A Little Deeper: Daughter Interviewed

Igor Haefeli on the construction of 'Not To Disappear'...

It’s been three years in the making but it’s finally here – the second album from London three-piece Daughter. Even after the massive success and subsequent world tour of their debut ‘If You Leave’, it’s been a non-stop journey. Clash caught up with guitarist and producer Igor Haefeli about short stories, heavy lyrics and of course, the making of their incredible new album ‘Not To Disappear’.

It turns out work on the new album started well over a year ago, and the creative process has taken them on a criss-cross trans-Atlantic journey from London to New York, and back again. One of the most interesting developments here is the commissioning of short story writer Stuart Evers and filmmakers Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard to work on the new album.

“We wanted to make short movies rather than a typical music video”, Igor explains. “We needed a narrative in order to make those films, so obviously we needed a short story writer.” Both Iain and Jane are well known to the band having produced videos on their 2013 debut ‘If You Leave’, and it was Pollard who suggested contacting Stuart, who she said was one of her favourite writers. So that’s exactly what they did, and once Stuart was on board, it seems they left him to his own devices. “We told him which songs we wanted videos for and he used that for inspiration. They’re not actually linked to the meaning of the song, just his interpretation of it”.

After all, what’s the point of hiring a creative unless you want them to use their own imagination right? The strikingly powerful video for ‘Doing The Right Thing’ is based on a story called ‘Dress’, tells a dark, explosive tale of love, loss and longing. ‘Numbers’ is the second video based on Stuart Evers’ short story ‘Window’. A story of anger, frustration and blame, it’s different yet equally powerful as the first film in the trilogy. The third video in the triptych is not out yet, but based on the first two, it’ll be something special.

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I create my own little world which helps me conceptualise the song.

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Alongside Igor, New York based Nicolas Vernhes worked on the production of ‘Not To Disappear’ and it’s obvious why they chose to work with him. Having already worked with Animal Collective, Deerhunter and The War on Drugs, he seemed ready made for Elena’s impassioned, from-the-heart words and Igor’s tight, melodic guitar. Igor starts with a chuckle, saying, “we needed a really good engineer, someone to hold our hands a little bit”. He goes on to say the band “needed to finish the album in a peaceful way…working for such a long time together in one room quite a lot of negativity can brew up”. Much like their songs, this is a wholly pure and honest assessment.

So, having done a lot of the preparatory work already, the band then flew to New York for two months to perfect the album with Vernhes in his studio. Chatting a little more about New York, Igor says: “It was a brilliant time, and refreshing to be in a different place after spending so much time in London”. Flying over to the Big Apple to work in a “proper studio” as Igor puts it, is no doubt a world away from their usual studio in Tottenham (meaning no disrespect to N17) and one that they all seemed to enjoy. It was a case of no rest for the wicked, as Daughter played various shows in New York before heading out to Japan and Singapore for yet more dates.

Perfecting the album is what they went to New York to do, and perfect is a word that seems to crop up a lot chatting to Igor, a word rapidly becoming synonymous with the work ethic of the London three-piece. Daughter are, by their own admission, absolute perfectionists in what they do, they never stop until every little thing is bang on. “We definitely went over the time we were meant to have with him (Vernhes),” Igor says with another little chuckle. “We keep on working on things ‘til the very last minute.”

Asking how it felt to finally get it all done Igor has just one word in response – “Relieved”. Curious to know if he had any time to kick back after they finished the record, Igor simply says “Christmas was my only holiday last year – as a producer I don’t get holidays!”

It’s impossible to listen to Daughter and not be struck (to put it lightly) by their lyrics. Although it’s superficially clear that words come from Elena and guitar from Igor, we ask if there’s much crossover in terms of creative input between them. “They (the lyrics) are totally Elena’s domain… she can become quite precious about the original idea, and it becomes greater than the sum of its parts.” He admits that “such personal lyrics belong the Elena, and that the listeners will integrate the songs into their own personal story”.

Pushing him on whether any of the songs have taken on any real personal importance or significance, he allows that ‘Alone / With You’ really hit home from a personal point of view. With lyrics like “You are never there, just a shadowy figure with a blank face, kicking me out of his place”, it’s not surprising. Having said that, the following line “I should get a dog or something”, seems to come out of nowhere, and it really sticks. It smacks of absolute despair, laced with dark humour. It is this ability to create such piercing lyrics that make ‘Not To Disappear’ such a special record. We continue to discuss the crossover between Elena’s role as lyricist and Igor’s role as producer: “It’s very different being almost on the fringes, and then seeing the songs come to life later on,” he comments. “I create my own little world which helps me conceptualise the song.”

It’s an interesting observation, and a great insight into the world of the producer, who goes on to say: “From a production point of view, the lyrics become more abstract than carrying that heavy emotional load they might for a listener. Building some of the songs took over a year and you have to remember what was there in the first place, what it was that really touched you.”

It’s doubtful there can be many bands as hard-working as Daughter, nor a group that invest so much emotional energy into their music. Listening to ‘Not To Disappear’ is like being hit by a steam train – you finish up as an emotional wreck; which, according to Igor, “is the whole idea, to go a little deeper”. In that case, mission accomplished.

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Words: Milo Wasserman

'Not To Disappear' is out now. Catch Daughter at the following shows:

15 Cambridge Corn Exchange
16 Oxford O2 Academy SOLD OUT
17 Brighton Dome SOLD OUT
18 Portsmouth Pyramids Centre
20 Birmingham O2 Institute
21 Manchester Albert Hall SOLD OUT
22 Liverpool Academy
23 Edinburgh Queens Hall SOLD OUT
25 Newcastle O2 Academy
26 Leeds Beckett University
27 Nottingham Rock City
28 London Forum SOLD OUT

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