Interview with guitarist Nick Sadler | By Thomas Pizzola
When Daughters went on hiatus after the release of their self-titled album in 2010, very few people thought the Providence, Rhode Island, band would be coming back. For one of the most daring and unhinged noise rock bands of recent times, it looked like it was finally the end. They had reached the end of their proverbial rope. That was it.
Or was it?
“Touring [2006’s] Hell Songs put considerable strain on the mental health of our band members. We were already broken spiritually and financially by the time we began to write the self-titled album, with myself living on various floors and couches during the process,” guitarist Nick Sadler says. “There was so much tension and unhappiness within the group that we decided to go on indefinite hiatus before we finished recording, which was in 2009. This time off was meant for us to figure out how to reassemble our lives outside of Daughters, knowing that, eventually, when the time was right, we would begin thinking about how to create a new set of songs together.”
It didn’t take long before Sadler met with vocalist Alexis Marshall to discuss the future of the band. Plans were soon laid to bring Daughters—who also include drummer Jon Syverson and bassist Sam Walker—back into the present.
“Since Lex and I decided to break our hiatus in 2012, the goal has always been to create, record, and tour new music. We are not interested in getting together to simply relive older material,” Sadler says. “For me, the most exciting moments of being a part of any group—or while working alone—are during the initial stages of creating new material when one is closest to inspiration, experimentation, and during the developmental stages of creating a cohesive vision and direction. We would’ve lost interest in Daughters had it been about anything other than the challenge of trying to create interesting new music for ourselves.”
The band were itching to get back into the studio. There was no trepidation on their part, no worries about tarnishing their small but celebrated discography. After all, they are a band who thrive on pushing sonic boundaries.
“A part of what holds my interest in working with Daughters is the group’s willingness to mess with our ‘legacy.’ What I have tried to maintain in creating new material for the band is the notion of subverting or undermining what I think might be working for us musically and conceptually,” Sadler says. “We have a purveying relationship with self-defeat and self-sabotage, but upturning what we know about ourselves and our skill set is mostly about remaining inspired and trying to keep the members of the band satisfied and entertained. Creatively, Daughters operates on an ‘us first, then you’ basis.”
This all leads to the release of the first Daughters album in eight years, You Won’t Get What You Want, which drops Oct. 26 through Ipecac Recordings. The new album is a glorious rebirth of one of the most adventurous bands of the 2000s.
You Won’t Get What You Want is another stunning reinvention of the band’s sound. Sadler took what was influencing him at the time and applied these new wrinkles to their music. It’s still noisy but also pretty and spacious at times, with elements of electronic music creeping in. There is a certain goth-y, post-punk air to it.
“I have been working on film scores and music for web content in the years since I left Fang Island and Daughters went on hiatus,” Sadler says. “I love to listen to theme songs and scores abstracted from their visual components. In 2007 and 2008, I performed as one of 200 guitarists in Rhys Chatham’s minimalist/maximalist guitar orchestra. We performed A Crimson Grail (for 200 [Electric] Guitars), which turned out to be a deeply inspiring, epiphanic moment for me.”
“You Won’t Get What You Want combines my interest in film score and minimalism with a lifelong love of ’80s goth, post-punk, and industrial music in a way that I hoped would maintain what makes Daughters sound like Daughters,” he continues. “The goal was to try to reduce Daughters and focus the elements of our sound around volume dynamics and tone and to highlight mood. The reality was that this move toward the cinematic was simply what surfaced naturally during the writing process, so rather than fight it, I embraced it in as much as it made sense in the application or was acceptable to the group.”
Some longtime fans might be taken aback by this sonic curveball, but for those paying attention, the band deal in this form of sonic envelope-pushing every time they put out a new album. 2003 debut Canada Songs was their opening salvo of spazzy, art-damaged grind. 2006 follow-up Hell Songs took elements of that first album and molded them into something new.
This happened again on Daughters, and it continues to this day on You Won’t Get What You Want. This is just how the band operate. “We have made no decisive effort to change [the] sound per album, per se,” Sadler says. “The changes are mostly about curiosity, motivation, and so on. Speaking for myself, I absolutely feel the need to explore; it doesn’t need to be sonic, but there should be moments of stepping into unfamiliar territory. At the very least, there should always be some manner of risk. I want to be able to surprise myself with what can be done with Daughters—or with what I can do, find moments in the creative process that are not possible to plan out. Discovery is exciting.”
“I don’t want to go backward, and, to some extent, it’s not possible for me to think about music the same way I did when I was 19 and we made our 7”, so why try?” he adds. “It’s more appealing to me to try to operate from fading impressions of what that might’ve been or felt like and try to infuse those impressions with how I feel and with what I’m interested in today. As listeners, I think we would all agree that it’s not interesting for a band to repeatedly do a version of themselves for the sake of keeping the spell intact; [it’s] not interesting for anyone. We do the most we can with our limited physical and conceptual abilities to find ways to add to Daughters, which means that, in a way, the final product contains some amount of unpredictability, even for us.”
The needs of Daughters supersede any preconceptions people outside the band might have of them. “It’s not that I don’t care about what the folks who like our band think about what we’re doing, but step one in this whole process has to be in taking care of the creative needs of our band. There would be no Daughters at all if we felt like we had to do Canada Songs over and over again,” Sadler says. “I feel as though many listeners respond to earnestness and what is genuine in music, that many are out looking for those things in what they immerse themselves in. In time, we’ve come to understand that what the people who listen to our band appreciate or even expect is that we are making the effort to push ourselves to try to develop something fresh that functions.”
With a killer new album in You Won’t Get What You Want and a hotly anticipated tour to follow, Daughters have found a way to come back from oblivion. Their will to create has gotten them through a rough patch in their existence. In some ways, it’s the comeback nobody expected but that the music world needs.
Is this an older, wiser Daughters?
“Older, for sure,” Sadler says.