British three-piece Daughter are enthralling international audiences with their atmospheric instrumentals, driving melodies and hauntingly sincere vocals. In the country just last year for Splendour In The Grass, the trio are returning this month for a national tour with St Jerome’s Laneway Festival.
Music Feeds caught up with lead guitarist Igor Haefeli to chat about the band’s early days, their debut album If You Leave, moving away from being a “bedroom band” and what we can expect from their upcoming Australian performances.
Music Feeds: Daughter tracks tend to feature intricate guitar layering that fosters an ethereal, emotive sound. The songs also seem to come alive through their production. Do you find it difficult to replicate the atmosphere and fullness of the album when performing live?
Igor Haefeli: It was definitely something that was at the back of our minds while we were doing the album, but we wanted to be set free and not be restrained by the reality of things. We never really rehearsed the songs before recording them. It was really written in the flat and then just recorded in the studio, where a lot of parts came up.
When we finished the album we were wondering “How are we going to do this?” We ended up roping in a fourth musician who plays with us live. He plays everything we can’t play, which is keyboards, bass and some more guitar. We were really happy with the result. It took quite a while and a lot of rehearsing and stuff, but we’ve got it. We are really happy with how the songs sound live.
We feel it’s actually more colourful than on the album. It’s another dimension to the songs and I feel pretty good about it. We also integrate vocal effects and I’ve got loads of guitar effects pedals. Our sound engineer has been with us for a while so he has been able to help us out.
MF: I noticed the track Youth appears on both the EP and the album. Was the track re-recorded, or has it just been remixed and mastered to fit the album?
IH: That’s something that we had really thought about and considered, to just remix the song. We felt like we had captured a moment, but it actually didn’t work with the rest of the songs. It just didn’t feel like the same body of work. We still felt like the song itself really went with the other songs we had. We decided to re-record it, but more in a live setting. We were all in the same room and played our instruments. It’s a new version.
MF: The band has been consistently on the rise for the last year or two. Have there been any moments where you have had to pinch yourself or any marked moments where you noticed people were starting to connect more with your music?
IH: The last time we came to Australia we played in Sydney, Melbourne and at Splendour. That was a moment when it was like “Whoa, all of these people so far away are listening to our music.” It definitely also felt like that when we played in Tokyo and the US. It’s quite crazy to think how music travels and that people are keen to see you perform your songs on stage.
We are lucky in the sense that, since we recorded our first EP in my bedroom, things have grown gradually. Things have also happened fast, but at the same time progressively. We didn’t just go from playing a 100 capacity room to a 1,500 capacity room. It still feels like we are living the dream, but it feels like it progressed naturally.
MF: You mentioned that the first EP was written in a bedroom. Since then the band has been signed to 4AD, released a second EP and an album. Has the songwriting process changed? Where does a song start now?
IH: At the very start [singer and lyricist] Elena was playing under her own name, Elena Tonra. She was already playing songs that are on the first EP. On the second one we started collaborating more and more with songwriting. She writes all of the lyrics. I don’t want to touch that. It is very much Elena and it is very honest.
Often, musically, the idea will come from her because she needs something to start with in regards to melody and the lyrics. Often we will finish those songs together. Sometimes I have an idea; whether it is a sound, or a loop or a chord progression that inspires her. That may trigger something and we will finish the song.
MF: What is your favourite part of the music process? Is it writing, recording or performing?
IH: I really enjoy every aspect of it. I love everything about music and the experience in general. However, I really love the excitement of feeling like you are holding on to something good, that you have something that you have achieved and can be happy about. I would say I really enjoy the writing and recording of things. I love giving more dimension to the songs and enhancing them in certain ways.
Watch: Daughter – Amsterdam (Live In Los Angeles)
IH: It was good. We met Rod before we started recording the album but he only took part when we had done a lot of the work. He was doing additional production and creative mixing ideas, but we had the songs there. It was really nice to work with Rod. He has a good ear for sound design and we had a really good time.
We also worked with Jolyon Vaughan Thomas on some songs, as there were some songs that we decided to re-record as we weren’t too happy with them and Rod wasn’t available anymore. The album was also mixed by Jolyon’s father, Ken Thomas.
MF: You will be visiting Australia soon to play at Laneway Festival. Describe the buzz you get from playing a festival of that size.
IH: It’s great. When we first started playing festival shows we were a bit worried that our music was not going to translate that well live. It actually worked and it’s gotten better and better as we’ve written new songs. We really enjoy festivals. There’s something about them that’s a bit looser. People are there to really enjoy themselves.
We really enjoy playing our own shows as well, but sometimes there is almost a bit of a religious silence and it makes us a bit nervous. That communal moment of festivals and being out in the fresh air is really great. We’re excited to get to Australia for summer, as it’s freezing here in the UK.
MF: Throughout February you will be playing some sold-out Laneway sideshows, in churches, in Sydney and Melbourne. What inspired this venue choice?
IH: We have played a fair amount of churches in the UK and abroad, throughout Europe. It’s a place that we’ve found works quite well. The acoustics carry the reverb and the vocals in an interesting way. The one thing that is sometimes a bit strange in the churches is that they are seated venues and it feels a bit strange that we are standing and enjoying the music while people are sitting down. Generally it’s a good atmosphere. If there is good lighting it can be beautiful.
MF: What’s next for the band, after the Laneway tour wraps up?
IH: After Laneway we are going to Tokyo, Hong Kong and Tai Pei to play some other festivals. After that we are heading home and will be concentrating on writing some new songs. We’ve got a few on the go, but with no pressure. We don’t want to release an album for the sake of it; we want to have the songs and take it easy.
MF: Is there any particular direction that the newer songs are headed? Will they be similar to the tracks on If You Leave?
IH: There is different stuff that is coming up at the moment and it is really quite radically different. We are still enjoying electronic elements. There will probably be songs that relate to our first album but we are definitely very interested one experimenting and broadening our horizons.
MF: What can we expect from your Laneway performances?
IH: I have absolutely no idea. I wish I could say “A good time!” but then you will probably have a bad time. They should be good and I hope they will be fun. I genuinely don’t know what to expect of the shows. We might bring a new song. We’ll see.
Catch Daughter at St Jerome’s Laneway Festival 2014 and at their own headlining shows in February for Heavenly Sounds – details below. Their debut album, ‘If You Leave’, is out now.
Daughter Laneway Sideshows 2014
Tuesday, 4th February
St Stephen’s Uniting Church, Sydney
Tix: Via Ticketek
Monday, 10th February
St Michael’s Uniting Church, Melbourne
Tix: Via Ticketek
St Jerome’s Laneway Festival 2014
Friday, 31st January
RNA, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane
Saturday, 1st February
Footscray Community Arts Centre/River’s Edge, Melbourne
Sunday, 2nd February
Sydney College Of The Arts, Rozelle, Sydney
Friday, 7th February
Harts Mill, Port Adelaide
Saturday, 8th February
Esplanade Park and West End, Fremantle