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The Long Road: Daughters Unravel The History Of Their Intense Live Shows

Tuesday, 29 October 2019 Written by Matt Mills

Photo: A.F. Cortes

“I don’t normally do anything on Halloween. I don’t get dressed up or anything like that. I have kids, so I try to take them out, but it doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. It’s just a day.”

Alexis Marshall is not a very festive man. As the lead singer of a world-renowned touring rock band, he can’t afford to be. His is a job where you spend months on end away from home, friends and family. Out on the road, work comes first; ceremonies and celebrations always play second fiddle to soundchecks and putting on the best gig you can—the same as every other 24 hours.

As a result, spending Halloween in London with his dissonant noise-rock outfit Daughters is simply part and parcel of what he does. It will be the first UK date of the band’s fortnight-long European trek and, as always, the show must be paramount. 

Any seconds spent lighting jack-o’-lanterns or eating sweets are time wasted when Marshall could instead be preparing to pummel the living hell out of Islington Assembly Hall later that day. “I’m not big on any holidays, really,” he laughs drily. “Celebratory days are great for other people, but they just make us ask, ‘How will it affect attendance?’”

The touring musician’s mentality is one that has been battered into Marshall over the course of 20 years. His career as a performer can be traced all the way back to the insular music scene of ‘90s and early-2000s Providence, Rhode Island—a bustling cultural centre on America’s east coast. 

The artists there at that time were disparate in terms of genre and ideology; soundscapes ranged from the noise-rock of Lightning Bolt to Six Finger Satellite’s brash post-hardcore. However, Marshall remembers a distinct respect that united them. It was this openness that set the stage for Daughters (who started as a snot-nosed quintet in 2001) to become one of the most eclectic, unpredictable troupes in recent music memory.

“I think that what helped us most is where we came from,” he says. “It was a small scene that had a welcoming atmosphere. I credit it to the schools there. There are a lot of art schools in Rhode Island and a lot of creative people. So, we were punk kids that then began experiencing all this really interesting music. That helped us to grow. We didn’t need to knock down barriers because there weren’t any. It taught us that we didn’t have to fit in anywhere and could still all coexist.”

As they made a name for themselves in their hometown and, gradually, across the eastern seaboard, Daughters totally embodied the no-nonsense spirit of punk. Their early material was as raw as could be, infused with the manic spirit of grindcore and comparable to such aggressors as the Locust or Botch. 

Today, however, Marshall and co. are esoteric and insistently individualistic, with an expanded DNA that makes just as much use of industrial music, post-punk and Lightning Bolt-esque discordance. Their latest album, ‘You Won’t Get What You Want’, may not be as “heavy” in the traditional sense as Daughters’ earliest material, but it is every bit as intense. Seemingly incompatible noises clash and wrestle throughout the album’s running time, entrancing just as much as it unsettles.

“Hardcore punk was a big part of our life and we still carry pieces of that with us,” Marshall says. “But we’ve been moulded into something new by many hands. We feel like we have to do something new with each album, ultimately because we just get bored. We want to keep ourselves entertained. It isn’t a matter of, ‘Let’s get weird!’, we’re just playing and writing music that is challenging to us.”

For a fresh-faced Daughters, touring was a harsh affair. The then-unknown youngsters were often reduced to performing in living rooms to make ends meet and—if they were lucky—were paid by receiving a floor to sleep on that night. Failing that, kipping in an empty car park would be their second-most comfortable option.

“We’ve played in someone’s house, basement or living room many times,” Marshall recalls. “You’d often find yourself in these punk living rooms with four or five people and no furniture. Sometimes it’s the best you can do when you go somewhere you’ve never been to before and no one knows who you are.”

He continues: “The first Daughters tour we ever did, there were six of us and a cargo van. You’d go play a show at someone’s house and, sometimes, you’d stay there; sometimes you’d meet someone at the show and they’d let you sleep at their house; sometimes you’d drive to a parking lot and sleep in a parking lot. When you don’t have enough money, you’ve got to make it work so you can go and play.

“To be honest, I do miss those old tours where we were all crammed in that van. We could stay up all night and just talk about bullshit. I still have fun touring and am happier doing this than I have been in a very long time, but my joy has shifted from when I was happy just to get out of town and hope I get enough money to get some Taco Bell.”

Performing in a cramped living room where there are more people in the band than there are paying attendees can, naturally, lead to an extremely claustrophobic evening. And, although their music has transformed and they’ve swapped houses for 1,000-capacity halls, Daughters keep their nostalgia for those DIY days alive, retaining that in-your-face discomfort whenever they take a stage. 

Marshall is an ever-involving frontman, regularly descending into his audience to up the levels of close-quarters mayhem. It’s a sermon on the mount where he ominously delivers half-spoken-half-sung diatribes, all while guitarist Nicholas Sadler serenades with whirring and eerie riffs.

“All that’s changed for us, as a live band, is the dates and duties,” says the singer. “There are just a lot more moving parts now. I don’t sleep on the hardwood floor of the house of some person I don’t know in Virginia anymore. It’s different in that aspect but, as far as just playing, I do my job and play hard.”

Over the last 20 years, Daughters may have grown from upstart punks to worldly and diverse noise-rockers, but their live shows remain just as confrontational as ever. When they grace the UK for this next incendiary tour, expect unsettling music, intense interactivity and—most likely—to be nursing a few bruises in the morning.

‘You Won’t Get What You Want’ is out now via Ipecac.

Daughters Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Thu October 31 2019 - LONDON Islington Assembly Hall
Fri November 01 2019 - LIVERPOOL Arts Club
Sat November 02 2019 - DUBLIN Grand Social

Click here to compare & buy Daughters Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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