News Column

Some of the lucky ones

May 10, 2013


May 10--The female-led U.K. band Daughter will be playing the Record Bar on May 10, followed by playing massive festivals. That's not how it should be going for them.

If expectations defined a band's path, the trio from London would most likely still be playing small shows around their hometown and recording in their guitarist's basement.

Instead, the band's intimate brand of emotional, spacey rock music led them somewhere new.

"It's pretty mindblowing. We have like sold out shows on this tour and they're at places we've never been to, and we're like 'How did you know about us?'" singer and guitarist Elena Tonra says, with a laugh.

Despite the band's aesthetic and lyrics, Daughter, comprised of Tonra, producer/guitarist Igor Haefeli and drummer Remi Aguilella do have a lot of laughs. At this point in their careers, it's understandable that, while the music is beautifully sullen, the members are quite happy.

After the release of two EPs, "His Young Heart," which was recorded in Haefeli's basement with several mics taped together, and 2011's "The Wild Youth," which spawned the hit "Youth," the band unexpectedly found itself playing festivals and talk shows like "Late Night with David Letterman," where Tonra said there was no physical album, so the band had to print up a mock album cover for him to hold.

The group doesn't face those problems as much anymore, with its debut album, "If You Leave," released last week in the U.S. and being on a full-blown tour of the U.S.

So how does a small band from England get from the basement to headlining shows and playing huge festivals? Apparently, by making some fine music and being completely, sometimes uncomfortably, honest.

When you hear a song like "Youth," with its reverberating guitars and emotive vocals, it strikes you and with lyrics like "And if you're still bleeding/you're the lucky ones/'Cause most of our feelings, they are dead and they are gone," it cuts to the core.

It's not something Tonra shies away from. After all, it's taken from her life.

"Once it's written and once it's transformed from like a memory into a song, I think it's a lot easier to deal with. I think that's almost the way I've chosen to deal with things," she says, with a giggle.

At times, the feelings in her songs strike when she's performing. At other moments, she might get called out for straying into odd territory.

"Maybe in an interview, they'll say 'Oh you wrote this line -- this is pretty strange' and then I'm like 'Oh, yeah. That probably is strange to you. You're not in my brain,'" Tonra says, laughing.

While the songs have a definite meaning to Tonra, she refuses to explain them. Songs like "Winter," seemingly about lovers turned strangers, or "Amsterdam," which could be about one-night stand or a bad night of drinking, are left up to the listener to interpret.

When posed with a statement from a poster on YouTube (not always a great source for comments, but fitting) who said he was a soldier in Afghanistan who felt the dead emotions described in "Youth," Tonra sounded impressed that the song could have such a reach.

"I think it's quite beautiful that somebody would say that about that song. I think there's completely different reasons why I wrote it. But the fact that somebody can feel something like that ... I find it really beautiful," she says.

Once again, it's something the band members don't expect to hear later when they're recording it in a small studio or basement.

Recently, the band posted a cover of Daft Punk's massive hit with Pharrell Williams, "Get Lucky," on YouTube after choosing to play as part of BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge, which has smaller artists cover big hits.

"There was something about 'Get Lucky.' It was just kind of an open book," Tonra says.

She adds: "It was just kind of something that just felt like we could change and in terms of the lyrics and stuff like that, if you just read the lyrics, and maybe it's just me missing the vibe on a lot of things, there's something that could be sinister about that."

After a YouTube link to the song was posted on the band's Facebook page, the downtrodden cover of one of the happiest and most dance-inducing songs of the year took off, accumulating about a million hits.

"I don't know if people know that was for that show. People were like 'Why are you depressing out this song? Why would you do that?'" she says, with a huge laugh.

The band says while it receives requests for the song, it has yet to fulfill them. Right now, the band wants to support and promote its album, and it'll leave the Daft Punk song to those French electronic wizards.

Besides, Daughter is getting the satisfaction of knowing that while its music may be emotionally jarring and personal, others know what Tonra is singing about.

"It's kind of comforting to know that I'm not the only feeling these things and the comfort in that other people are saying 'I know what that feels like,'" she says.

Andrew Gaug can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPGaug.


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