From post-punk to synth-pop, the flavors of the 80s have become prominent again in music, visual arts, and fashion – this time with added retro charm. German artist, Gwen Dolyn, whose tracks bear resemblance to those of Blondie’s, describes it as “an evolution of the 80s”. Echoing into 2022, the 80s’ eccentric vibes find a place in the artist’s songs like on her 2020 solo debut EP Things to Tell a Crying Girl and the collaborative follow-up EP KOMM SCHON!.

Through her creative expression, Gwen Dolyn explores political as well as private themes. She explains that the climate crisis is an issue that she feels strongly about. Her song Oxy, for example, holds reference to the crisis within its bridge – ‘I can’t breathe’ – and the use of the abbreviation ‘oxy’ is kept deliberately vague but open as to what it might refer to. For her, it’s important to put her music out into the world and to allow people to project their own ideas onto it. She explains that this comes from her own experience as a listener and fan, “When I listen to music, it’s about the atmosphere not about the artist. But if I reach people through my music and they then become interested in who I am, then maybe they will be interested in my message as well”.

Breaking Tabus

While Gwen Dolyn carves her own niche, Blondie comparisons are made by journalists and fans alike. She considers them as a high praise but acknowledges it as not intentional even though she wishes that it were – “it would mean I am very well set-up”. Furthermore, she admits, “I very seldomly start writing a song and it sounds exactly as I intended”. In her song writing process, she works closely with Toyboys, a German three-piece with whom she has released KOMM SCHON! and other singles. The band and the singer connected via instagram and instantly clicked. Throughout Gwen Dolyn & Toyboy’s music, songs are written in two languages because following a stint living in the USA, the artist is comfortable to write both in English and in German.

Photo by Jan Bema

“I lived in the USA and I felt really good for that period. It means that I associate English with a part of myself that I like or I prefer. Singing in German means that I have to confront parts of myself that I don’t like or don’t like to deal with. As my music hopefully evolves, I might dare to show a bit more of the parts of myself that I don’t really like but people respond to that really well. For me, it feels more cringe or intimate in German. I can and I will sing about anything in both languages”.

In whichever language she records, Gwen Dolyn is very much inspired by personal experiences and explains, “I can’t really talk about anything that I haven’t felt. I don’t really pride myself with it but I felt a lot of emotions and these are in my songs”. Her determination to being vulnerable and open has led to a sense of liberation, despite it sometimes being overwhelming. “It feels really naked on stage. I’m sharing very intimate parts of myself”.

Like the 80s era, she has found a space where pop and art combines. It is perhaps nowhere more obvious than in her Lame Ghost/ Touch the Earth video. Gwen Dolyn describes it in her own words: “It looks funny the contrast between my band and I being so queer and punky and yet being all dressed up as nuns, it was so funny, it wasn’t meant as a deep message, it was more for the image”. 

There is an aesthetic artistry and sense of unlimited creativity throughout both her tracks and music videos, which makes her music so appealing. Gwen Dolyn suggests it may be inherited by her great-grandmother who she never had the chance to meet. Describing her as an “extroverted artist“, her great-grandmother was originally from Hungary, and a Jewish woman during the time of the Shoah. In order to survive, she had to erase her Jewish identity, which consequently shaped the next generations. “My grandmother had to put a part of her aside and was forced to live this Aryan life. She also had Alzheimers for twenty years for 20 years, and I have never been able to talk about the past with her. I wish I could have.”

In Gwen Dolyn’s music serious themes like the forced erasure of identity in the personal and the political context coexist alongside pink hair, queer disco punk, and relentless energy. On Spotify, the artist describes her music as worshipping “dark lords, hot sounds, sex vampires and cry some salty sweet tears on stage and on record”. Loud, angry, soft, sexy, and sad – Gwen Dolyn allows herself to feel all the emotions through her music and embraces the contrasts. If this is what Neue Deutsche Welle sounds like in 2022, then we are gladly taking a surf.

GIRLSCOUT is out on the 28th of October. 

Every week the treasure hunt squad from the NBHAP staff is bringing an exciting new artist to your attention along with a 30-track-strong Introducing Playlist over on Spotify highlighting the featured artist’s music. Feel invited to follow the playlist and give these talents a good spin.

This week’s picks include brand new music from artists like Shybits, Friedberg, and Power Plush. Come and hit the play button.