Dolores Forever: “We definitely didn’t think we’d be playing Glastonbury in our first year”

The indie-pop duo talk lyrics you want to wear on a t-shirt, and why they were reluctant to start writing songs together

Photo credit: Francesca Allen

“Like Fleetwood Mac without the husbands” reads Dolores Forever’s Spotify bio. On some levels it’s a joke, indicative of Julia Fabrin and Hannah Wilson’s tendency not to take themselves too seriously. But equally, the indie-pop duo have already been talked about in the same breath as a lot of huge names. Experienced songwriters both, the joy of their joint project is that none of it sounds like the work of beginners. Now, the duo are taking their growing catalogue of dreamy, folky creations on tour. They’ll support Spacey Jane for a string of UK dates early this month, and they’ll play their own headline show at the Omeara on 15 February.

Considering the buzz that already surrounds them, it’s strange to think that this is their very first UK tour. With years of professional experience under their belts already, the duo are polished and focused, up for the challenge of breaking into the UK’s indie scene. But they’re also just enjoying themselves. “We’re just riding the wave,” says Julia, “everything right now is so much fun”.

Dolores Forever - Party In My Mind (Official Video)

Did Dolores Forever start as more of a passion project for you both or did you go into it very much looking to take it to this level?

Hannah: It’ll always be a passion project.

Julia: I feel like we don’t really do things half-heartedly. But at the same time you can’t plan exactly how everything goes with creative projects – things kind of build. I do feel like this has been an incredibly organic project, with the way that it started up and with the team that we’ve built around it. And so everything keeps just kind of flowing and growing in a very natural way. It doesn’t really feel like we’ve ever sat down and been like, “let’s plan our five year plan”. That’s what I mean when I say we’re riding the wave.

But also, I don’t think we started out thinking that we wouldn’t be releasing music or playing gigs or anything – you wouldn’t start a band if you didn’t want to go out and actually have people hear it, right?

As I understand it, when you guys were first introduced to each other you knew that you were both musical but it took you a while to decide to write together. Is that how it went?

Hannah: Yeah, very much. In that sense, it was just another really organic flow – we were just chums for a while, and we realised we had a lot of parallels when it came to the type of music we loved and the type of music we loved making. And so it just made total sense. It really has been the most creatively fulfilling thing I’ve ever done so far. It just feels great. We’re really like ticking all those boxes of the things that we love.

Julia: Yeah, same for me.

What were you guys doing musically before Dolores Forever started?

Julia: We both spent a lot of years writing songs for other artists and we’ve also done other bands and stuff in the past too. We were both sort of in that songwriter space before Dolores Forever. That’s sort of why, when we met, we were like, “Listen, all right, let’s not do the songwriter thing and be like ‘let’s have a session’. Let’s just hang out”.

Do you remember who started doing the songwriter thing?

Hannah: I think it was obvious. It was definitely mutual. We’d been to see a gig by a band called Lucius that features two lead female singers, and it was such a beautiful gig. It was them playing in Union Chapel. And it was so inspiring that we just sort of thought, what if we did a band where we were both front and centre? What would that feel like? So we just started writing songs with that as the original impetus.

Dolores Forever - Funeral (Official Video)

Your first release was ‘Kilimanjaro’ in 2021. Was writing that song that the first time that you guys worked together? Or had you done a bit of writing before that?

Julia: We’d written a bunch of songs, actually. We had some songs ready as well. If I remember correctly, we were working on a lot of songs until we got to the point where we were like, “This is the sound”. We were writing a lot with just the two of us – Hannah on keys, me on guitar – and we were figuring out where the production of the song should go, what the song should be, and how we mixed all of this stuff that we love. We really love a big pop chorus, and we really love indie music and instrumentation. We wanted Dolores Forever to be representative of all of that – to blend all these influences and our passion for music and different genres. So we spent quite a lot of time trying to figure out exactly how that sounded. We always had it in our heads, but it’s a different thing actually figuring it out.

