We’re on the wrong side of the tracks in suburban Atlantis. And someone in a passing train just threw a lovely Cabronita Telecaster out the window. Strange, yet convenient. A siren picks it up and begins to play it from her plateau. "I feel numb in this kingdom" she sings…
No, it’s just imagination – a grandiose parable, if you will. We’re really in a venue in the Danish city Copenhagen and, to the best of our knowledge, Elena Tonra isn’t a siren. Wait, did she just ask us to “drown with her”? Never mind.
As suspected the venue is packed. Suspected because Daughter is beginning to make a habit of playing sold-out shows. The sound, however, is so cavernous that you’d think that the London-based trio was playing in a hangar for absolutely no one.
The up-and-coming indie folk act started life as a duo in 2010, when Elena Tonra teamed up with her college class-mate Igor Haefeli. The two released the four-track EP, His Young Heart, in April 2011. By October the same year drummer Remi Aguilella joined the band.
The trio build a large following because of their strength as a live band, which eventually would lead to them to play the song ‘Youth’ on the prestigious The Late Show with David Letterman. At one and the same time a tale of personal heartache and an anthem for a brokenhearted generation, the song is a prime example of the romantic skepticism Elena is able to conjure in her writing.
2013 marked the release of Daughter’s debut album “If You Leave” - a record that made critics, justly, compare the group to Jeff Buckley, The xx and Björk. The group's second record “Not To Disappear”, was released in early 2016 and was preceded by the brilliant singles “Doing The Right Thing” and “Numbers”.
We met up with Elena before Daughter’s gig in Copenhagen in February 2016 for a chat about singing, songwriting and vocal effects.
How did you get into music? “I started playing my own music when I was 15, maybe 14. But I was singing from quite a young age. I have musical family - music was always there.”
And writing? “I started writing first, and I wrote lyrics from my early teens. I started playing an instrument when I was around fifteen. It was my brother's guitar. I stole it from him, when he was away, and taught myself how to play.”
What music were you influenced by growing up? “I was born into a religious family, so there was the church side of things where we'd sing there. I think it was all a part of my life - either choral singing or traditional folk singing. My grandfather, he was Irish, so I had a lot of inspiration.”
How important are effects to Daughter’s live performances? “Effects are a big part of our sound. We really think about the sound of what we're making, whether it's from Igor's guitar FX, or whether it's my vocal FX, even the way Ramy treats his drums. I think the sound of things, for us, have always been really important.“
What do you use the VoiceLive 2 for? “Using the VoiceLive - making these full-part harmonies or these different kinds of effects - live, we could create a sound that was wider than the three of us human beings. If I know I can use vocal effects, it means I can layer certain things together. You start to think of it like there's no boundaries, almost, to what you can make.”