“People are like, what kind of music do you make?” says Julia Fabrin, one half of London band Dolores Forever. “And I’m like: bangers. We make bangers.” She’s not lying. Her and best friend and bandmate Hannah Wilson – each with almost 10 years experience as songwriters across K-pop hits, Scandipop bops and Eurovision winners – make music inspired by big moments and even bigger feelings. “We love a chorus, and the trigger points of ABBA’s pop structures,” continues Hannah. “But we also totally get off on the warmth of organic instrumentation and the witchiness of the queen of the world, Stevie Nicks, and the depth and darkness in singers like Sharon Van Etten.” The result of such a meld of influences? Expertly crafted pop with serious heart, as encapsulated in their debut single “Kilimanjaro”, a soaring melodic reflection on a relationship doomed from the start.
In the early 2000s, on opposite sides of the world, two painfully shy 14-year-old music nerds were living out very similar lives. In a Yorkshire suburb, Hannah was writing songs on the keyboard her art teacher father had borrowed from the school music block for the summer. “I would just sit and play scales like an absolute loser,” she laughs. “Then I worked out chords and started writing really rudimentary lyrics about how sad I was and how hard my life was.” Julia, meanwhile – born to Danish parents in Indonesia but by then living in Cape Town – was writing “very dramatic songs full of big words” on her dad’s guitar. “They were about being cheated on… despite never having had a boyfriend.”
“We would’ve been such good friends!” Julia says. Both had been obsessed with the Spice Girls and musical theatre, but were just as entranced by their parents’ records: The Bangles, Cyndi Lauper and Kirsty McColl (Hannah) as well as Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen (Julia). Hannah grew up in the Leeds music scene; Julia in Cape Town’s. Hitting their early 20s, Hannah made her way down to London to try and break into songwriting, while Julia did the same in Copenhagen.
Fate brought them together at a mutual friend’s house party in London. They’d both had enough of hanging out with other songwriters and all the shop talk that comes with it. As such, on meeting they immediately made a pact to not work together. It backfired. “I remember Hannah had pink hair and I was like, SHE’S SO COOL,” Julia says. “We agreed to not write songs together; to be friends instead.” Hannah, who remembers thinking Julia was “a fucking shining star”, was on board. Rather than getting a session in the diary, they quickly became close friends and despite their best intentions, Dolores Forever seemed to be inevitable.
Together, the duo made the call to momentarily step off the conveyor belt of songwriting – where back-to-back sessions are too often focussed on quantity over quality – for something more meaningful. “It only makes sense to me when I’m doing it with Julia,” says Hannah. “There’s no fucking way I’d do this on my own; no chance!” For the first time in a long time, the onus was on writing music that they loved; on telling their own stories. “And that’s what Dolores Forever is for us,” she continues. “There’s a lot of shit that we want to say – and now we get to call the shots instead of jumping through other people’s hoops.”
At the start of 2022, the band will release “Baby Teeth”, an EP exploring love and its many forms – predominantly the difficult parts. The project opens with “Party In My Mind” (their new single, out 17 November), an anthemic Robyn-esque big night out of a synth track about the dichotomy of feelings that come with loving someone. A lyric queries: “Well if it doesn’t hurt then how do you know?” – something which Hannah explains further. “Does something have to be painful to mean something? I think that sometimes it does. You know, falling in love is terrifying as well as exhilarating.”
Next up is the nostalgic title track, a song written to their younger selves, letting them know that everything’s going to work out just fine. “It’s ok not to be all of the things you think you’re supposed to be!” enthuses Hannah. “You’ve still got baby teeth! Just chill out!” Julia adds “You don’t have to do anything but be yourself!” The song feels like summer days spent driving in the sun, and is crying out to soundtrack the next hot Netflix coming-of-age show. The aforementioned “Kilimanjaro” rounds things off perfectly, ruminating on the band’s biggest heartaches with lyrics that talk of “standing on the bones of mountain climbers” – there were people who suffered before you, in other words. “It’s about this big sadness that feels insurmountable,” Julia says. “We’re just really interested in big feelings. We’ve got a lot of heartbreak and healing going on… the hunger and screaming will come later.”
By harnessing their experiences – in the music industry and beyond – these two brilliantly talented women are creating powerful pop that will resonate with anybody who, like them, feels things intensely. “We’re not broken women,” stresses Hannah. “We’re just fascinated by the viscerality of emotion.” It’s why, she supposes, they were both drawn to songwriting in the first place. “You get to go into a room and within ten minutes somebody’s spilling their guts out to you.”
“I wanna make art that really matters,” Julia continues. “But that also brings people comfort,” chimes in Hannah, “to other people out there who feel a bit emotional and weird and like an outsider.” And in providing the accompanying score for those big moments and big feelings, they hope to be the positive force they so relied on growing up. “I remember finding so much in songs,” Julia explains. “They made me feel like my feelings mattered and were understood.”
“A good pop song is really well crafted,” she continues, reflecting on their skills. “The parts of it all work together, like sudoku. And when it clicks, it’s so good.” With an immense musical knowledge and a drive to impact the lives of their listeners, Dolores Forever are a defiant force for change in music. And with this exciting new chapter, the world is about to experience not just music that clicks, but big emotional bangers that’ll get them through anything.