When listening to Daughters’ most recent record, You Wont Get What You Want, one is left on the receiving end of a cacophonous, exhausting mental and physical breakdown where pain, anxiety, fear and lust reign above all. From the first track to the very last one, there isn’t an ounce of heavy hitting words wasted on banality. It’s been roughly seven months since the release, and the band has already wrapped up two North American tours and have just handed in their first European tour of 2019, with another one already in line. Even when the band’s schedule multiplies itself by the week, they cannot stand the idea of delivering a performance every single night that isn’t both astounding and overwhelming.
Be it surprising or not, their shows have even more spit, blood and sheer debauchery than expected. So imagine what it feels like to be doing that every single night, non-stop. It’s factual that one cannot simply leave a Daughters show exactly the same. So, upon announcing they would be at this year’s Roadburn, they were deemed unmissable and, as expected, left a big mark. Fortunately, we had the privilege of getting to know a bruised and exhausted frontman Alexis S. Marshall just a couple of hours before getting up on the Roadburn’s main stage. We spoke about recent success, the weight of heavy touring and playing every show like it’s their last one.
Do you feel it’s fair, due to the changes in sound and inside the band, to divide Daughters’ career in two phases? Pre and Post- You Won't Get What You Want? And regardless of “success”, do you feel the most accomplished as of now?
Alexis - I’d say we’re the most accomplished critically, right? We’ve had more attention than we’ve ever had. If there’s a pre and post You Won’t Get What You Want, I mean there’s a pre and post Hell Songs and a pre and post Canada Songs, I don’t know. I don’t think that’s for me to decide. How people feel about us is up to them, I’m not gonna dwell on that. These are things I have no control over. We appreciate all of the praise that’s been good, it’s bringing people out to the shows, putting attention on us but you know, we’re just playing, like we always did. We always toured and toured and toured, for many years and we’re sort of back at that now. We’re realising we can survive that way, but priorities are different now than they were when we were young, when we lived in shitty apartments. Some of us are parents now and we’re trying to sustain our lives and make sure we’re here to do that, and thankfully we are. The acclaim and the praise helps.
Do you feel that the steady writing, free of deadlines and agenda, really helped improve the record?
I don’t know if it helped, it can be a hindrance at times. To not have a deadline can free one to ask too many questions, to second guess when in doubt what one’s doing. We can work on a song and it’s A but about the time it’s Z it’s not even the same song. So sometimes you have to make a decision when you’re finished and move on to the next thing, otherwise it affects the writing. Having to change a word, a phrasing, or maybe something isn’t working and I have to do something better. Sometimes it works but a lot of times it’s just running in circles and ultimately you want to complete the record and play it. On the other hand, we tried to force a recording a couple of years ago, just doing an EP, we had ourselves a deadline and reached it and just wasn’t working, it wasn’t good enough. We weren’t happy with it, so it’s a double edged sword and ultimately you just have to make a decision when everything’s done, whether it works or not. We sort of had a loose deadline when we knew we wanted to have something out before the end of last year and wanted to make sure that we were good. We had more shows coming up at the end of the year, and we didn’t want to go out and play the same old songs and it’s as much for us as it for other people. We need to feel that we’re functioning as a proper band. Not doing some kind of nostalgic kick.
It’s more than noticeable that every one in the band is monstrous at their own “thing”. Drums, guitar, vocals, bass and everything else. Everyone’s bringing their best to the table. How important is for a band to have members that admire each other? To really appreciate everyone’s role.
It’s good to be understanding. Everyone has a role they fill and some are seemingly minor and some are perhaps more behind the scenes and less on stage, and vice versa. Some of us are much more needed when we play than when we’re not playing. I probably fit more on the latter category but we’re playing now for 20 years, and more than 20 years for some of us, but as a band 20 years and everyone’s improving and if we weren’t, we’d have to start asking questions. We’re getting a bit of a grip on rotation and where things go. We have a sound guy who understands what we need and what we’re doing, how we need to sound. With everyone working together, it’s not just one person or a “hey, we’re a loud band”. Our sound engineer Will is doing a remarkable job and he’s as much a part of it as we are. He just doesn’t get the credit. That’s how it goes.
Everyone’s familiar with Daughters’ turbulent times from the late 2000’s until just a couple of years ago. Do you feel that life outside of the band helped everyone mature beyond those bad times?
(laughs) I’m not even sure we matured. We’re kind of the same assholes we were but we’re just learning to work together better, or being a little more considerate or more understanding about some of our inconsiderations and doing our best. We realised that what we wanted to do, the end goal, was make a record and play those songs. Some people work better together and some of us don’t and maybe that’s part of it. Maybe that’s what makes other bands interesting. There’s a dichotomy of good and bad, and greatness and failure, and we’re all deeply flawed, it’s like every relationship. This is a marriage of several people, not just two and I like that. Sometimes I wonder if we could function, if we all got along really well, maybe we’d lose a step, I don’t know. I can only speculate and I don’t like doing that. It is what it is, it has to be, it can’t be something else it’s not.
