s what I mean by the process is a collage of time, throwing away the things that aren't useful but keeping the things that are and sticking them with things in the future.” she says to me. Bringing the song into Solomonophonic’s studio would turn it completely on its head, describing him as a very energetic and colourful guy. She played the song, which she thought was a sad song, not even really intending on recording it - but he latched onto it. “I think my favourite part of the creation of it was realising it had this existence that wasn't slow and sad and pensive, I was actually full of life and excitement. He brought in the bubbly beat, it was amazing. Letting an idea transform because someone else comes in to collaborate with it is really satisfying.”
She details how with ‘Lagoon’, the leading single from her new EP, she was really stumped on the pre-chorus. She had the melody, but was missing the words. She was flicking through photos of her notebooks, and found a lyric about her mouth being an open wound, filling the rest of the song. “I leave clues for my future self. I never know when something is going to be useful, so I may as well note it now.” Songwriting is so frustrating, she admits with frenzied hand gestures. It took her a long time to trust herself with her own writing, “sometimes in sessions over the past, people or producers will ask me “what does this mean?” and I’m like I don't know? And I usually don't know until the song is done… or a year after it’s written.” It can be a cool moment finding an old lyric that fits, but most of the time she is relieved, finally finding something that fits syllabically with the melody, the filling lyric finding their own meaning through the music. Now, she knows trusting that the meaning is there is essential to believing in the song, and her writing. “People are always looking for ways to be related, but actually asking how we are different is a nice switch on that” she tells me, sharing how she enjoys moments when an artist's meaning is different from your own - an underrated moment in her opinion. “I think it’s interesting when artists say the meaning of their song, and you’re like “what? That’s not at all what I thought it meant… and it's cool to know that your own personal meaning to the song is true and can be so cathartic but then also it has a totally different origin story.” I think that it's cool to look at both, how we can find ways to relate to people through music, but we can also find ways that we are very different in how we experience music” and perhaps this is just one reason why Dora’s music is just so special, the abstract and time-travelling nature of her songwriting allows for many interpretations. Finding and looking for those hidden clues in life keeps Dora motivated, spinning it into an authentically fresh sound, guided by her own curious search for meaning.