Noise rock band Daughters has always had somewhat of a cult appeal. So says the group’s vocalist, Alexis Marshall. But that seems to have changed with the group’s new project, “You Won’t Get What You Want.”
The new album, the band’s fourth, received rave reviews from critics and appeared on numerous year-end lists, including a No. 2 slot on Rolling Stone’s 20 Best Metal Albums of 2018 and No. 1 on The Needle Drop’s Top 50 Albums of 2018 video. From the latter it received a perfect score, one of only five albums over the past decade to have done so. Marshall calls the album’s success unusual.
“It’s not something that is commonplace for us,” Marshall admits. “We were often putting out records that end up kind of cult records. We existed on the fringe for such a long time. I mean, we never made year-end lists before.”
While he’s appreciative of the support, he doesn’t rely on it – and he won’t let it get to him. After all, time passes and things change.
“That (stuff) goes away and the people move on, so it’s great and we’re very happy, but you can’t dwell there. We have to keep playing and keep writing music, hope for the best. I can’t imagine it will be the same reception next time around,” he says modestly.
Formed in Providence, Rhode Island, in 2002, Daughters emerged from the ashes of grindcore outfit As the Sun Sets, releasing a 4-minute self-titled EP and 11-minute debut album, “Canada Songs.” A few years in, Marshall abandoned his shrieking vocals in favor of a cleaner but arguably stranger approach on the group’s sophomore effort, “Hell Songs.” By 2009, the group had essentially disbanded – but not without recording its swan song effort. Released in spring 2010, the self-titled album, which capped at nearly 30 minutes (at that time lengthy for Daughters) and saw the band continue the evolution past its frenetic grindcore roots, marked the end of an era.
After only a few years, however, the group’s members – Marshall, guitarist Nick Sadler, drummer Jon Syverson and bassist Sam Walker – had settled any differences, returned to performing and begun to float the idea of a new project. That new project is “You Won’t Get What You Want,” released in October. In addition to being the band’s first album in eight years, it’s the quartet’s first on Ipecac Recordings.
“It’s great to see the amount of praise that the record is getting, because we were really struggling to find someone who was interested in what we were doing, and Ipecac was one of only two labels we spoke to that seemed interested or that had a real interest in what we were doing,” Marshall explains.
That interest traces back to label mastermind Mike Patton, of Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Fantômas and Tomahawk fame. According to Marshall, he and his bandmates learned through a mutual acquaintance that Patton had been inquiring about them. Additionally, Syverson served as the tour manager for the Patton-fronted hardcore punk supergroup Dead Cross and Daughters toured with Ipecac labelmates Dälek. It all fell into place.
“Hell, I’ve been listening to Faith No More since I was 13 years old or something, so it’s pretty wild. It’s a cool label and they are more interested in putting out exciting bands or creative bands than putting out a bunch of (expletive) that’s going to sell,” Marshall says.
“It was the same appeal when we worked at Hydra Head for so many years (and released 2006’s ‘Hell Songs’ and 2010’s ‘Daughters’),” he continues. “Their interest was putting out records that maybe weren’t going to sell a ton, but they cared about them and they were passionate about them and the bands were passionate about working with the label. And I think that’s what everyone at Ipecac is feeling, that everyone’s happy to be there.”
Marshall has often been open in interviews about the factors that led to Daughters’ dissolution in 2009. From infighting to the strain of touring, he acknowledges he’s had to think about how to make it work this go-around. Having been sober for more than 10 years, he admits he doesn’t even recall many of his 2000s experiences, from his infamous on-stage antics to the people he’s met along the way. He ponders, “I just wonder how I made it out of a lot of situations alive without someone kicking my head in for something stupid that I did.”
But now, whether he’s in the studio or on the stage, he’s having fun with it. Technology has made touring easier, he has kids to check up on, and there’s “more purpose.”
“It’s great to be out and in control of myself to some extent, or as much as I need. But we’re just trying to have fun,” he says, admitting he’s appreciating and enjoying the experience while it lasts.
