DC’s vibrant underground music scene is chock full of dazzling examples of true DIY idealism in action, but when it comes to dance music, it’s hard for me to think of a contemporary local act that exemplifies “do-it-yourself” values more than DMV KARS.
They may refer to themselves as two “goofy girls from the DMV,” but Carla Elliot JosaFeen “Jo-Jo” Wells and Kristina “Kbudd” Buddenhagen mean business when it comes to making and recording their own music. The talented duo specialize in the kind of 80s-inspired electro-funk concoctions that’s impossible not to move to — and they do it all using a Macbook, microKORG, Yamaha keyboard and a seemingly endless well of DIY creativity.
DMV KARS formed in 2017, when JosaFeen and Kbudd reconnected after taking some time off from the DC music scene. The two musicians had previously played in the D.C. band E.D. Sedwick with Justin Moyer, with JosaFeen on vocals and Kbudd on bass.
Now, the duo make their own elastic grooves. And rather than following a similar style to E.D. Sedwick, DMV KARS is its own wonderfully idiosyncratic mutant disco machine, with traces of classic 80s bombers like Chakka Khan and Shannon, but also New Order and other synth-friendly stompers, with more than a smattering of pure funk and disco. The band’s self-titled EP is a must listen for anyone who loves a good groove.
With DMV KARS slated to play the Oct. 4th edition of WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE, I got in touch with the band to learn more about this most intriguing of dance acts…
1) What can you tell us about how DMV KARS formed? I know you previously played together in Edie Sedgwick with Justin Moyer.
DMV KARS: We were both out of the music scene for some quite some time and hadn’t seen each other for a while. We met up as friends, we were both going through a lot of personal shit, and we reconnected — we both really missed playing music, and decided we wanted to do a really fun project together.
2) DMV KARS is like a delicious ice cream swirl of all the best 80s sounds — there’s funk, electro pop, new wave and more than a bit of RnB. At the same time, DMV KARS has a vibrancy and edge that is unmistakably modern. How did you arrive at the DMV KARS sound?
DMV KARS: We had both been listening to electronic music individually (this was not what we were playing together in our previous project). We thought, hey, maybe we can make our own dance music? The new wave, RnB, funk elements just came out naturally, turning into this hybrid electro pop sound that i don’t really know how to classify. We worked a long time on the album, but I would say that the meat of the songs just poured out easily and took the direction that you hear now. We didn’t really know where it would go – we weren’t purposely trying to make a specific sound, just that we wanted people to dance.
3) How do you approach writing songs together? Do you ever just jam out and see where it takes you?
DMV KARS: Yes, we usually start out with a drum idea — then play around on keys and bass. Once a musical structure is sort of in place, JosaFeen will improv over it with her voice. Then we add the little elements later to beef up the jams. It’s a really fun process, and whenever we get a snippet or idea that is really catchy, we praise each other with sheer adulation🤣🤣🤣-even if it’s only a 5 second part of the song, we walk away with a huge surge of positivity that the two of us made something we are really proud of. So in effect, the songwriting process is really, really, really fun.
4) One of my favorite tracks is “Fukumeen.” It has a fantastic driving rhythm, vintage synths, gorgeous singing and unstoppable hooks. It also has some witty things to say about a failed relationship. What can you tell us about it?
DMV KARS: This was the fastest song we ever wrote. KBUD just randomly started playing that melody on the microkorg, and JosaFeen immediately got the vocal idea. It is one of our favorites, and it’s the one that just poured out of us the easiest. I think most people can relate to this song.
5) Let’s talk about the DMV KARS live show. What do you want audience members to feel when they see the band?
DMV KARS: We want them to laugh, smile, and dance. ultimately walk away feeling better than they did before the set started. everyone is going through something difficult in their lives — and if you can escape from that for 25 minutes by watching two silly women prancing around on stage with light-up ties sharing their hearts with the crowd, then i would say we achieved something really special.
And don’t miss DMV KARS live show at WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE on Friday, Oct. 4th, 2019 at the Marx Cafe (3203 Mt. Pleasant St. NW, Washington DC 20010).