Two years ago you were all in writing mode, but since you released your last record, you’ve toured the U.S. twice and are now currently hitting the first leg of European dates. How do you cope with this big of a change? Is it overwhelming sometimes?
It’s exhausting. When you’re touring, you’re just existing in a vacuum, we’re all together all the time. I mean, you’re sitting here and there’s been five people sitting here before you. Everything is interchangeable, the cities are interchangeable, the venues are interchangeable. Where we eat, where we get dinner, the cafes where we get the coffee. Nothing is permanent at all, it’s just us. I’m not even sure where I’m going with this. We’re in a strange place where all we have is ourselves, so we’re here to play and do songs and that’s the best we can do.
Alexis S.F. Marshall performing with Daughters at Roadburn 2019
Just this year alone, you’ve showcased your music in two different continents. What’s been the most unforgettable concert so far? And which band have you played with that impressed you the most?
Russia. We played Moscow and that was one of the more amazing experiences I’ve ever had playing music. A place I’d never been and would never think I’d have the opportunity to go there, if not for being in this band, would be Japan. For a long time I would love to go to Japan and if it weren’t for the band, I would’ve never gone. But yeah, Russia was really surreal and incredible. We’ve had some really good bands with us over the past few years, old friends like our friend Evan from Young Widows, who’s with Jaye Jayle, we’ve been playing together quite a bit. I’d say Bambara have been really good, our friend Kristin who does Lingua Ignota, who did all of our West Coast shows in November I think. We had Hide with us, a really great band from Chicago, that did the last North American tour we did. It’s great. It used to be us against everybody else where we would play with a band and hope they weren’t better than us, but now we’re all like a box of crayons. We’re all very different and existing together, and we can play with bands that maybe a lot of people wouldn’t expect. I mean, that last tour with Hide opening every show, they’re an industrial duo. But you know, Gouge Away played shows with us on that tour and Cult Leader, Big | Brave, Container. I’m going to miss someone because I’m an asshole.
It’s interesting to see that everything is so different.
Exactly. I think that’s interesting to people as expectators to see a show that is on a hinge and not just the door swings open, you get in and that’s it. This is rotational and more interesting, maybe if somebody doesn’t like something they can go fuckin sit down somewhere, wait until it’s finished and get up. I thought it was a really great experience in the early 2000’s when American Nightmare took us on our first full U.S. tour in North America and Canada. Cursed played some of those shows, Fairweather played shows. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Fairweather but it was strange to be included in that, and I think that everyone there wanted that, to have us all setting the bounds of things of the typical hardcore show or hardcore tour. We’re seeing that more now these days and we’re trying to do the same thing when we’re out. Try to make sure that who we have with us isn’t just a variation of ourselves or it doesn’t sound like any other band that’s also playing the show. Just trying to have an experience for people and not just a show.
Everyone says that every bruise they gain at a concert is just another way to remember the performance. Do you have that relationship with all your contusions?
I have some that I remember quite clearly (laughs), but I get hurt all of the time and it’s just part of the process of performing and that’s the nature of it now. I mean I’ve had injuries, I suppose they occur more when they’re more severe, but that’s like every tattoo that has a story. Who gives a shit? It’s hard for us sometimes to really get a grasp of what we’re doing, because as I said before, we’re in a vacuum and it’s easy for us to just play and play and play, and to talk to ourselves “ow this didn’t work out”, ”the sound was bad here”, “my monitor’s mix was bad” or “I’m fucking tired” or “I didn’t sleep well” but people came to see us. This is the one experience they’re gonna have with us that year or for who knows how long, and they don't care that we’re tired. Not in a selfish way but it’s important that we go out and play as hard as we can every single night, because people might never see us again and we want their experience to be satisfactory and something that is important to them. Not just another band that played another show on a friday night or a fucking tuesday or whatever day, and just be dismissive, just go through the motions.
I know it’s an overused word, but “catharsis” comes up a lot.
Yeah, I don’t believe in any of that cathartic experience or people performing and than changing their mood or attitude or thought process. For people to see us and connect with us and with what we’re doing than I understand that. I’ve seen paintings that have touched me and heard songs that are very important to me, but as a performer I don’t feel better in a shit day, play a show and then feel better afterwards. That doesn’t affect my day. My problems are still my problems. If it’s a great experience for people, than that’s important and that’s necessary, but my shoes are still with me. They never go away. I can’t sing them out, that’s how it goes.
Last one. After You Won’t Get What You Want, will we be having more of Daughters for a while?
Yeah we’re coming back here, touring throughout the year and we’re sure next year we’ll have more shows but we’re trying to figure out the time to write. We have an 8-track on the bus so we’re trying to work on music. We still have ideas that weren’t finished from the last session, so we have a good lead off point. But we don’t want to take another four years or six years, so hopefully we’ll have something. This is what we do now and it’s sustainable, but we have to stay on top of it, otherwise everybody will forget (laughs), as people do.