Elena Tonra, Igor Haefeli and Remi Aguillela, a.k.a. Daughter, headlined at KITEC last Thursday, following performances from Ásgeir (whose interview you can read [here]) and King Krule. The ambient alternative trio put on a mesmerizing show, and BOOM’s Jules O’Brien was lucky enough to catch them beforehand for a quick interview.
The kind of band that you may not recognize by name but would likely recognise by their track ‘Youth’, which has been featured on screen across the world, Daughter have been only been on the music scene for about four years. Their first album If You Leave charted at number 15 in the UK, while winning ‘Independent Album of the Year’ at the AIM Independent Music Awards in London last year.
From the self-release of their second E.P. ‘His Young Heart’ to their debut album If You Leave, the theme of ‘youth’ dominates the track lyrics and titles. When asked to explain the inspiration behind this, lime-eyed vocalist Elena says, “It’s a bit personal really! I don’t usually like to discuss what my songs are about because I tend to say what I want to say in my lyrics.” She seems comfortable surrounded by a hoard of voice recorders, speaking softly and calmly.
The band’s two E.P.s, His Young Heart and The Wild Youth, both feature pictures of Elena when she was a child, posing unenthusiastically in one, and covered in tiger face paint with her brother in the other. When asked why, Elena chuckles while running her hands through her shock of dark hair, “Ha, I don’t know really. The whole three-word title thing has become a bit of a theme and I just thought these pictures went really well with the titles. I don’t know why I decided to use embarrassing pictures of myself when I was younger! That picture with my brother is great though. My grandmother took it when we went to one of those kids’ places, with ball pits and slides and stuff, and there’s just a series of photos of us two looking so excited the entire time. So that picture fit really well with the title The Wild Youth. It has nothing to do with the song lyrics though, just humorous really!”
So to whom does His Young Heart refer? Elena explains how the E.P. title can be looked at from different perspectives. From her point of view, her dad is ‘he’ and she is his ‘young heart’. “When I look at that picture, it reminds me of my dad, because he took it of me in the stairway of my grandparents’ house, and I’m doing that typical awkward kid pose. The songs obviously have nothing to do with him at all, but from a visual point of view that E.P. makes me think of him.”
Daughter have performed almost everywhere, with a highlight being their US tour last August, supporting The National. When asked about which gigs they prefer playing, drummer and percussionist Remi explains, “One of the stranger settings on that tour was a cemetery in L.A. when we were supporting The National, which was insane. We were surrounded by palm trees and the sun was setting, but there were loads of people sitting down in this cemetery still enjoying their picnics. That made it a bit difficult when we were trying to rock out to our songs on stage. I really enjoyed the show but the energy wasn’t quite right.” Elena chimes in, “At the same time, I think natural settings really complement our music.” Guitarist Igor suggests they look into playing in a cave, or even an inactive volcano. Elena and Remi giggle. “OK, maybe something a bit more realistic”, he continues, “like hidden away in a forest with some nice lights.”
Daughter are known for performing church and cathedral gigs, which suit perfectly the echoing temper so characteristic of their music. In April 2013, they performed in Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, which is the biggest in the UK and fifth biggest in the world. “It was absolutely massive”, describes Elena, “the floor was heated as well, and so we just lay on the warm floor looking up at this incredible high ceiling.” Igor continues to compare gigs to tattoos – “I kind of just remember all our shows as reminders of the fun times we’ve had at all these amazing places.”
Daughter and The National are both signed to the same label, 4AD, who united them on a US tour in August 2013. No small feat to secure a support slot with one of the world’s pioneering indie rock bands. Elena chimes in bashfully, “it was just such a pleasure to be able to watch one of our favourite bands play live every night. They are such an experienced band – such good musicians and in so much control of their performance.” When asked how the National fans responded to Daughter’s music, she continues, “some of the crowd maybe didn’t quite get what we were doing, but I really feel like we got across to quite a lot of them, which was really lovely. I think they recognised that we shared the same interest in the darker side of things.”
Directed at Elena and Igor, the inevitable question is raised about relationships and musicianship. The pair, once a couple, smiles at each other and confidently dismisses the importance of the status of a relationship if the band works well. “When you meet someone who you feel like you can trust enough to write in front of,” Elena says, “who cares about the Facebook status.” In reference to many ‘couple’ collaborations, like London’s THIEF or even John & Yoko, Elena claims that a relationship can go hand in hand with writing music. She declares, “It requires the same sort of honesty.”
Daughter glided on stage in the evening with the same soft voices and air of companionship that made them so likeable in the interview. The songs, the recordings of which lend best to loud headphones and heartbreak, steadily built up into explosive climaxes while the progressively hypnotised audience grew introspective. Their encore track was their whispery and critically acclaimed rendition of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, which rounded off their set in true Hong Kong style.