Daughter’s Alexis S.F. Marshall talks about maturing musically and defying expectations.
A clear highlight in a festival full of once-in-a-lifetime shows, Daughters set on the Main Stage at this year’s Roadburn Festival was sensational. Full of visceral energy, vocalist Alexis S.F. Marshall crowdsurfed, climbed the stage furniture and flailed around the stage like a man possessed before removing his shirt and belt to cap the set off with a dramatic act of self flagellation.
The band were there off the back of latest album You Won’t Get What You Want, which received widespread critical acclaim. Though Daughters began as an outfit heavily influenced by mathcore and screamo, they have continued to evolve, with their latest full-length embodying more of an industrial and noise-rock influenced sound. Before the band’s set, we had the pleasure of chatting with Marshall, covered in bloody cut marks on his forehead from gigs gone by, to find out how this latest masterpiece came to be. As we sit in the quiet space of the Roadburn press room, away from the crowds and the madness, well-spoken Alexis sits pensively and talks philosophically…
You Won’t Get What You Want was one of the most critically-acclaimed albums of 2018. How does it feel to know you’ve made a record that has connected with so many listeners?
I don’t know, I don’t think about it too much. It’s nice because nobody ever cared about our records before, so it’s a good change for us. If that interests people and has people showing up to see us play, that’s a good thing, but I don’t care about the praise. It’s nice though, I want people to come see us.
Do you feel that the album’s reception has brought in more listeners, perhaps from outside of your usual fan base?
Yeah, it comes with the reviews and people making lists and all that, so that people who may listen to other genres can find us unintentionally. It happened with The Needle Drop [presenter Anthony Fantano named the album his best of the year with a rare 10/10 rating], we got a lot of hip-hop fans and people who were interested in more experimental hip-hop type stuff that suddenly found us, so that’s nice.
Did Daughters feel a pressure coming off an eight-year hiatus, especially when you’ve reinvented your sound once again?
Every record has been different so we didn’t feel like we had to adhere to a particular structure; we weren’t confined to any ideology or way of thinking, which I suppose is maybe an ideology in itself. People who listen to us, I think, expect something different from us every time. We don’t feel a duty to be different, but we feel that we have an allowance to work much more openly and broadly in terms of music. Maybe other bands don’t have to worry about making another record, you know if blink-182 make a new record they’re going to make it sound like blink-182.
Yeah, they have to think about how it’s going to sell rather than whether it’s interesting…
Yeah, and we’ve never sold until now, so perhaps it’s something we’ll have to think about next time, but we’d probably get in our own way with that kind of thinking.
How do you look back now on your early grind and mathcore sound?
We were in our early twenties and we were all different people; those were the actions of kids who had minimal life experience as far as travelling, making music and art. It’s just a phase in my life. People see pictures of themselves when they were in high school and think “I can’t believe I dressed like that” or *laughing* “I played field hockey, how embarrassing!” You know, it’s just a point in our lives where we behaved a particular way and were interested in particular things. Now we have moved on as people and have grown artistically. I’m not embarrassed by it, I mean I don’t like any of it, but I liked it then. I’m sure in ten years time I’ll look at this record and wonder what everyone was so excited about.
You shouldn’t be, there is some great stuff in there; we think the first 7″ is a banger!
Yeah well who am I to tell you it’s not!
So with that in mind, we’re guessing your latest touring setlist mainly focuses on the new material?
Correct, we don’t play anything from [2003 debut LP] Canada Songs or the [self-titled] 7″ or anything like that; I’m not sure where that would fit into the set. Maybe in late 2017 we still played a handful of songs off Canada Songs, but we knew that was the end of that and so we played them one last time for people. It doesn’t make any sense to play a song like ‘Satan In The Wait’ and then *laughing* ‘Pants, Meet Shit’!
The way the new album is structured is such a journey. Have you played the record in full or do you mix up the tracklist?
We had a big debate about the order of how things should go. It’s tough to open a record with a song that doesn’t really start for about 90 seconds, but we did that, maybe foolishly, and it seems to have worked out for us. We were all interested in a proper flow and making sure there were no dragging points, so people wouldn’t lose interest. A lot of albums now are stacked heavy at the front; most people just kind of listen to the first two or three songs and then decide how they feel. Pacing is important; I think there is probably a 70:30 ratio of people who care about the record as a full piece, and I’d put people in the 70% who just want to hear one or two songs and then do something else and don’t care very much. That’s just the nature of things; there is so much music and people don’t have time for it. We’re just trying to be happy and we made a record that we wanted to make and we think it flows well front to back, and that’s what is important. If people like it that’s also great.
Why did you choose the title You Won’t Get What You Want and is there a deeper meaning behind it?
No, there wasn’t a deep meaning. We expected that people were going to have preconceived notions about what we were going to do. We wanted to establish with the name of the record that you’re wasting your time trying to decide what it is we’re going to do and that it’s foolish. It’s been eight years, we always make records we want to make, so that’s what we’re going to continue to do. We just hope people sit down and listen to the record and judge it on its own, and not decide “what kind of Daughters record is this” or “does it make sense in the Daughters catalogue?” But you know, you can’t sell a record if you take your name off of it, so there is no way to get it to people without them knowing who we are. Of course there are people who think “I like their early records, and now their new stuff is shit!” I think a lot of that comes from people who have expectations. Expectations help nobody, they get in the way. People get in their own way.
So the title is aimed at the listeners…
It’s also for us, as a reminder that we don’t need to impress anybody. We had nothing to lose. We hadn’t done something in such a long time and we’ve never made top ten lists or had great reviews, so let’s just make a record and be happy about it.
Were there any particular feelings that you were trying to channel on the new album? We feel like there is a lot of anxiety and nihilism coming out of it…
Yeah I’d say that’s right. It has a very cinematic feel which works well with a lot of the lyrical content. I was able to not only express a lot of personal things, but I have my feelings about life and the self and the search of [the self], and I wasn’t necessarily trying to convey that on a deeply personal level, but to broadly and loosely philosophically discuss in some terms that it’s all meaningless and it’s as difficult as we make it for ourselves. Everything is in our heads and everybody exists within themselves, so we always feel like what is happening to ourselves is the most important thing. [We think] everybody is looking and judging us on our behaviour, what we do, the way we look, but nobody gives a shit, everyone is dealing with their own thing. I think that’s kind of a big point in the record, that kind of self importance, and that we destroy ourselves wilfully, but unintentionally.
Do you think there will be another long wait before your next album, and will you change your sound again?
I imagine we will continue to progress, or not regress at the very least. We’ll see where it goes. We don’t really know what we’re going to do but we are writing; we still have songs that weren’t used on the last record that we are probably going to mess around with. I feel pretty good about it, hopefully it shouldn’t take too long! *Laughing* hopefully in 2021!
How does it feel to be playing Roadburn and which acts are you excited to see play?
Everyone I wanted to see has already played but there are good bands today. I’m excited to see Birds In Row, but I think we have to leave for the UK before they play. Marissa Nadler is playing today and I like her very much. Everybody I wanted to see like A.A. Williams, our friends in Jaye Jayle and Lingua Ignota have already played! That’s how it goes.
You Won’t Get What You Want is out now on Ipecac Recordings. Purchase here.
Words: Chris “Frenchie” French
Photo: Teddie Taylor