So ‘Kilimanjaro’ and ‘Party In My Mind’, were the first two songs that we finished that we were like, “this is the sound”. We felt like we hit the nail on the head. That’s why those were the first songs that came out in those in those early stages.

What was that sound that you were trying to find?

Hannah: Well, we have certain elements that are part of music we adore. We knew we wanted to sort of grab from a bunch of different places, but it has been quite a natural evolution over the last few years. We spent quite a lot of time during Covid bouncing ideas back and forth and experimenting a lot with production. And I think that was actually a key component to us pushing the sound in the direction we wanted it to go. It’s the songwriting elements that we look for, rather than just the sound. Like a chorus that hits you around the face. And… what else do we often go for?

Julia: A feeling.

Hannah: Yeah, we go for a feeling. We often go for quite sparkly sounding synths and maybe some surfery guitars. Oh, and not to forget harmonies. We have to hold ourselves back when it comes to the vocal arrangement because we’re both such singers. And we love vocal arrangements. Those elements kind of carry between all of the songs. We don’t think too much about the final genre as much as we do what it’s all going to sound like.

Your Spotify bio references Fleetwood Mac – were they a big inspiration from the get-go, or is that more because you’ve had those comparisons down the road?

Julia: They’ve always been, definitely. They’re a band that we love and Stevie Nicks is our eternal goddess.

What other artists were you inspired by early on?

Hannah: Honestly it varies quite a lot. Pop music that got us really excited when we were really little, so it could be the Spice Girls, or it could be the Pet Shop Boys – my parents played me a lot of that. Or more recently stuff that excites us might be Sharon Van Etten or Mitski. Connie Constance is so good at the minute too.

When asked about genre, you guys described it as: bangers. What makes a banger?

Julia: Stuff you want to dance to at a festival, you know? When you hear a song and you’re like, “that’s my favorite song”. And then you want to sing along to it.

Hannah: I think if you could cry whilst dancing as well that’s a banger.

Julia: Yes, we want to make you dance and we want to make you cry. At the same time.

Hannah: And probably it has lyrics you might wear on a t-shirt.

I know Holly Humberstone has said she wants to write lyrics that people would get tattooed on them…

Julia: That’s very permanent.

Hannah: A t-shirt is commitment enough!

Julia: We’ll have more songs. What happens if you’ve already tattooed all our lyrics and there’s no more space and then you wish you’d had the t-shirt?!

No, I’d be so honoured if someone got a tattoo of a lyric. That would be so cool. But equally I would be very stoked to see a t-shirt with lyrics too. We do enjoy when we’re writing songs, how sometimes you hit on a line and you’re like, “That could be a t-shirt!”. It’s good indicator that you’re having a good time. And also that it’s a banger.

Do either of you have a favourite of the tracks that you’ve released?

Hannah: I mean, always the latest one, probably. Right now ‘When I Say So’ feels amazing. We’ve just started playing it live as well, which feels great. But geniunely, the best thing about this band is that I just adore everything that we put out. And that’s kind of the main thing we’ll always stick to. We have to love it. Absolutely love it.

Julia: I agree with that. And it’s such a difficult thing to pick a favorite because it’s also not just the song coming out. It’s playing them live, it’s the story. Once a song is out that’s already had a bit of a life with us, then it has a new life. I feel like they all have their own little journey ahead of them. And I’m proud of them all.

You’re so careful and selective with what you put out – can we expect a similar process for your first album?

Hannah: Not necessarily, because we just love writing as well. We’re constantly churning out new songs. We technically have enough material for… I want to say two albums at the minute. And that pile of songs will constantly grow as we keep writing and jumping in the studio. But we won’t rush anything – we definitely want to make sure everything feels absolutely spot on before anything gets released. We’re in an amazing position, in that we’re with an independent label right now. Our team is really small, and we make all the decisions together. So there’s no chance of anything coming out that we haven’t approved or anything like that.

I mean, having said that, we’ve also been joking from the beginning that we’re going to release a double album. So watch this space.

I want to go back to ‘When I Say So’ for a minute. Can you tell me about where that track came from?

