Not so much amidst a storm of controversy, but with a gentle swell of ambition and expansion of vision, London three-piece Daughter have steadily built a huge following for their mysterious brand of moody folk music. It feels like an enormous plan is in motion, all aspects of their presentation is perfectly balanced. “In everything we do, from the music videos, to the posters or the merch, we’re very interested in doing things that further our musical world.” Igor Haefeli – the band’s guitarist – tells me. “For us that’s paramount.”
This trio of Haefeli, singer Elena Tonra and drummer Remi Aguilella are on the verge of releasing their second album, ‘Not To Disappear’. Recorded over eight weeks in New York, it embraces the disorientation a bustling foreign metropolis can engender. From certain interpretations, loneliness seems to be a recurring theme in this new work. “I think in terms of what Elena was writing that’s how I connected with it. It translates really well with the tale of the modern city – just feeling lonely, despite being surrounded by people.” Not quite experimental, not quite mainstream; anyone who has suffered moments of self-doubt or been cursed with the grip of loneliness will recognise many of the lyrical themes in this music. “It’s not just loneliness in an empty space, but loneliness within yourself.” Yet rather than wallow in an indulgent swamp of misery, Daughter embrace the darker moments and emotions. Conjuring beauty from the pain, Daughter is more than the sum of its parts. The rhythm, textures and vocals heard separately would prove an awkward listen, but layered like this… the results are spellbinding.
This new album bears an evolution in the band’s sound, compared with 2013’s debut ‘If You Leave’. They’re a band pushing forwards all the time. The cost of constant evolution is that often writing and arrangements carry on until the last possible moment. It certainly makes recording quite a big endeavour. “It goes through phases. Up until halfway through mixing we’re still deciding. It’s a long process, but there is an idea moving forwards. We make a point of experimenting with ideas. But Elena’s writing was more direct…” There’s a haunting and painful distinction in their music, it feels like you’ve glimpsed behind a curtain, witnessing a sight not meant to be seen.
If anything, being separated from the familiar drove the band on creatively. “Being in a totally different context, from a musical point of view, and an ethical point of view it’s so different to London.” Blending the lush soundscapes of Cocteau Twins with the abstract emotional palette of Joy Division, the average Daughter song paints vivid images of love and connection. Pithy titles set an agenda for complex sonic constructions. In less capable hands, their wistful melodrama could sound pompous and ill conceived. The overall tone might be sombre, but this isn’t a band immersed in token miserablism. Unless you’ve never felt an emotion in your life, these songs make pretty much all other music sound smug, senseless and irrelevant. It’s a different, accomplished sound, evocative and above all fresh and immediate.
It seems fitting that Daughter has found a home on indie label 4AD, a place acclaimed for rewriting the pop playbook. With acts as diverse as Grimes, Zomby, Bon Iver, Thowing Muses and the people who produced ‘Pump Up The Volume’, there’s few common attributes cross the label’s roster, unless you count a common desire for invention and revolution. “They choose the right bands to be on their label. They are a small team, but they are very passionate about facilitating whatever the artist wants to do. They’re just very attuned to what’s going on and open to what’s new.” What they do share with other 4AD acts is their approach to how their art is presented to the world. Accompanying the album’s lead tracks is a visual trilogy, created by filmmakers Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, the pair responsible for the ethereal Nick Cave feature ‘20,000 Days on Earth’. Working with the band since the early days, their first film which accompanied ‘Doing the Right Thing’ accumulated over 300,000 YouTube views in a single week. “We really love working with them, they’re very inspiring. I think they really get what we do.” These videos are based upon three works of fiction commissioned by Daughter and written by Stuart Evers. The ‘Your Father Sends His Love’ and ‘Ten Stories About Smoking’ author created a trio of moving and beautiful works, which mirrored the spirit of the album.
This art-meets-music crossover continues with Daughter’s use of the work of Brighton-based artist, Sarah Shaw. After seeing some examples, the band fell in love with her work. “It took a while before we got in touch with her. Her stuff is beautiful.” The ethereal majesty of her art seemed a good match for their ruminating electronic soundscapes. So is this a sign Daughter want to be more than simply a great band? Have they intentions to be the centre of an art movement? “In a way I’d like to think so. Depending on how long we go on for it’ll be a mutating collective. But it’s very much the three of us at the centre of it.”
Daughter play Brighton Dome on Sun 17 Jan 2016.
Their second album ‘Not To Disappear’ is released on Fri 15 Jan, via 4AD.