I sat down with Nick Sadler, guitarist of Rhode Island-based noise rock band Daughters before their show at The Exchange in Bristol on the 16th of April, 2019. The band were, and still are, on tour in support of their latest release You Won’t Get What You Want, courtesy of Ipecac Records. Nick and I spoke about a range of things, from his feelings towards new opportunities that the band are being presented with, as well as the band’s upcoming appearances as festivals such as ArcTanGent, and his feelings towards the new record.
Everything Is Noise: How many days are you into touring?
Nick Sadler: I don’t know, I have no idea! I’m the guy that doesn’t know!
EIN: What have the set lists been like across the tour, how much older material is being included?
NS: It’s mostly new stuff. There’s a couple from Hell Songs, and a couple from our self-titled records but that’s pretty much it. It kinda depends on where we are. When we did Roadburn Festival, we kind of had to narrow it down to new stuff.
EIN: Since You Won’t Get What You Want was released late last year, the band have been presented with some pretty unique opportunities, such as performing on Adult Swim as well as an appearance on the K! Pit. What was that like for you?
NS: I don’t think I fully understood either of those things, because I don’t follow music journalism at all, and I don’t read Kerrang!, I don’t watch Adult Swim, or anything like that. It wasn’t fully explained to me what was happening, the Adult Swim thing was like any other thing that happens to you when you’re in a band. You get an email one day saying ‘Adult Swim have invited you out to do this thing, you should know though, in this case, it’s you playing in front of a fish tank.’ So immediately I said ‘No. No thank you.’ I looked at some links they had sent, I thought ‘This isn’t the worst thing, I should try new things, and they have good viewership.’ The interview isn’t like an interview at all, they don’t really give a shit that you’re there. You just show up and play, we weren’t told to get involved with their games. After a few minutes we realised that it wasn’t an interview, and it wasn’t very Daughters. We have a pretty strong sense of humour, and it’s pretty low brow as well. It’s not very complex but that was still a bewildering experience.
We had to play a show after, and really hustle to get to Adult Swim on time. We asked them to reverse the interview and performance schedule so we wouldn’t look dishevelled during the interview, which was a mistake. I was so bummed out about the interview that standing in a narrow room, with a bunch of people who don’t know who you are, was just awkward. There’s strange people looking at you, too. With a band like Daughters, we’re not used to this sort of thing. I feel like I’m there to torture these people that are doing their jobs, and they don’t care about this music. The overall experience was good, though. That’s how I feel about the K! Pit thing, too. By the time we did that I had Lyme disease, my foot was broken, I was completely destroyed…they had our live touring guitar play cranked and me buried, it’s not something that would bother anyone else but I couldn’t stand to watch it.
EIN: So are these kinds of appearances/performances something that you call the shots on, or is it left mostly with management and agents?
NS: Now Daughters is Jon, Lex, and I. We have a fourth member, but he doesn’t tour, so we don’t know where that leaves him with making decisions, but with decisions like performing on Adult Swim, he’s left out of the mix because he isn’t touring. It’s not just the three of us now, we have people that manage us and book us. Our management’s really good, they work hard. We voice our opinions, and think on it. My perspective right out of the gate was ‘I don’t want to play in a fish tank, this is going to be dumb.‘ We’re in a group, so you’re one voice of several. You start realising that you have to be self-aware enough to let them know what works for what you’re doing, and what doesn’t. They said ‘A lot of people watch this, a lot of young kids, you’re gonna introduce your music to new people’, so I agreed. Why not try new stuff? We never had these opportunities before.
I’m in denial still. I’m used to this band not getting attention. Even when we played at Roadburn to 3,000 people, even then I said ‘this probably isn’t real’. I can’t accept this as a truth of my life. We do things as a team, as much as we can. I’m glad that we did Adult Swim. The footage is sick, it reminds me of when I was a kid seeing bands in weird situations. The way I would discover edgy music that was only available late at night on MTV in the middle of the night. It’s too self aware for me to admit it outwardly like this, somewhere that folks can read it, but there’s something still attractive to me about seeing bands in awkward situations. There are some great photographs of John, Lex, and I looking miserable on the Adult Swim couch. It’s both Daughters and not Daughters. If you’ve known any of us personally for a long time, watching that must be hilarious. This speaks a little bit to why I didn’t want to do it initially, I’m definitely the most protective of our aesthetic as a band.
