by Sarah Pavlovna Goldberg
Love Object is the spawn of Dasha Utochka and Danya Muu, longtime friends and DJs. Dasha is a co-founder of the erotic magazine Areola and has toured the world as DJ Aktu. Danya, too, was a touring DJ, under the moniker Mucity. Now they are both fully devoted to their joint project, with Dasha focusing on lyrics and Danya on production. Listening to Love Object’s music, though, you get the feeling that Dasha and Danya were created in an underground lab or sent from a neighboring planet to examine and synthesize humanity for their extraterrestrial superiors. Their reportage melds electronic body music (EBM), electroclash, and disco.
Watching the video for “Prozrachnaya Zhenschina” (“Transparent Woman”), Love Object’s second single released via Italians Do It Better, might lead to a similar conclusion. Dasha is for sale in a nightmarish auction in which aggressive bidding boils over into violence. The scene ends in a massacre, the right side of a fatal equation wherein acquisition of a desired object equals destruction. It’s no coincidence that Objekt Zhelaniya, Object of Desire, is the duo’s Russian name.
This morning, Love Object released its third single, “Kabluki” (“High Heels”). The new track imagines stilettos as a sex organ, a play on the dated Freudian concept of Penis Envy. "Kabluki" has the energy and sampling of a ‘90s dance track but maintains an industrial techno rhythm. The duo is also working on a “minimalistic electro” Madonna cover.
When I spoke to Dasha and Danya on the phone, they’d just returned to their shared Moscow apartment, having spent the day preparing for their first show in over a year. We discussed supercreatures, Chernobyl, Doomer culture, and disco sadness.
SARAH PAVLOVNA GOLDBERG: Your name in Russian is Object of Desire, but your English name is Love Object. I saw that when you signed to Italians Do It Better, you didn’t want to interfere with Meghan Louise’s project, Desire. Why did you choose the word Love?
DASHA UTOCHKA: You know, we had thousands of different options. Danya even made this list in Excel.
DANYA MUU: The table, with all the possible solutions, all possible words.
DU: With words that we liked, trying to combine them in different ways. We wanted to make it simple, easy to remember. Also, there’s a B movie called Love Object about a guy who fell in love with a robot or a mannequin. So we just decided it’s easy to remember such a name, and the meaning doesn’t change much.
DM: It’s pretty close to the original.
So you were friends before you collaborated, and then, Danya, were you about to start singing on your own tracks when Dasha DM’d you?
DM: No, I didn’t see myself as a guy who sings. And Dasha just had that natural voice, and we always wanted her to try [to sing]. She refused a couple times. And one day she just said, “Ok, let’s try it.” We tried, and everything went off.
DU: Yeah, and I try to make Danya sing as well. He has a nice voice too, and he does some ad-libs in some tracks.
What was your first meeting like as collaborators?
DU: Danya was the best friend of my ex-boyfriend. This is how we met at first. We were flatmates for like three years before we decided to make music together. I’m this person that’s always a little bit depressed, trying to find herself. I was a DJ for like six years already, and one day I decided that I wanted to make music. Danya suggested it to me like a thousand times before, but I was not so sure about it. But then I was like, “Yes! Let’s do it!” And every time an idea came to my mind, I became obsessed with it, trying to make everyone do what I want. And we were flatmates already.
DM: No, we weren’t flatmates yet. But I was making music for a while, and I was actually performing on big techno gigs, but it was always lacking something, just all loops and no songs. It was a combination at first. I went to Dasha and showed her some of my works, and she chose a couple of loops that she liked, and we tried to make songs. Some of them we’re releasing right now.
Danya, you defined your solo project as a mix of Italo disco and House, but now you describe your style as modern electroclash. How did you break into that new space?
DM: Everything started with House music. I was just making it on my laptop, like everybody else—a bedroom producer. It was the most simple thing to do, and there was a big revival of House music. Then all the disco stuff also appeared, and Italo disco became very popular right after that. With this kind of music, when you try to see the past, you see all the good things and some of the things you want to correct. There’s always a new style that uses the same scheme but sounds a little bit different. For me, it’s really interesting to find something that will sound a tiny bit different and make a new meaning with this type of music. It’s the same type of experiment that people did with electroclash music, but we want to make it as clear and as modern as we can so it doesn’t sound retro.
Your most popular single right now, and first video together, is “Transparent Woman.” Who is the transparent woman, and what does it mean to be transparent?
