A Line Runs Through It: Daughter

Beguiling 4AD newcomers speak out...

“I think the best way to explain it is to just go from the beginning…”

Daughter’s story is engaging simple, yet deceptively complex. A trio, the group owe their origins to singer Elena Tonra, who set her sights on fellow music student Igor Haefeli. Gigs, writing sessions, studio sojourns followed before Remi Aguilela came on board and allowed the group’s vision to really come into focus.

There was never a plan. That much we know for certain. Two EPs followed, with hype seemingly to increase with every mp3. Escaping to the countryside, Daughter drew a line under their progress and surged ahead with new material. “We wanted to get more new songs down – we weren’t too interested in re-hashing the stuff we’d got out on the EPs” insists Igor Haefeli. “In a way, I don’t know if starting a-fresh is the right term, it’s more just progressing. Moving on!”

There’s certainly a sense of momentum behind Daughter. Eager to build their own identity, the band seem to sprint-a-yard… then halt; sprint-a-yard… then halt. “To me, the first EP was very much about leaving a lot of space for Eleanor’s lyrics to be as naked as they can be. Also, in terms of growth we had two guitars, a couple of mics and that was it!” laughs the guitarist. “So in that sense, when we did the ‘Wild Youth’ EP it grew sonically but we also tried to build an identity with that EP. At the same time, it was just us experimenting with sound and trying to find a concrete way of sonically representing what we wanted the songs to be in an emotional sense”.

‘Emotion’ is a word which crops up again and again when discussing Daughter’s music. For the band, it’s a way of discussing their output, a way of explaining how each carefully daubed element of sound represents something clear, distinct in their own mind. “It was quite jigsaw like, in a way” Haefeli muses. “We worked quite hard at making it feel like it all went together. Ultimately, we had a vision and we recorded quite a lot of things in our flat, we had the master session in our flat so there was an idea there. If you look at the album like a painting, then we just went and got different colours from different studios and then brought it back to the painting.”

A beautiful artefact to listen to, Daughter’s debut album ‘If You Leave’ drips with gorgeous production. Throughout the interview, the band emphasise the need for texture, for treating the quality of sound almost as an instrument in itself. “I think as a musician – and more so as a producer – I listen a lot to texture, I find that texture can sometimes almost be a hook in itself” the guitarist explains. “If you have something which sounds really amazing you want to hear it again, whether it’s a catchy melody or not. For me, at least, it really does that for me. I find it in Bjork’s music, for example – there’s something there which I find really compelling.. the idea that just through sound you can really remember a song.”

As sumptuous on the ear as ‘If You Leave’ undeniably is, there are unsettling elements at play. Daughter know when to cut deep, with Elena Tonra’s lyrics often pointing towards something quite painful. “That’s totally herself. She needs a lot of space for that” Igor insists. “It’s quite interesting because basically when inspiration sparks, the lyrics arrive in one block and generally won’t be re-written or anything, it’s just there. It works very much that way, we don’t really discuss the lyrics that much. It’s very much her thing.”

One thing the band are free to discuss, however, is there fondness for one word titles. “The thing is, it started really with the first EP – three of the four songs were one word titles. We decided to further that with ‘Wild Youth’ and then again on the album. I don’t know if we’ll stick to it forever” the guitarist says. “There are loads of reasons behind it, but Elena always writes the set list on her hand so it’s always one word, just to keep space. That’s a practical reason. Also, there’s this idea – which is more down to Elena – that she doesn’t like explaining the lyrics to her songs, and she wants to keep the meaning open to interpretation. So the idea is to leave the meaning that little bit more open, because again it’s like a picture, if you have one word to it then you’re pointing in a certain direction but you’re not defining it as much as with a longer title.”

Partly done in jest, partly done for aesthetic purposes the playful nature of those titles runs – quite literally – down the spine of Daughter’s debut album. By turns mystifying and quite direct, carefully thought out and utterly spontaneous ‘If You Leave’ is a remarkably cohesive debut album. Something which Igor Haefeli insists was always their intention. “I think the thing with us is that we judge songs quite quickly. We’ll never finish a song is it doesn’t feel right. So we didn’t have that many songs at the end of it. We wouldn’t dismiss a song if it was a good song, but everything kind of fits together quite naturally” he says. “Sonically, the way we had done things before.. We recorded a lot of the drums in one studio, the piano in another studio. We went to different places but we used the acoustics of the room, and also I think it comes down to mixing. Ken Thomas’ mixing just glues everything together really well. Most of the songs were written in 2012 so they all come from the same place”.

Released to instant and near unanimous acclaim, ‘If You Leave’ has served to increase the intense hype surrounding the band. Ultimately, though, Daughter are able to take this attention in their stead. “Definitely, not in our wildest dreams were we thinking of being signed to 4AD and just being on the cover of magazines or things like that. It’s really nice that people have been supportive of the record so far. Ultimately, we view music very selfishly, it’s very much for ourselves. It’s been amazing to have people to relate to that music, it definitely keeps us really busy! It’s great, it’s just hard work”.

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'If You Leave' is out now.

Daughter have confirmed the following shows:

21 Birmingham Library SOLD OUT 
22 Liverpool Anglican Cathedral SOLD OUT 
23 Oxford Town Hall 
24 Bournemouth Old Fire Station SOLD OUT 

Click here to buy tickets for Daughter!

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