For The Dø's third record, Shake Shook Shaken, the Franco-Finnish duo relocated to an abandoned 18th century countryside water tower that they transformed into their recording studio. The rural surroundings gave Olivia Merilahti and Dan Levy a sense of release from the distractions of their daily lives in Paris.

They wanted to make an album that was digitally driven but created in a serene, almost fairy-like environment. The recording process involved the pair setting aside their acoustic instruments, which comprised their first two albums, in favour of a minimal set-up of a keyboard and laptop. This approach led to experimentation with loops and sampling, as well as a move away from live percussion to digital beats. The album was written around Olivia's Finnish ancestral value of 'sisu', meaning a sense of resilience and bravery, which feeds into the assertive sound and lyrics about overcoming difficulty.

I spoke with Olivia about how they removed themselves from their typical recording environment and the bold spirit of the album.

This record embarks on a new sound for you as a band - it sounds more synth-based and beat-driven. Did the tour for Both Ways Open Jaws influence the direction of this record?

Part of the Both Ways Open Jaws tour was without a drummer, so we had to find our way with machines. It happened to work really well with our music. The technical restrictions we had to face when playing far from France encouraged us to work the 'in the box' possibilities offered by laptops today. It led to a minimalist approach to the new album for sure.

The album's title plays on the verb 'to shake'. Is it a reference to the changes you have made as a band?

We've always been inspired by dancing, by movement. We've worked a lot with contemporary dance choreographers, it's in our DNA. But it's also a reference to being shaken up emotionally.

The album was recorded in a rural 18th century water tower that you converted into your own recording studio. How did you discover this place?

We needed to get away from our familiar Parisian environment. We wanted to make very modern music in a fairytale-like, almost medieval setting.

When you work there, do you feel a freedom from your day-to-day lives?

It's a place where eight hours of work equals twelve hours in Paris, where we are very efficient with less effort. It gives us perspective, keeps us focused.

The lyrics are based on the idea of 'sisu' - a sense of resilience and bravery that is a common, ancestral value to the Finns. It means no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, we must persist. Did you do any research into its history to write the album?

Not really, I discovered I had that drive quite late on, it wasn't a conscious thing. It's more about the cultural heritage, or like hormones - something you have inside that just expresses itself no matter what. But I should definitely look into it.

And why was this concept significant creating this album?

We enjoyed the moments of making the album but we were going through very difficult moments in our lives. It's like this album was the strongest branch we could hold on to, or else we would fall.

The album is composed with more digital equipment and instruments compared to previous work. Some songs are strongly based on looping and samples, like the strings on 'Sparks'. Was technology liberating for you when writing these songs?

Two things helped us: we started our work on the new songs by pretending they wouldn't be for us, pretending we were writing songs for other artists, so it gave us a fun framework and some detachment. The other thing was the virtual instruments, that we used a lot, to quickly record an idea and to keep things immediate.

Out of all the new equipment you incorporated, which one has been the most fun or inspiring to work with?

The 'OP-1' by Teenage Engineering was a lot of fun. We used it for synth sounds and some beats too. We also loved the UVI sounds.

The video for 'Despair, Hangover and Ecstasy' was shot in an airplane field and Olivia dressed up as an airplane mechanic, which plays on the song's lyrics. Was it a fun video to make?

It was fun. I must have ran 30 miles that day, and every single muscle ached the next day.

Are there any songs that are particularly special to you on the album?

Maybe 'Keep Your Lips Sealed', which is the first track we recorded for this album. It set the mood, gave the album its direction.

Although the album explores the fight for our selves and overcoming difficulty, there is also a humorous side too, like 'Keep Your Lips Sealed' and 'Going Through Walls'. Do you think your own personalities come through on your music?

I guess and hope they do, but the fun side isn't easy to get across without inhibiting the emotional side, so we handle it with care. It's just important not to take it all too seriously, in a British way.

Can it be intense creating as a duo or are you very comfortable being and working with each other?

It's either a friendly shoulder-to-shoulder or a stubborn, uncompromising face-to-face!

A number of the songs on the record have very big, affirming choruses. Would you say there's an anthemic feel to this album?

Totally, we've always loved anthems but we embraced most songs with a triumphant, fist-up, collective vibe. It was surprisingly enjoyable.

When you sing "we have it on tape now" on 'Sparks', what is it in reference to? Is there a story behind it?

It's about leaving all familiar things behind overnight, without forgetting the past. "We have it on tape" somehow refers to the positive side of having cameras everywhere, it collects memories.

Is Anita of 'Anita No!' a real or imagined person? If so, does she know the song exists?

I made her up, but maybe she's somewhere out there. She's a half-Mexican, half-Japanese hitwoman, and she must never fall in love - it would hinder her career.

The album ends with an intense instrumental called 'Omen', which is based on a similar composition as 'A Mess Like This'. What's the connection between the two songs and why did you choose to close the album in this way? Does it have any relation to the classic horror film?

We decided to split the songs from the instrumental ones at the end of our work on the album. We felt that they would both be stronger separated. It was tempting to finish the album on a very volcanic and dark Omen, although we were willing to have a joyous album... I guess the title "Omen" dictated its place on the tracklist.

How has it felt playing the new material live?

It feels great. Was like starting all over again but now it almost looks and sounds the way we want it.

Since Shake Shook Shaken is your third album, do you feel like a different band from when you first began?

We're a good team so we're happy to make music together. We've become a band, as opposed to a studio project as we were in the very beginning.


Shake Shook Shaken is out on January 26th.