DU: To be honest, I was super stoned when I came up with it. Sometimes I put some meaning in my lyrics, but sometimes the words just come out of me and I don’t understand what they mean. Once I tried to read my own lyrics and I was like “Oh! I see the story here. It starts at midnight, and something’s going on. A spirit appears in the room, and then it ends in the sunrise.” It’s like a plot. It’s just my imagination.
DM: It’s the non-material girl that Dasha is.
The “non-material girl?"
DM: Yeah, like, transparent and aerial.
I wanted to ask about your work with Areola Magazine, Dasha.
DU: It’s funny, because we’re right now in the room with the co-founder of Areola and our other best friend, Nastya. She’s sitting right next to me.
DM: And eating.
DU: And eating. Areola is an erotic magazine that we started about seven years ago. I used to work as a photo editor at another popular magazine in Moscow. My main thing I had to do once a week was an article with these pictures of naked ladies and small text. They fired me once, but this topic was the most popular in this magazine, and they closed it because they wanted to change the style of the magazine. But I was so into it, I was like, I want to keep going, keep doing this thing. I thought that I could earn money doing this thing, and I suggested to my best friend Nastya to make it with me, so we started to do it. It’s a huge art project, and also we’ve started to shoot commercials, and so on. And we made a modeling agency out of it.
I was curious about Areola’s mission: “To help people become more liberated and freethinking with the help of our favorite art form, photography.”
DU: When we started it, it was a little bit difficult to make such a magazine. Girls in Moscow were super shy; Instagram wasn’t so popular at the time. Now, everyone’s trying to get naked as much as they can, like “Look at us! So sexy!” But seven years ago, we begged girls to do photoshoots. I think we had some influence in Russia in this sphere.
In the video for “Transparent Woman” you have these characters: the Texas Businessman, the Young Mother, the Criminal. You’ve said before it’s like Season 1 of a Netflix series. What’s season 2?
DM: It’s a bit complicated because when we had the idea for our band, we thought that every video that we shoot would be connected to another, to show a bigger story. And when you think of that, and start to try different tracks for different videos, you understand different ideas. You can’t just shoot any video to any track. There’s some mood in the track already and you can see some pictures in it. So we wanted to start with a different track for the first video, but it was a bit complicated to shoot—it was much bigger—so we decided to make this video. It’s not the first one in the line; it’s maybe third of the series. When we shoot another video, it will be connected, and you’ll see the meaning. When you see it like this, it looks a little bit chaotic, because you don’t understand what’s actually happening. But it’s a story about Dasha and my character, and about her transformation, and about people’s greed that surrounds her. It’s an auction and a test, to show people’s minds. Every person is corrupt.
Where did the idea for an auction scene come from?
DM: If you read our legend, it says that my character moves to Russia and finds a girl that fits his needs. He tries to transform her into another being. To test her as a new creature, he puts her in this auction to see the reaction. At the end of the video, people are trying to kill each other. It’s a metaphor for this object of desire, for something that you want so bad that you can go mad and kill everybody for it.
DU: The idea is that Danya wants to use me. When he transforms me into this supercreature, he wants to use me to manipulate people’s minds. I have effects on people’s minds; they insanely want me. This is the reason that he brings me to this auction. People are going crazier and crazier and crazier, and at the end, they’re killing each other to try to get me. It’s like a test drive––how far people will go to get me, and how Danya can manipulate their minds in the future. It’s a test drive of the supercreature.
Dasha, I read that “Cold Sun” was inspired by Chernobyl—the HBO show and also the disaster itself. The track has a very industrial feeling, and it’s paired with an intimate sense of excitement and romance. It’s a slow explosion. How did you develop that?
DU: You know, as I told you before, sometimes things are just getting out of my mind, and I was very impressed with the show. Of course I heard about this disaster before, but they showed it so good for me. We are trying to do some kind of EBM, and EBM is connected to industrial music, and so on. Also, I had a punk past.
DM: And actually, when you say industrial, it’s an old term, but when it was invented it was about factories, how they change the way of life for the people. We now live in a different age, and this age sounds different. So the new “industrial” is a bit different; it’s all technological. It may be very bright—like the internet, TikTok, Instagram––but there’s a sea of sadness inside of it. It’s what’s appealing for this track. It’s really rich in colors, but it’s really sad.