EIN: In the last half a year or so, a wider audience than ever before has been introduced to your music, through several different channels including those we’ve mentioned. You’re now being recognised as a serious heavyweight in the world of alternative music. How did that happen, and how does that feel? What’s expected of you?
NS: When developing a record I start to see what the moods and the tones are, and the common threads throughout. Then I think about the campaigning afterwards. Lex and Jon are into what we’re doing right now, too. We fight a lot about the vision of the band, but right now we’re in a place that’s cohesive. Lex has had a great attitude about it all. I used to be the optimistic one, now I’m the cranky up-tight one. I’m very grateful, and I’m self aware of all the cool things that are happening to us; it’s just strange. We’re all in our mid-thirties to late thirties. We’ve been in this band for 17 years for it to all work out now? That’s strange. I used to clean bathrooms, do live sound for bands sometimes, and take the bus everywhere, and now this is happening. There’s this weird expectation that we can pick it up as if we never stopped. As if I didn’t spent a lot of time not doing this, getting used to a different way of life. I come back to this and everyone expects me to know what’s going on. The band unexpectedly has all this attention on us, it’s fascinating to see this weird peripheral expectation that we are pros. As if I wasn’t slowly spending a long time putting together our record on GarageBand…
Off-record: After the interview, Nick and I hung out for another 15 minutes or so before he had to head backstage, and he confirmed that the horns at the very end of the record, heard in the song “Guest House”, are MIDI audio from GarageBand. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, and it still gives me a kick now every time I hear that song, especially live. To paraphrase, he said: ‘I can tell you there’s a lot of things we’ve simply exported from GarageBand and put right on the album, just because the performances are spirited.‘ I digress…
…When you think about a band that has marginal success, or cult success, you have to think about the odds that those people would meet each other, playing the right instruments. There’s an unlimited number of variables that have to magically link up for any band to be good. Especially when you think about the thousands and thousands of musicians who would love to be doing what Daughters are doing, they probably don’t understand how what we’re doing appeals to other people. When you imagine some dude who’s very well-practised in music, he must hear us up there and think ‘what the fuck are they doing?’, and I’ve gotta say, I don’t know either. I’m always gonna make music. It doesn’t matter if anyone else hears it. This was gonna come out, and it was either gonna do what it’s doing right now or it was gonna do nothing. I think that’s where my cognitive dissonance comes from. There was some buzzing, cult-like thing around us on the internet after we broke up, after the fact everyone realised that they couldn’t get to us or hear anything new. I don’t understand the climate of music in 2019. I’m still going to shows, checking out bands. I think that’s heard in our music. It feels like we’re capturing a moment.
EIN: Personally, I found your music through the Dillinger Compound Facebook Group, around the time of the Terminal 5 shows, that TDEP played to mark the end of their career. That must be a huge honour for you guys, a lot of people feel like you’ve picked up the torch that they put down…
NS: I recently met the guy who admins that group by the way, he’s really nice! You know it’s funny, all the things we’ve talked about in this interview are things I didn’t want to do. I find that funny, anyway. With the Dillinger thing, I don’t really like that band, I’m not a fan of that music. I’ve been trying to get Daughters away from the math-metal crowd, it’s nothing personal or judgemental, but it’s not in line with what I hope our band will become. That said, I was flat-out wrong, though. We’ll see faces from those last Dillinger shows at our shows now, it was an honour to be there. It was a poignant moment from Dillinger, to be invited to do that is a huge deal. We got out there and, a bunch of people knew who we were, Ben Weinman was trying to sign us to his label at the time. People we expecting us to get out there like a well-oiled machine and destroy the place. It’s 3,000 people, two days in a row. I’m used to 190 cap rooms. I didn’t know what to do with myself. We’re lucky that Lex has risen and become a better front man, 99% of the time he’s holding it together for us.
EIN: Later this year, you’re going to be performing at ArcTanGent Festival in the UK, alongside some of the greatest bands on the planet in what’s widely considered to be the best alternative music festival line-up of the year, are you looking forward to that, along with your other festival appearances you have coming up?
