Those pressure-packed Voice performances drained Dia's onstage exuberance over most of the past decade. "For years after The Voice, I had a really hard time performing," says Dia. "Perfectionism took over my life." Even worse, her newfound solo career ravaged her relationship with her older sister, once her closest confidante in an unforgiving industry. "It was like having my identity and my best friend taken away at the same time," says the elder Frampton, now willing to criticize the way she reacted to Dia's ascent.
For years, the sisters didn't speak. "I had tied up all my self-worth in being famous, having money, and being a rock star," says Meg. "I felt really jealous, thinking my sister was gonna be rich and famous, and I'd have nothing left."
The Utah natives admit the Jersey show wasn't their sharpest, but their Warped gigs this summer proved a vital step forward for the reformed band. Today (July 26) marks the surprise release of Happysad, their fourth studio album and first since Dia auditioned for The Voice eight years ago. Fans might have figured they were up to something after the recent shows (they also played in Cleveland in early June and Mountain View, Calif. last weekend), but Happysad was recorded in complete secret. A pact with Pure Noise Records -- home to pop-punk staples like State Champs and Senses Fail -- and a fall headlining tour were unannounced until today.
It didn't come easy. Dia traded in her solo career to rekindle the band; Meg put her musician-for-hire work on the backburner and sold her share in a successful Salt Lake City coffee shop she'd co-founded after the split. "We'd been separate for so long, it was nice to get everything together without the public eye on us," Dia says. "We got to figure out what we wanted to say to the world, which we never really knew before."
Although they were raised alongside four other sisters, Meg and Dia grew up with a special closeness. Draper, Utah, about 30 minutes outside of Salt Lake City, wasn't the ideal launching pad for musicians in the pre-social media days, but their parents -- a British father and Korean mother -- bought them instruments for the holidays and shared their extensive record collection. With Dia the natural singer and Meg the whiz guitarist, the songwriting pair formed its first band when they were just 16 and 14, respectively, and soon rebranded to Meg & Dia in 2004.
As the band filled out with a trio of touring members (guitarist Carlo Gimenez and bassist Jonathan Snyder still play with them), the Frampton sisters wrote punchy rock songs, combining Hot Topic power chords and coffee-shop strumming, often inspired by literature most fellow high schoolers could relate to (the lyrics of their vicious single "Monster" were written as a direct response to East of Eden). Helped by fledgling online resources like MySpace and Purevolume, they linked up with KMGMT's Mike Kaminsky, who manages them to this day, and signed with the indie label Doghouse Records, who'd recently helped launch the All-American Rejects to stardom.
Expectations were high with the release of their debut LP, Something Real, in 2006. "I immediately looked up top albums that week, because I was certain ours album would be there," Dia remembers (the album peaked, modestly, at No. 12 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart). "That's just the mind of a 17-year old, excited girl. It felt surreal and every show was exciting. We just felt we are building to something bigger than ourselves."