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Wiri Donna - MNZ Interview: Capital BS 001: Bianca Bailey from Wiri Donna

04 Apr 2021 // An interview by bethany_rachell

Introducing the first of many new interview series for Muzic.net.nz, Capital BS comes to us from Wellington and is administrated by the editor of this very newsletter, Beth. 

Beth recently caught up with Poneke-based Bianca Bailey from Wiri Donna about solo song writing, band projects and wahine magic at CubaDupa.

Wiri Donna performing - Eyegum Wednesday 2020
Photo credit - Beth Mountford

Tell us a little about Wiri Donna and how it came about... 

Wiri Donna is my first solo project venture, I started writing the songs in 2018 by myself in my bedroom a lot of the time. It started as what I thought might be an indie folk project and I just wanted an avenue to work on my own music away from a collaborative space. The core of my songwriting in all of my projects previously had been with other people and I thought that maybe it was time to challenge myself a little bit and see what I could produce on my own. So I spent two years working on that ~very quietly~ before I was able to release my first two tracks in April 2020. I recorded them in my bedroom with the magical help of James Shanly and the mixing and mastering genius of Tristan Mercer. It was really nice to have their support to help me begin the journey, I felt like I had a real supportive community of people who were just keen to help. And that sort of just kept going, and now I have a band!

How did the band come about, since you started as a solo project? 

I suppose the intention was to always get a band eventually but I didn’t know how to go about that... So I did what any self-respecting Wellington musician would do and booked an ~Eyegum Wednesday~ gig, months away, but then I had a date to work towards. I spent ages trying to find people who would play with me and it seemed like nothing was going to come together and it really was a last minute thing where James and Harry and Ethan just came through and want to help and enable it all to work. We played the first show as just a see-how-we-like-it and they all decided they wanted to stick around! Which is so nice! Now I have this consistent group of people that I know I can work with and rely on.   

Wiri Donna performing - Eyegum Wednesday 2020
Photo credit - Beth Mountford

What is your favourite thing about Wellington and/or the Wellington music scene? 

Well, when I started playing music I was playing shows in Auckland and I found it really difficult to connect and engage. It sort of felt like everyone was just out there trying to make it as something. But playing music down here just feels like you’re part of some massive community of people who want to see everyone else succeed as much as they want to succeed themselves. I love that it feels like you’re just surrounded by an incredible love and passion for music. People are just wanting to be creative. 

What do Wiri Donna have in the works for 2021? 

Oh! A really cool friend of mine Isaac McFarlane (a.k.a. Hahko) started a project called Two Daze. He was sick of the lack of productivity within New Zealand Music Month and wanted to do something that really challenged a whole group of creatives. It’s like 48 hour film festival but for music, so you have two days to record and produce a song from scratch. We came out the other side of that with a song that is going to be released as part of a compilation in May.  

Was there a theme for the Two Daze track? 

Nah it was just, have fun, be creative. Personally, I was getting pretty angry and serious about some men in the music scene that just seem to think that they’re doing the best thing for women when they’re really just doing the bare minimum. So that’s where I was directing my energy at the time and I feel like I came away from it with a really productive piece of music that explained how I was feeling in that moment.

Is there often a goal in mind when you’re writing music? 

I think it varies and it changes. I feel a lot of the time I struggle to figure out how I feel about something, whether it be personal or political or ethical. Songwriting is a massive part of my process of being able to comprehend things and comprehend my own emotions towards things I suppose. So yeah, it always changes, there’s never really a goal it just always depends on what’s going on in my universe and the general universe. 

And you were involved with CubaDupa this year too? 

Yeah! This year I was ‘festival coordinator’ which was...pretty cool. Pretty cool. Last year I was the ‘artist liaison’ but only got a month and a half in before it was cancelled. So it was great to be able to come back this year as festival coordinator. It was my first time doing that job and it was a massive job. I spent the whole time pinching myself being like ‘you’re doing this’ because I had no idea what I was doing. I just ran on faith that I could do something like that. It was a huge learning curve but also one of the most rewarding things I've ever done in my life.

Were you happy with how the day went? 

Yeah, we have an incredible team of people that go behind what goes on at the festival. Everyone is so passionate about what they do and it just showed a massive sense of resilience of what we were able to accomplish with the amount of setbacks that have happened in the last few years. To be out on the street and have it all happening and just feeling the huge sense of pride and community and creativity just flowing throughout the city was pretty magical. I might have cried during CubaSonic  when that happened on Sunday.  

The Garage Project stage was all female/trans/non-binary led, is that right? 

Yeah absolutely. So, this year the Garage Project workshop stage was programmed by Gussie Larkin from Mermaidens and Earth Tongue. We all know Gussie, she’s incredible. She curated that whole line up and I was absolutely over the moon when she said “hey I've got this slot and I was hoping you could play it...” It’s so incredible to be seeing female fronted, non-binary fronted musicians having a space where they can all of the respect and recognition that they deserve. I see so many wahine out there who are killing it and I feel like they don’t get everything they deserve. And it’s so great to have someone like Gussie doing it who is someone that I was looking up to as a songwriter in high school. Yeah, it was so powerful having that stage and having Garage Project be so excited, they just said “yes, this is something that we want to be doing for our local community. Pretty surreal experience.

What is your favourite gig you’ve played so far this year? 

Well obviously....hahah. Yeah, my favourite gig was last Saturday night at CubaDupa.  

Wiri Donna on the Garage Project Workshop Stage - CubaDupa 2021
Photo credit - Oliver Crawford 


About Wiri Donna

Wiri Donna begun as the indie-folk alter-ego of SOG's Bianca Bailey, these days turns out that Wiri Donna isn't so folk after all, more dinky riff rock designed for sweet summer moments. Music that will make you sigh and think about stuffs.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Wiri Donna


Being Alone
Year: 2022
Type: EP
Year: 2020
Type: EP

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