NS: To anyone reading this in the future, that wasn’t my decision. Management try to determine what the best decision for the band is. I don’t really want to play any aggressive music festivals, I prefer mixed audiences. The more I push away from that, I feel like I’m trying to re-format that genre a little bit. I’m trying to distance myself from things that I don’t like, and closer to things that I do like. Our management is killing it though. We realise we’re opening for Celtic Frost three times in a year, and those true metal dudes hate Daughters. We’ve always played pretty much any shows, only recently have I tried to narrow it down. Any time we play with serious metal bands, the people in the audience end up assuming that we’re a bad version of the headliner. We literally are playing with Celtic Frost this year. We’re playing with Meshuggah. I don’t pay attention to the music world very often, I don’t like going to festivals either. I’m learning about all this stuff right now. I always take things for granted. We’re playing with bands like Possessed, Celtic Frost, y’know. I have bad shows and people point out to me that those people in the audience could have just left, but they didn’t, and that’s killer. I told our managers ‘I don’t want to play Hellfest, no more metal festivals please!’ I take for granted all kinds of shit. I’m projecting a lot. I don’t know man, I’m not living in reality. I have an idea for what I want us to do, and we’re inching there closer and closer all the time. I shouldn’t be in a position to be so lucky as to be playing these festivals with bands like Possessed. I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with me! I am thankful for what we do have.
EIN: You Won’t Get What You Want is a defining album in your band’s career, and has raised the bar for a lot of alternative music, but especially for the band itself. There must be a lot of pressure to make a new record, and live up to the standard set by your latest work. What do you think the band’s music is going to develop into, moving forward?
NS: It’s hard to say right now. The making of YWGWYW was very different to the way we made other records. It usually falls into my lap. We all had jobs, families, kids and stuff. I made the entire album alone, then Lex sang on it. Now the band is doing really well, everyone’s getting more excited about putting in their creative input. I’m a big fan of post-punk and goth music. I think that’s a natural transition for us. When we were younger we’d go to the goth nights, we loved bands like Joy Division and all the basics. We found the gems in those genres. I like to listen to soundtracks abstracted from their films. I’ve got a handful of things like that out there at the moment. I had more room on this record to do what I wanted to do, with less pushback. Everyone realised if we want to make a record, we need to stop fighting about it. Jon is a songwriter, he plays guitar, he’s getting pumped up to write. Everything I’m writing right now is about fingerpicking and organs, church music. More stuff like “Satan in the Wait”. I’m really focused on dynamics right now. I feel like this is one of the reasons I lean towards the melodic stuff. This sounds so arrogant and ridiculous, but I’ve fully internalised dark, edgy music to understand that a band like Behemoth are just not scary. That’s what they’re going for, but it’s not scary. It’s not real enough, and no one can relate to that. You wanna drop something realistic, if you want something to sound terrifying, it has to have a dose of reality to it. I didn’t think this was an aggressive record at all. You know what, the only song I really like at all is “Satan in the Wait”, that’s my crowning achievement as a songwriter.
EIN: Despite your disinterest in music journalism, you interview very well! This has been a much more informal style conversation than a regimented interview, perhaps that was the reason. I hate feeling like I’m asking artists the same questions they’ve heard over and over again.
NS: You will most likely ask me the same shit that everyone asks me, that’s nobody’s fault. That’s just how it goes. It’s helpful just having a conversation like this, we’re just chatting. I’ve got nothing to prove, I’ll just tell you I’m an idiot! *laughs* I walk away feeling like I said some shit that mattered.
Daughters are relentlessly touring throughout the rest of the year, with several festival appearances, including those previously mentioned as well as many more. Fans of alternative music and live music in general should make seeing this band a priority. Shortly after this interview ended, I was sucked into the band’s world. Their performance was devastating. Emotionally devastating. The well-balanced live sound, met with a tempered, yet somehow seemingly erratic live performance made for an unforgettable experience, in an intimately sized venue, no less. Alexis Marshall was not allowing a single person in that audience to go home feeling unattended to. The band, adorned in flushes of violent red lighting and cold, sharp strobes, created an atmosphere even more uncomfortable and frenzied than that which is felt when listening to their latest record for the first time on good headphones.
As Marshall straddles the PA speakers, covered in his own spit and blood, he removes the belt from his trousers, and begins to lay into his own stomach and ribs with the black leather, leaving visible marks. The show is concluded with a droning, defeated mantra of ‘To know, to see for himself / If there is an ocean beyond the waves / Beyond the waves’. This is not a band that will be forgotten any time soon.