Interview: Nikki Milovanovic from Dolls
Between the mysterious Alice MK track ‘Greed’ and the spiky new release from DOLLS + Fauxplay, the short-lived musical fad that was electroclash is having a mini revival of sorts, so we bagged an interview with the DOLLS half of DOLLS + Fauxplay in the form of Nikki Milovanovic.
After writing and performing a couple of top 20 hits in Toronto with The Royal Society, Nikki moved to London and relaunched her music career as an independent artist named DOLLS, releasing the self-produced ‘Secret Sulk’ in 2013. She later released the single ‘Limited LTD’ in 2014 and followed up in October with the Twin Peaks themed video for ‘Pedestal,’ to celebrate the 25 year anniversary of the show.
Since then Nikki’s vocals have been heard on the Rimmel London campaign and she provided the soundtrack to the Japanese short film ‘Oh Lucy,’ which won second prize at Cannes in 2014. DOLLS is currently working with producer Fauxplay and their collaboration, Eat it Up, was released earlier this month.
Somewhere during this interview we segued from Tiffany’s ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ to a discussion about going commando on stage. I have genuinely no idea how it happened…
What prompted your move from Canada to the UK?
After the success of The Royal Society was leaving me cold, and I’d already seen most of Canada, I think I had winner’s malaise (totally a thing), and wanted bright-lights-bigger-city, so it was a coin toss between London and New York, if you can imagine something so vulgar as coins! I already had dual citizenship so it made the most sense, and I preferred British culture, so naturally I fell in love and moved in with someone British, whose later evaporation gave me more than enough to write about for my first solo album.
It was all very impromptu, like OK, done the major label thing – now let there be LOVE and just moving in with someone which in hindsight seems a bit devil-may-care, but I’m an artist, right? If we’re not falling in and out of love, travelling 3,000 miles for a stranger or causing dramatic and sexy explosions we are essentially not even alive. I think it was Renoir who said that.
Your music has a very London sound to it – like Soho Dolls meets Goldfrapp at times. What British musical acts have influenced your sound?
Someone literally just told me that Madonna wasn’t born at number 10 Buckingham Palace street so I’m having to go through my mental Rolodex…. There are quite a few British artists that have been massively inspiring for me – chiefly David Bowie, who I just wanted to BE since forever. Let’s gloss over that as this year has been AWFUL for music. I love Pet Shop Boys, The Police and Depeche Mode.
Maybe I’m being fully crazy or really uneducated, but it feels like Britain kind of invented the pop song, or at least that the British public always has love for a pop song – maybe that’s it. I think what are considered musical ‘guilty pleasures’ in North America are often seen as fan favourites over here – there’s not really a sense of being ashamed to like what you like and so having a drink and a dance and knowing the words (whether something’s fantastic or fantastically awful) is just part of the fun.
In my experience, people over there are a lot more measured about how into an artist they’ll allow themselves to get, like “can I like this? Is it cool? Did it get 100 horseshoes on FaceFork?” Not slating it at all, it’s just a cultural difference I’ve noticed – when fans DO come from North America they are ride or die, but I guess it’s just such a saturated market in a huge territory that they don’t have time or are too polite to say they hate something, whereas someone will completely tell you to get off the stage if you’re stealing the oxygen here. I’ve gone off-topic.
In terms of more contemporary acts I’m a fan of Goldfrapp, Little Boots, Mark Ronson, Chvrches, FrankMusik, La Roux, Victoria Modesta… I don’t actually listen to enough new music. As you can imagine I’m big into retro synth stuff, but I listen to loads of different musical genres – I got into this pop game through rapping and singing showtunes, so you can imagine my playlists are pretty diverse. I also routinely wrongly consider artists like Grace Jones and Jimi Hendrix to be British. Not sure why, actually. I’m terribly self-involved probably, like basically every artist ever!
Tell us a little about how you came to work with Fauxplay?
Evvvvveryone wants this story. I met him on Tinder, as one does. He’d done a remix of my track ‘Limited LTD’ so I’d meet with him and be all impressed, I think – it was all like 1,000 years ago! Luckily for him, I was impressed and said let’s pop into the studio and see what happens – we just clicked musically at the swipe of an app. We wrote dozens of songs in a really short amount of time, played some shows and people were really responsive, which is always ideal, so we put together this album and ended it with the Swipe Right Remix of Limited LTD. I’m still making my own stuff and so is he, so sometimes we perform together and sometimes we don’t – it’s all about scheduling, darling.
Who would your dream collaboration be with?
I have SO many, but I’d really like to do something with Trent Reznor. I would probably do ANYTHING under the direction of David Lynch. I still haven’t had a chance to record Tiffany’s ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ with my BAE Care Failure of Die Mannequin, which is massively annoying, but we’re never in the same country at the same time. I’ve also put forward the idea of doing a duet of ‘Something Stupid’ with Keith Flint of the Prodigy – but if he doesn’t get back to me soon I’m just going to record it with Sting and Keith will be kicking himself for the rest of his days.
What can we expect from a DOLLS live show… we expect and demand lots of synths and lots of glamour.
You’ve earned it – you’ll get it! Onstage, I rarely wear pants and sing fun songs. It’s a timeless combination, and one everyone should get behind at least thrice.
Dolls + Fauxplay’s album Eat It Up is out now.