Daughters will stop by The Rebel Lounge on Friday, March 1. Cult Leader and Hide are replacing original tour opener Blanck Mass, who cancelled due to a “family bereavement,” according to a Facebook post from The Rebel Lounge.
Due to other commitments, Walker, who is also a brewmaster, will not join Daughters on this upcoming outing. Metz bassist Chris Slorach has been tapped as his replacement.
But when it comes to Marshall, the stage is where he has traditionally felt most comfortable.
“I think as I get older, I appreciate the studio more. I always hated it,” he reflects. “It was always much more about just performing for me – and it still is; that’s still the most important part of doing everything. I would like for us to be like the MC5 and just go record a record live or just go play a show and record it and here’s our record.”
He adds, “Things are always changing and then our views are changing and our preferences are forever changing. So, I’m glad at the way things have turned out and how we’re operating.”
Nowadays, however, the writing process is different. With Marshall, Syverson, Sadler and Walker being older, no longer living in close proximity, and having other responsibilities like families, “You Won’t Get What You Want” took shape via Dropbox. Though Marshall says it wasn’t ideal, it was convenient.
“We’d perhaps be more productive if we were all in the same place, but we’ll see how this year goes,” he says. “We’ve got a lot to do this year. We’re playing a lot of shows, and writing a record is something that we wonder, ‘When the hell are we going to find time to do this?’ But we’re making it work. We’ll continue to do our best.”
Despite the band members’ distances and the need to become acclimated to writing far away from each other, Marshall, the band’s lyricist, says he traditionally avoids practice sessions anyway. He’d rather allow his bandmates to generate instrumental ideas at their own pace and then, back in the day, burn him a CD, or, nowadays, send him sketches via Dropbox.
The project’s 10 tracks ultimately took shape in varying fashions, he says. In the case of the album’s two lengthiest songs, “Satan in the Wait” and “Ocean Song,” both of which are upward of 7 minutes, they were stretched to fit the stories his lyrics told. In contrast, climactic closer “Guest House,” where the album is arguably at its most chaotic, was instrumentally complete and just needed lyrics, which Marshall only finished shortly before recording took place. For the slow-building “City Song,” where the instruments are gradually stacked up over its near 6-minute runtime, Marshall kept writing up until it was time to track his vocals.
“Other times I’m given a little more room, but … sometimes I don’t want the room, I don’t want the space,” explains Marshall, who prefers writing to completed instrumentals, so he isn’t given infinite time to doubt and tweak details. “I sort of like being handed something that I can map now. Now it’s mine and I can figure how to make it work.”
“You Won’t Get What You Want” almost never happened in its current form, though. A few years back, newly reformed and not 100-percent committed to a full-time reunion, the band planned to solidify with an EP. But the material didn’t seem right at the time, Marshall says.
“I think we were hoping that by (setting a deadline) we would kind of commit and rise to the occasion. And, I think we did to some extent, but looking at the material it just seemed things weren’t right, and especially after so much time away we didn’t want to just put something out,” he says.
Ultimately, the band members needed to accept a new project would demand more effort than was required when they were younger musicians with fewer responsibilities, and the deadline they had set felt too reliant on proving to themselves they could still write together.
“That’s not why you want to do it,” he says. “You put something out because you care about your art. And that’s what (stuff) ultimately drives playing music or being creative, is the output. It was sort of lacking. So we kind of needed to reframe everything and not force ourselves.”
Despite the timing not being right, the sessions weren’t a disaster, Marshall clarifies. At least two of the songs written at that time made it untouched onto the final project, while other ideas were rewritten and reworked. Ultimately, the band got acclimated to their new situation and figured out how to make new material work through what was essentially a free-flowing marketplace of ideas.
“The more material we had, the more it began to take shape. We realized that we were getting it done,” he says.
And, if the album’s reception is anything to go by, it was worth the wait.
Daughters w/Cult Leader and Hide, The Rebel Lounge, 2303 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix, therebellounge.com, 602.296.7013, 8 p.m. Friday, March 1, $18-$20.