While Djunah isn’t a Milwaukee project, the genre-fusing duo from Chicago isn’t a stranger to the metropolis that neighbors them to the north. Ex Voto—Djunah’s loud and lush debut album—was released in partnership with Milwaukee’s own Triple Eye Industries in 2019. Last summer, the band traveled up the interstate to perform at Bay View Bash. And this weekend, they’ll return to the region to headline a show at X-Ray Arcade in support of their newly released sophomore record, Femina Furens.
Prior to that Saturday, March 25 performance in nearby Cudahy, Milwaukee Record asked Donna Diane—Djunah’s singer, guitarist, and Moog bass organist (by using her feet to do so!)—a few questions about the new album’s early reception and its artistic backstory, the band’s upcoming tour that will bring them all over the U.S. and parts of Canada between now and mid-June, and what’s to come once the impressive run of spring shows is through.
Milwaukee Record: Femina Furens has been out for a few weeks now. How has the early response been for the album?
Donna Diane: Incredible! The response on Bandcamp is blowing my mind. I’m so glad there’s a thriving audience for big, emotional rock music—and by women, too. People are really connecting with the passion, the catharsis, the brutality. I’ve always loved music like that, and it means everything to connect with people who love it too. You never know what the response is going to be when you self-release an album that doesn’t neatly fit into a single genre. I’m discovering there’s a huge, engaged audience for this music, and I’m beyond excited about it.
MR: Has there been any especially good or surprising feedback for the record so far?
DD: The international reception has been amazing. Even Australia has caught on to the record. I’m shocked by how far the album has traveled in such a short time. It used to be you had to have a record label and a publicist hyping you, plus a band manager, and whoever else to be heard overseas…and even in the United States. Social media has really democratized that system for folks like me. People see a 10-second clip of me playing guitar, they preview the record, they like it, they buy it, and they share it with their friends. And it just keeps growing like that. That’s how music should work.
MR: How does Femina Furens differ from Ex Voto? I’ve read the record draws influence from poetry and mythical creatures. I assume that’s unique to this release.
DD: Femina Furens was the first time I really sat down to write for the record, not just for playing in a live setting, so it feels more thoughtful, layered, and deep. Our first record, Ex Voto, has more of a raw, stripped-down, live band feel. The new record is all about fusing formal poetry and heavy music to explore the trauma disorder I was diagnosed with a few years ago. All of the songs began as poems, so I have a chapbook I’m releasing too. I could get pretty deep on what the album means in a literary sense, but you don’t have to go there to appreciate it. If you like big, powerful rock music, it doesn’t need to be more complicated than that.
MR: You’ll finally have a chance to play out in support of the album this weekend, and X-Ray Arcade is one of the first tour stops. Do you feel the Milwaukee area has embraced the band? I know Triple Eye put out the last record, and I saw you at Bay View Bash last year, too, so it seems like you have a sort of second home here.
DD: Milwaukee has been great. The guys at Triple Eye and Justin Wexler at X-Ray Arcade have been phenomenal advocates for Djunah. I love that Milwaukeeans just like shit that rocks, period. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, or even what you’re playing. If you rock, you rock. End of discussion. Milwaukee supports you. Playing Bay View Bash was a ton of fun, and one of our videos from that fest actually went viral. It was really bizarre.
MR: Is this upcoming tour, which has 34 dates between late March and mid-June, the longest run Djunah has done? And are there any places the band has never gone to that you’re especially excited to play, and any familiar venues you’re looking forward to returning to?
DD: This is actually the first time we’ve been able to properly tour. Djunah has been around since 2018, but all of our 2020 tour dates supporting the last record got wiped out by the start of the pandemic. We were literally on the road, three dates into our tour, when all the closures started happening. So almost all of these dates are in completely new cities. We’re especially stoked for our East Coast dates with Rid Of Me from Philly. I’ve been fans of theirs for a while.
MR: What does the summer hold for Djunah? Are you planning to play festivals and short weekend tours? Or will you regroup after this tour and focus on writing new material?
DD: We’ve got a few festivals planned, but mostly I’m hoping to relax a little. Independently releasing and supporting an album like this is super meaningful, but pretty exhausting. We’ll be back in action touring again in the fall. I’m curious what I’ll do for the next record. This record was so personal, I feel like I really released something emotionally with it. I’m excited to see what crops up creatively in that new space.
Djunah will perform at X-Ray Arcade on Saturday, March 25. Lost Tribes Of The Moon, Faketwin, and Primitive Broadcast Service will play in support. This all-ages show begins at 7 p.m.