It's been six years since DIVA featured electro-pop band
Sohodolls, who were known for songs like Stripper (Blair Waldorf
took her clothes off to the track in Gossip Girl!). We caught up
with former lead singer Maya von Doll ahead of the release of her
debut solo single.
DIVA: So, we hear you've been very busy since leaving
Sohodolls! Tell us your highlights!
Maya von Doll: Writing a solo album, writing for
other artists, and starting a "femzine" and club night dedicated to
female creative talent. I put Sohodolls on hold because I felt like
I'd discovered punk or grunge all over again with the new sound of
moombahton. I wanted to incorporate its raw energy with my love for
electro-pop. When I first heard Major Lazer, the Bloody Beetroots
& Steve Aoki it gave me the same angsty buzz as Nirvana's
Smells Like Teen Spirit or The Stooges' I Wanna Be Your Dog. I was
on the right track with writing the moombah-inspired Beat of My
Drum for Nicola Roberts because Beyoncé had a similar idea when she
sampled Major Lazer in Run the World (Girls)!
What was working with Girls Aloud's Nicola Roberts
It was an amazing experience - when her A&R suggested I work
with her I was over the moon, I started prepping tracks straight
away and I couldn't stop thinking about it for weeks! It was a
dream opportunity to write for someone else so early in my career.
But it was also hard taking on someone else's opinion and one that
Writing for Nicola made me a stronger writer but it also made me
lose myself as an artist. I knew I had to give her album my best
shot, my everything. All the ideas that came to me over that period
of nine months I channeled into Nicola's album. At the end I was
like "Wait, who am I again?"
How different is it writing for someone else, rather than
It's actually very liberating because you don't have the pressure
of what people might think of you, so you end up freeing a tonne of
creativity. It goes back to being just about how good the song is.
You can learn a lot from writing with/for others. With Nicola and
Dimitri Tikovoi - our mutual producer and co-writer, it was very
collaborative. It made me see another side to writing - how
important it is to connect on an emotional level with your listener
and also how important the songs' lyrics are with the bigger
picture of the artist in the media.
How would you describe your own sound? Still a bit
naughty, like your old band?
Ha ha! I've avoided the obvious naughtiness of Sohodolls tracks
like Stripper and gone for more depth on the *ahem* "naughtiness".
Future single My Religion is about being obsessed with someone
who's in a relationship but also realising that they're totally
playing you. You think I'm addressing the boy but it becomes
obvious that it's actually the girl I'm hooked on. Soundwise I
decided to go more pop on the melodies but harder on the beats -
drawing from t.a.T.u to M.I.A.
What's the story behind your new single Open Cheque Book?
And what else can we expect from your debut album?
I'm having a bit of a go at gold diggers on Open Cheque Book! It's
an imagined situation between two girls in rival electro gangs.
One's got talent, the other's got an open chequebook from
"accidentally" getting pregnant with a very rich man. It's punk but
there's humour in it too.
I've also co-written a duet with Ian Brown from the Stone Roses
which I've already performed in clubs in Seoul and Moscow - it goes
oooooffffff! I've also worked with Marilyn Manson's Tim Skold on a
dark and trancey song about the vulnerability of teenagers.
Lyrically, I'm not holding back on this album, not after everything
I've learned from writing for others.
You've also launched a club night and "femzine" called
Shut Your Pretty Mouth. What's it all about, and why did you choose
It's about discovering female creative talent. When I was signed
to Alan McGee's label in 2005 he took my music to the NME to drum
up support. He came back saying: "I'm really sorry Maya they don't
get it, they're not going to cover you". Later someone told us we
were "too feminine, too electro, too foreign" for the NME.
Everything has changed now though, aha haaa! SYPM is a magazine and
club night to give girls a loud voice in music. As for the name
it's an unreleased Sohodolls track. There's a rogue 50-second clip
of a rough demo on Youtube with about 150, 000 views. I guess the
name means 'World, be quiet now and listen to me'.
You're half-Lebanese and left Beirut at an early age due
to war. How has this influenced your music, if at
We left the Middle East when I was 10. In the height of the
Lebanon civil war we were airlifted by RAF helicopter from Beirut
and dumped on a cargo ship Cyprus-bound. Back in Beirut we'd take
cover regularly by sleeping in our corridor for days with no
electricity and only listening to battery powered FM radios. I have
a vivid memory of war - impromptu checkpoints, nights spent at my
school, tanks everywhere, the sound of bombs, fighter jets
deafening me and mesmerising me as they shot past my bedroom on the
eighth floor on their way to batter West Beirut etc.
It has definitely influenced my vocabulary in music - I'm not
afraid to go there and use the imagery of war to describe what it
feels like to have your heart broken -Mayday; or what it feels like
to go mad from trying to make it in the music industry - Napoleon
Do you think your attitude towards life seems different
from those who don't have a similar experience?
Yes and no. It was hard for me at 10/11 to adjust to being a
London schoolgirl - I was a tomboy that came from living on her BMX
to being in a quaint school uniform. My friends would go hysterical
if the teachers announced there was an IRA bomb scare at
Knightsbridge Underground and I would in turn get angry at them for
not being tougher. But I've learned that people's problems are
relative to themselves only. When I'm down I do eventually remind
myself how good I've got it here in the West.
Finally, what's next? Are there any tour dates in the
Next I'll be shooting the video for my second single Pom Pom which
features the amazing rapperess Mercedes. I can't wait to do it!
It'll feel like being in a girl group 'cos my band is all girls and
there'll be two front women going for it. We need to do a
behind-the-scenes! As for tour dates they'll start in October (once
the EP's been released) and I'll tour the UK, France & Russia.
I'll be back in South Korea & Japan in February also.
Open Cheque Book is out July 23 with the EP following on