Canadian R&B duo, and one of OVO’s finest, dvsn are currently touring the world to promote their second LP—Morning After—which dropped in October of last year.
With Daniel Daley handling vocals and the famed Paul “Nineteen85” Jeffries, who is also responsible for some of Drake’s most popular songs like “Hold On, We’re Going Home” and “Hotline Bling,” on production, together they create perfect playlists for those searching for ambient romantic ballads.
In town for their New York tour date at Terminal 5, and their pop-up shop in LES at PRIVILEGE, where fans were able to cop exclusive merch and interact with the duo in a more intimate setting. We sat down with dvsn to discuss their creative process, musical roots, most insane tour experiences, and what it feels like to go from opening for one of the biggest acts in the world to being on their very own world tour.
You guys have this epic pop-up shop at Privilege right now, how important is your merchandise when it comes to connecting with your fans?
Nineteen85: I feel like people really connected with our merch, because at first the only thing they could connect to was our symbol. So, before they knew what we looked like or anything, everybody felt involved with that dvsn sign.
Daniel Daley: And tattoos!
People got the symbol tattooed on themselves? Wow, how does that make you feel?
DD: It always makes me interested in the story. Like, what was it that got you to feel like you should do this?
Nineteen85: And I think the good thing is our symbol is so universal.
It could be for something else.
DD: I don’t think people see the symbol and go “Oh, you tattooed an R&B group on you,” you know? It can be a lifestyle piece.
Growing up, who were you guys listening to?
DD: Well, we listened to different things. ‘85 has some influences that go a little further than mine, but we both came up listening to some music that was way beyond our years. We were those guys searching and digging for music and into the stuff parents and grandparents were listening to. So when we met, that’s how we connected. That love for old sounds but knowing what’s happening now also.
Has Canada always had a solid R&B scene?
Nineteen85: Before, it was a little bit non-existent.
DD: Yeah, it wasn’t really a thing.
Nineteen85: But, a lot of the people coming up now were making moves locally so you kind of knew there was stuff happening but now, I might say that Toronto has one of the strongest R&B scenes.
DD: It kind of all happened at the same time. I feel like the city switched its mentality from the old New York mentality, which was super competitive to the Atlanta mentality, which is more: “Yo, what are you doing? Let’s fuck around. Let’s go in the studio. Let’s do this, let’s do that,” you know?
I give credit to Drake and what he did with The Weekend, he let us know we can do it.
Toronto and Canada as a whole seem to produce such an ambient sound. What do you think makes a city such a melodic place?
Nineteen85: Man, a lot of that comes from us all growing up with so many different influences. Musically, culturally, and socially. There’s just so many things in one place. There isn’t really much separation.
DD: Take The Weekend for example, I think he’s the perfect example of that. He used to be in a rock band. He played guitar, he loved hip-hop, he came up in a gospel house, you know what I mean? All that is in one person. We’re a melting pot.
You guys have been a part of some of the biggest tours ever. Now, on your own tour where people are going out specifically for you guys, what’s different?
DD: Yeah, the energy’s completely different. It’s phenomenal. When we were the opening act, you feel like you have to win them over with every record because they’re just getting to know you. But now, we walk up in there and it’s a completely different feeling. Everything is different, everyone’s on a high. They know every word to every record. I’m singing certain records and they feel like anthems in there so it’s dope.
Nineteen85: I think we were fortunate from the last album to be in such huge stadiums, so early in our career, that by the time we did the next album we were able to think of how people react in a stadium setting. You can’t get that as a young artist. Because you’ll just never be in front of 15,000 people.
A lot of musicians say when they’re in front of such a large group of people, it’s such an incredible high. But also, being in front of a smaller, more intimate crowd is such a special feeling, too. What do you guys prefer?
DD: I mean, for now I’m going to say the intimate crowds. Maybe when I’m at a stadium and it’s us headlining, I’ll tell you something different, but I love intimate crowds. I love that I can see faces instead of dots, you know? I like seeing everybody’s reactions. I like knowing that, “Oh, that record was her joint.”
Nineteen85: I think people react differently too when it’s a bit smaller. Because even on this tour, some of the smaller venues have felt higher energy and louder than venues twice the size. We’ll be at an 1,100 person venue and the energy feels higher than a 2,600 seater. I think people can feel that too.
That has to be an incredible feeling having that connection. When your debut album Sept. 5th dropped, you guys didn’t do many interviews. Are you generally reserved?
DD: We’re just pacing ourselves. In the beginning, it was kind of like we put out music, and everything moved so fast, and we just said, “Yo, put up the symbol.” You know, that’s one thing that represents both of us. We’re not the kind of guys that are always taking pics of ourselves and constantly posting.
We would posted our symbol and then people made a thing out of it, wanting to know who we were. So we ran with that for a while. And the symbol just connected to people. It also lets them listen to the music, slows down the usual process of, see the artist, Google everything you can about them, and watch their Instagram for a little bit and move on you know.
It’s definitely important to have some mystery. When someone knows every little thing about you there’s a bit of magic that’s gone.
DD: The key is to find a way of transitioning your mystery into intrigue. As long as we keep that, it’s cool.
It seems like the entire OVO camp is pretty low-key and mystic.
DD: You’re not that far off.
What’s it like being a part of OVO?
Nineteen85: We really benefit from working with people that are as low-key as us, which I think isn’t normal in the music industry. Music is always first, and we’ve always been able to fit into whatever the setting is, whether it’s our album, Drake’s album, or Roy Woods’ album. Everybody is on the same vibe at all times. Since day one it felt like we’ve been working with these people forever.
Do you guys ever get together and have team discussions about what you guys want to do in the future?
DD: There are times when we’re all together, definitely, sitting around politicking and building, planning out moves and stuff like that, but we mostly speak individually. Like if me and Roy are sitting down talking about something, that might end up getting turned into something that Oliver hears about, and Oliver tells Drake, and Roy decides that idea is a go.
Will there ever be an OVO tape?
DD: I don’t know. But I can tell you that if we do, it’s gonna be…incredible
That would be crazy. Any plans for new music?
Nineteen85: Yeah, we’re working every day. We’re just trying to find out where we go from the last album. We haven’t really slowed down since Sept. 5th came out. We just put it out, went on the road, started the next album, then went on the road again, so I think we are going to slow down and make sure we can really tell another story.
Will you build off of Morning After, or will the concept completely change?
DD: You’ll have to wait and find out.
dvsn is wrapping up the U.S. position of their tour and will be heading to Europe for the second portion with Paris being their first stop. You can purchase tickets here.
If you haven’t already seen their “Mood” music video you can find it here.