The Dove and The Wolf's 'I Don't Know What to Feel' Explores Human Resilience in the Face of Terror
The Philly-via-Paris duo's new EP grapples with the emotional fallout of the Paris Bataclan attacks and is now streaming exclusively on Noisey.
Paloma Gil (left) and Lou Hayat (right) / Photo by Colin Kerrigan, courtesy of The Dove and The Wolf
Paloma Gil and Lou Hayat know exactly where they were on November 13, 2015. It’s hard to forget. What they thought would be an ordinary night out at a friend’s bar—not far from Parisian concert venue Bataclan—turned into an evening that would transform their lives, personally and professionally, for months to come.
The duo, who comprise the now-Philadelphia-based band of The Dove and The Wolf, needed to renew their visa and returned home to Paris after spending the better part of a year in the US touring. It was a long and arduous process involving lawyers, petitioners, letters of recommendation. By November, they’d spent two months in France and were eager to get back to Philly to write. Then, an act of terror on an concert hall.
“We knew that even if we got the visa [that day], we couldn’t leave,” Gil recalls. “We needed to be there.”
Seven months later, Gil and Hayat are back in Philly. They secured their visa, which doesn’t have to be renewed for three years, in January, and they’re about to release an EP, I Don’t Know What To Feel, on June 17, a collection of five songs directly inspired by the night of November 13. Warm and intimate, Hayat’s soprano balancing Gil’s alto, their voices weave together in unexpected harmonies. Songs like the title track transition from celestial ambience to heavenly cooing, an instrumental closing number that shows there’s just as much power in sounds as there is in words. “The Smell of Us” plays on the power of human connection in the face of tragedy: “It will never be the same / I already know / But I want you with me now / How can I let you go and still keep you close?” they sing in unison.
Groups of young people stroll casually past the Fishtown bar Johnny Brenda’s, where the duo now sit pondering carefully over their beer selection. A light breeze blows their long hair as they crouch over Hayat’s phone screen which displays a photo of the bar’s drink board.
“I can only take selfies, only my front camera works,” Gil says flatly, looking up from the phone. They’re both tired after a late night in Atlantic City shooting a music video for “The Smell of Us.”
A trio on the street corner behind the table where we sit hug farewell: a very American display of affection, something you’d never see in France, they say.
“We don’t do that,” Gil says, shaking her head.
“For the few days, weeks that followed [the attacks], you’d see people hugging on the street,” Hayat continues.
“It felt like people were warmer. It was beautiful.”
The EP was born out of a time of fear, however the result is a tender showing of strength. The songs are not political—the duo purposely shunned such an idea—but touch on the humanizing effect of a dehumanizing event, how the human condition brings people together in the face of tragedy. “Hello stranger, I do not know anything about you / But I know you must feel just as empty as I do” opens “Seven Days,” a sobering track on the aftermath of an instant that affects the masses.
In the weeks following the attacks, Gil and Hayat couldn’t listen to music, read books, watch a movie. Everyone in their inner circle had, in some way, been affected by the events of November 13. Sufjan Stevens’s Carrie & Lowell helped Hayat reflect and recover. Soon after, they took to the French countryside to write the EP in a matter of days. Upon returning to Philly, they connected with Dave Hartley (The War on Drugs, Nightlands) and Nick Krill (The Spinto Band, Teen Men), who produced I Don’t Know What To Feel, to record in March of this year. Wasting no time at all, they concluded mixing and mastering and got the work ready for release.
“Some people were like ‘No, when you release something you take three to four months. Don’t release it now, now’s not a good time,’” Hayat remembers. “And we were like, we don’t care. It’s because of its meaning, it can’t wait any longer.”
Despite their 13-year friendship—half of their lives at this point—and having played music together for much of that (although they only started writing as a team since 2012), Hayat feels this is only just the beginning for The Dove and The Wolf. Her childhood was spent playing with her brothers in banana fields on the Caribbean island of Martinique while Gil, a city kid, would save her spare cash from Christmas and birthdays to buy tickets to concerts in Paris. Even with an ocean between them, the two managed to form a friendship. Gil’s mother had met Hayat at a party and thought the teen reminded her of her own teenage daughter. She got Hayat’s internet info and encouraged the girls to chat online. They became fast friends and met two months later while Hayat was in Paris visiting her father. Hayat eventually moved to Paris when she was 16, but their distinct upbringings allowed each member of the band to think and react in different ways, musically and personally. Gil speaks swiftly and often. She laughs loudly and buoyantly. Hayat is more reserved, thoughtful in her sentiments. They both love singing Boyz II Men at karaoke.
There are many light moments throughout the conversation as the pair detail stories like Gil’s selfie tour of the Jersey Shore, but the Paris terror attacks are never far from their minds. It puts all of this in perspective: They know not to take any moment for granted. Although unpacking it all to those who didn’t live it is taking some getting used to.
“It’s weird because you have to talk about something that you did because you felt stuff,” Hayat says. “It’s like forced therapy in a way.”
“I think when we decided to write a song about it, we just needed to,” Gil says. “We asked ourselves the question: What are we going to talk about? We thought about the thing that really touched us was how people were after and how people were together and that’s what we wanted to write about because that’s a beautiful thing.”
“It’s kind of amazing how such a serious, terrible, terrifying event can rehumanize things when it’s so unhuman,” Hayat says later. “It’s this thing that reminds you that the little things, the innocence, the lighter aspect of life is so important.”
Allie Volpe is a writer based in Philadelphia. Follow her on Twitter.