DU: Yeah, we like to make this contrast between fun music and sad lyrics. We are Italo-Goth.
Speaking of sadness, I don’t know if it’s just an American perception, but people here consider Molchat Doma and other artists coming out of Russia, Belarus, and the rest of Eastern Europe right now to be making Doomer Music. Have you guys heard of this classification? Is “Doomer” actually in the vocabulary in the music scene in Moscow?
DM: It’s a big wave from Eastern Europe, but there are a lot of different kinds of artists. Molchat Doma is really great, and they hit the spot with some of their songs and became really popular. But everyone chooses their own weapon; some use post-punk, we use electronic music. Maybe it’s a whole new wave of sadness, but it’s not like Witch House or something. It’s different for us: We’re more like Disco Sadness, Last Days of Disco.
Do you ever get miscategorized, with your international audience, as doomers? I find a lot of the conversation here seems to be, “Russians, singing about sad shit, that’s doomer music.”
DM: I don’t think that we are the only ones, because I think for example, if we take Billie Eillish, she talked all about her depression––it’s not only us; there are many artists that are sad. It’s popular to be sad. It’s a moment.
DU: But I think it’s quite logical to be sad when you live in Russia. It’s why we make sad music. We’re not living by the sea or something; we’re living in Moscow. It’s so crowded. Everyone is so anxious, so angry here. So it’s fine.
DM: And you know, there’s a kind of music that’s so good, so happy—so trying to be happy—that there’s actually a little bit of sadness to it. It really helps. A little bit of sadness always helps for all the great tracks.
DU: When we’re trying to make this mix with fun music and sad lyrics, there’s a little bit of irony. We don’t take ourselves too seriously; we’re flexible. We can be happy, we can be sad. It depends on our mood. We don’t bring one type of “us” to the world. Maybe our next album will be super fun, maybe not.
What is it like for you to translate sadness into art together?
DM: It’s a difficult question because I don’t think of it like that. For example, I live in Russia, and I see Russia in really different shapes. 15 years ago it was so different. Nobody believed a situation like now could really happen. We were building a different place, a new future, for our country. There was a lot of hope for everyone. I remember that. I think that’s also a part of my music: there’s still a lot of hope. I don’t feel like I’m making only this sadness. I try to resist. I live in my own world, a little bit. I think Dasha does the same.
DU: I’m not trying to make lyrics about politics. I try not to think about it because it’s too much for me. I’m an artistic person who lives in her own world. And I like decadence, and so on. Since I was very young, I used to be a punk, I used to be a metal kid. And now I like goth. I’m not sad all the time—I can be fun—but I prefer these aesthetics. This is just what comes out of my soul, I guess.
DM: Music is always a way to communicate with people, and each of us is trying it in a different way. I am trying to communicate with our listeners through the music, and Dasha through the lyrics and singing.
You’re having your first show in a year this week.
DM: Not because it was locked down, but because we felt that we needed to take it more seriously now. We need to prepare more. We need to do something bigger. When we started it was just parties for friends. Now we want to be something bigger.
DU: We also wanted to release something, because we hadn’t released anything before. When we were performing, people were asking us, “Where can we listen to your music online?” And we were like, “Nowhere, sorry!”
DM: It was, for some time, really crazy, because other artists do it really differently—releasing 2, 3, albums before anybody starts to recognize them. Dasha was a big DJ for many years, so everybody knows her. I was making music for a while too. So when we started making music [together], we needed to do it good because people are looking for us. And now, after this video, we need to do a really great show. We can’t just do the thing that we did before, just for fun.
And now it’s very serious.
DM: Now it’s going to be a show.
DU: No, not very serious! We’re just learning how to perform because it’s a new experience for us. I’m very shy actually, because I used to be a DJ, where you don’t need to take the mic and say anything. I was just turning on music, and that’s it. Now I need to perform, be in the middle of the stage, everyone staring at me, and I’m quite an introvert. I need to warm myself up to do it right. We’re dreaming about how borders will be finally opened, and this COVID thing will be over, and we will be able to meet our new friends from Italians Do It Better, finally, and perform with them. Make shows in the outer world, not only in Russia, because it’s not very interesting for us––I’ve been touring as a DJ for years before. We want to do something different, to see the world.
Sarah Pavlovna Goldberg writes, eats, and lives in the Hudson Valley. Get to know her better: @solidgoldsarah
*Thumbnail image by Marussia Skopintseva