Julia: We described it as a song about being reluctant to grow up. The lyrics actually say it pretty well, I think – that feeling of looking around and you’re like, “Oh, everybody’s gone home, but I don’t want to go home yet”. But then at the same time being like, “well, I get to decide when I go home and that’s all right”. That’s just the analogy of it all – it’s about being in control of your own decisions and being okay with them. Even if they might be different to the status quo, or different to what everybody else around you is doing. You don’t have to be doing the exact same thing, because that would be very boring.

Hannah: Exactly that. And making sure you remember the most important thing is that you’re having a good time, rather than comparing yourself to others.

That must be really freeing to play live.

Julia: Totally. We extended the ending because it’s so much fun. We were like, let’s make it longer for live because it really gets to this moment. It’s just growing and growing. I can’t wait to play it more live. I’m so excited to go on tour.

You guys are heading to the Omeara and the Roundhouse this month.

Hannah: Two bucket list venues right there. These are all kind of firsts for us at the minute, which just feels amazing. We played Lafeyette for the first time last week. To be honest, we’re just mega excited to be playing the songs in front of people.

Julia: I took a bit of time off at the end of last year because I had a baby, and it’s just very fun to be back.

How’s that been?

Julia: It’s been great. It’s a bit of a logistics puzzle sometimes. But you know, we’re working it out and taking it as it comes. It’s an adventure for sure. I’m also really proud. I’m really proud to be able to do that. I hope when he grows up and looks at photos, he’s like, “my mom’s cool”.

But yeah, I don’t think you should hold back from your dreams. I don’t think you should disappear from music because you had a baby. So for me it’s really important to work on both things.

Dolores Forever - Kilimanjaro (Acoustic)

More generally, how has this journey been for the two of you so far? It’s felt from the outside like you’ve come onto the scene quite suddenly, and you’ve already played gigs like Glastonbury and Reading…

Hannah: I think for us it’s not really felt like a sudden sort of emergence into the scene because we’ve both been working on music in various ways for such a long time now. But the reception of Dolores Forever as a project has been amazing. I definitely didn’t think we’d be playing Glastonbury the first year after releasing our first tunes, and that was such a special experience. We just keep riding the wave, working hard and feeling really grateful when people are into it, which helps us carry on.

Julia: Absolutely. We do not take that for granted at all. But it’s also really rewarding that when we’re excited about something, and we’re like, “this is our new favourite song!”, that other people really like it too.

You’ve used the phrase ‘riding the wave’ a few times now. Have you managed to keep negative emotions like anxiety and stress away from this project so that you can just enjoy it, or has any part of it been overwhelming?

Hannah: I think you’re probably gonna get quite different answers from both of us. I’m the type of person that takes everything super seriously. And so I definitely feel stress and anxiety. I mean, half of my input in the songs that we write together is about anxiety and complicated emotions and stuff like that. So I think, as with anything that you love, stress and anxiety will come with it. What’s that saying? Find what you love and let it kill you? I think music is a little bit like that.

I think the reason why we keep saying we’re riding the wave is because the whole thing is completely unpredictable. And you’re at the mercy of so many other factors. So that’s why we try and just keep our heads in, creating sh*t that we love, and taking every opportunity that comes our way. And that’s kind of all we can do. That, and trying to remember to have fun along the way. Julia reminds me of that.

If you guys hadn’t been working in music for the last few years, and if that’s not a path that you both had gone down at all, what do you think you’d both be doing?

Hannah: I think I’d like to run a post office in a little village in the countryside. Or a florist.

Julia: When I first moved to London, I was like “what am I doing?”. And I went to an open house at a culinary school and I was like, “I’m gonna be a chef instead”. But I’m glad I didn’t.

What else is on the cards for you guys this year?

Hannah: Lots more music and a bunch more shows. So we’re just going to be in everyone’s faces this year.

Julia: And hopefully in your playlists.

Hannah: And on your t-shirts and on your bodies.

Julia: On the t-shirts especially.

Get tickets to see Dolores Forever here.