Death is no stranger to London-based trio, Daughter. On their second album, Not to Disappear, mortality lines their songs with imagery that’s haunted and fascinated by the inevitable. In a recent conversation with Billboard, Daughter guitarist Igor Haefeli sheds light on the LP’s delicate content and the process that inspired it.
“I think there’s something to be said about how courageous [Daughter lead singer, Elena Tonra] is about saying certain things that quite a few people think but not so many people put so simply,” Haefeli says. Alongside drummer Remi Aguilella, the three-piece band lets Tonra’s words set the tone, each lyric morphing the melancholic into an expansive and visceral soundscape. Building on her lyrical content in the group’s previous album and EPs, Tonra sings about a sense of disconnect she can’t seem to shake. Yet Not to Disappear brings a quality more cinematic and frustrated than Daughter’s prior works.
The group, who formed during their years at The Institute of Contemporary Music and Performance in London, started working on the album in 2014. “Everyone just went to their respective families and started collecting ideas,” Haefeli says. “Elena and me got into the studio at the very start of January and just started really messing around without a big plan in mind. We just wanted to see where we were going, where we were at musically.” In 2015, the trio finished the record off in New York with producer Nicolas Vernhes in his Brooklyn studio where, Haefeli admits, they “really didn’t see much light of day.”
With Vernhes’ help, the album arrives with a stronger sense of atmosphere than their 2013 debut LP, If You Leave. “There’s definitely a thing from both sides,” Haefeli tells Billboard, “from being in New York and being with Nicolas that influenced the sound of our record, but we did write it and prepare a lot of it in London, so there’s obviously a big London vibe as well and influence.” Balancing these two climates in their sound, Not to Disappear evokes warm, buzzing sensibilities while staying rooted in a more nebulous, subdued space. “I think [our music] is just very instinctive…It’s part of our personalities. It’s quite natural,” Haefeli says.
For him, Daughter “is really a place to put certain thoughts and negativities into music…It’s just about making it into a more cathartic experience.” On Not to Disappear’s first track, “New Ways,” the catharsis is apparent. From Tonra’s hushed vocals to Haefelli’s droning guitar and Aguilella’s calculated percussion, the song unleashes the LP’s introverted nature.
In lyric and sound, Not to Disappear presents a push and pull between restriction and freedom, fate and presence. The first two singles, “Numbers” and “Doing the Right Thing,” continue this thread of contemplation that define Daughter’s headspace. These songs are two thirds of a short film series the group worked on with British filmmakers Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard. “We definitely wanted to make something that wasn’t simply a music video but had a bit of a movie quality to it, so an approach that was maybe more about short movies,” Haefeli tells Billboard. The group got in touch with Stuart Evers, a short story writer, who then adapted the songs’ narratives into screenplays. “We shot them in about four days altogether all in a row in a small city in England,” Haefeli shares. The “Doing the Right Thing” video follows an old man who cares for a wife suffering from Dementia, while “Numbers” portrays a ruthless protagonist on something of a murder mission.
Like the videos, Not to Disappear finds its identity somewhere between life and death — unsure of where it stands, but aware of its voice. With this album, Daughter has harnessed a more matured sense of self whose fears find solace in candor but still seek a place to be pacified.