Long Lost Daughters; An interview with Alexis Marshall of Daughters

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Daughters are probably not the band you think they are. While their songs tend to be abrasive, dissonant, and unpredictable, they also come together much more organically than one might imagine. At their core, Daughters are simply a group of four humble and dedicated musicians, writing whatever feels natural to them at that point in time. With a restriction-free approach, Daughters have evolved by leaps and bounds since their Providence-based birth in 2002. It’s a life that might have gone into hibernation for a while, but it’s awake again and ready to kick some ass.

While this is their first album in eight years, Daughters actually began working together again several years ago, playing miscellaneous shows and short tour runs as time allowed. However, geographic distances between members combined with multiple obligations outside of the band simply required more time than usual for new songs to surface.

You Won’t Get What You Want, the newest Daughters album out now via Ipecac Recordings, is a cinema-inspired, nightmare-inducing masterpiece. Particularly noteworthy is the ultra-nuanced and polished performance of Alexis Marshall. As you listen, pay attention to his compositional timing, his dynamics, and above all, his authenticity. Revel in each audible breath, vocal crack, and haunting groan, as it hovers above ghostly instrumental arrangements. Let his story-telling lyrical style serve as the script for the movie you’ll direct in your own head, whatever that movie may be. Above all, just go with it.

To give you a little taste, check out the band’s ridiculously creepy music video for “City Song”, the first track on the new album.

 

Ghettoblaster’s Andrew Humphrey caught up with Marshall, to discuss the band’s return and the writing process for the new album.

“A few years ago Nick [Sadler] and I got back together and hung out for the first time in many years,” recalls Marshall. “We ended up doing two shows later that year in Providence. We just thought ‘well, we’ll do some more shows and we’ll do some writing’. Everything was very casual. We weren’t on a timeframe, or anything like that. We were just sharing ideas in a DropBox, so there were just ideas floating around.”

This casual arrangement would soon gain momentum. A palpable and refreshed demand from fans was emerging, motivating the group to focus on creating new material and to play out with greater frequency.

“I had another band that I was in,” reflects Marshall on his time with Fucking Invincible, his side hardcore project. “Every time I was out, people were asking ‘what’s going on with Daughters?’ We ended up having a group text and said, ‘people keep asking about this. People are interested. Let’s stop fucking around’.”

With members spread out across multiple states, Daughters faced more than the typical challenges a band might face when whipping their creative muscles back into shape. Sharing files online could only take them so far. Face to face time was needed.

Logistical hassles of determining when they could meet, where they could practice, what gear they were going to use, or even where they were going to sleep all needed to get worked out. While this indeed slowed their pace, they didn’t let it hinder their artistic direction.

“As far as writing,” explains Marshall, “it was very difficult to be productive when we were emailing back and forth, and having group texts, and listening to demos in DropBox. It’s not as interactive. Something that should maybe take a few days or a week to work on ends up taking months. It took longer than it needed to, but that’s just the nature of it. I don’t think it had any real upset on the process or the music itself, but more so maybe in our spirits. But we got through it. We persevered.”

Much like the songs themselves on You Won’t Get What You Want, they let themselves take all the time they needed. Given their seasoned history, it likely would have been very easy for them to go through the motions and crank out more of the same old material. Inadvertently, they started down this path before determining a change in approach was needed.

“They just sort of turned into expensive demos,” says Marshall, describing the early five songs they recorded and considered releasing. “We were trying to force it, and we knew we weren’t going to be happy with the results. We shelved the recording, but we didn’t necessarily scrap the material. Some of it ended up on You Won’t Get What You Want.”

The song “Less Sex” similarly came together in the early formation of the new record. It’s one of Daughters’ most unusual tracks, notably due to how mellow it is, and for the melodic manner in which Marshall sings on it.

[“Less Sex”] is oddly one of the first ones we wrote for the record,” Marshall recalls. “There was a time where some of us thought ‘maybe this is not a Daughters song. This might be something else.’ But it came together and we knew it was a great song. We had to remind ourselves that there really isn’t a ‘Daughters song’. There’s not a particular sound so this shouldn’t be any different. We’re happy with this song and we like it. That’s good enough. It has this blues feel to it, and I wanted to do something a little different than what I’m normally doing. That seemed like the appropriate place to do it.”

There were many similar moments throughout the writing process where they needed to remind themselves not to allow creative boundaries or outsider expectations interfere. That’s largely why they came up with album title that they did.

“We understand that people have a perception about what we’re supposed to be and what we should do,” Marshall explains. “[The album title] is in a sense a disclaimer. Redraw your fucking notions and leave your preconceptions at the door. Just have a nice time listening to it. But we also needed it for ourselves. We needed that ability not to get into our own heads and think, ‘Is this OK? Is this alright? Is this going to push people away?’…It works both ways. It wasn’t just a title for people. It was for us as well.”

Songs continued to come together, though initial conversations of label support kept dissipating. Fortunately, it’s a small world. The band’s connections eventually centered them in the crosshairs of Mike Patton (Dead Cross, Faith No More, Fantômas, and about a billion others).

“We didn’t have anyone to put the record out for a while”, Marshall describes laughingly. “We were [touring] for about two weeks with Dälek, and Dälek was on Ipecac. Will [Brooks] had said, ‘Patton’s been asking me what you guys are like as people and how you are to work with.’ Will was a pivotal character in writing information to Patton about his recent experiences with us. And then Jon [Syverson], our drummer, is a tour manager. We’re all friends with the guys in The Locust, and Justin Pearson who’s in Dead Cross with Patton. John tour managed them. John started spending a lot of time with [Patton] and it just really started to snowball at that point.”

It’s been a long road getting Daughters back on their feet, but the time spent was more than worth it. Speaking of roads, Daughters are planning a tour for 2019. According to Marshall, it’s these live performances that drive him the most.

“I’ve always been more interested in energy from singers than from their actual capabilities in a technical sense. My favorite singers may not be the best studio performers but they’re always great live performers. For me, I’d much rather perform than be in the studio. [Recording] feels very forced. You’re doing things multiple times and you’re doing several takes. It seems very unnatural to me, in a very clinical way. I don’t care about that. I don’t want to be the surgeon. I want to drive the fucking ambulance.”

You Won’t Get What You Want is out now via Ipecac Recordings. Be sure to buy the record and stay tuned for future announcements.