With a cute pixie bowl haircut and twee button-up shirts, Elena Tonra of folk band Daughter might just be our latest music crush. Originally a solo artist churning out love-lorne acoustic tunes Elena teamed up with boyfriend and guitarist Igor Haefeli and drummer Remi Aguilella to create a trio and overhaul her whole sound. Combining her classic folky guitar and poetic lyrics with the added ambiance of drums and layered instrumentation, Daughter’s melodies have the music presses fizzing with excitement. 2012 has seen them garner a lot of firsts; sessions at Maida Vale for Radio 1, a performance on David Letterman’s in New York and getting air time on American sitcoms and British TV shows alike, and there’s no doubt more to come for 2013.
We grabbed some time with the lady behind the sound, Elena Tonra to talk Bowie, black tights and Spinal Tap.
How did Daughter come to be?
I started out playing music before Daughter formed, but I felt really lonely and uninspired by that, so I asked Igor if he would help me out for a few shows I had back in 2011. We arranged the songs with two guitars firstly and instantly felt we were really on the same page ideas-wise. Then we started to collaborate in more depth, we recorded the first EP (His Young Heart) in his room in a warehouse he was living in at the time, it was a really laid-back process, we could be as nocturnal as we wanted there and record music whenever we had inspiration. We became a three piece band later. We both knew Remi from college, where Igor and I first met, and we loved his style of playing so it all came together really nicely.
What’s the inspiration behind the band and its music?
I think we have a lot of different musical influences between us, we all grew up with different things playing. I was brought up on songwriters, mainly things that my parents were listening to: Bob Dylan, Neil Young, David Bowie and then later in my early teens I became really fascinated by Jeff Buckley. Igor listened to more experimental stuff in his teens, he has quite an abstract brain which is really great to work with. And Remi was brought up on jazz. So our sound is a jumble of all our various tastes in music.
Did you always want to sing?
Not especially, I don’t really like my own voice very much. I’ve always wanted to sound more like a boy because I listen to male vocalists a lot more than female. I would say I’m more of a writer than a singer, I only use my singing voice as a way to project what I want to say in the music. I just wish I was really good at playing bass, I love bass.
What music do you listen to on the road?
We listen to all different types of music, a few of our favourites at the moment are: Evenings’ “North Dorm EP”, Interpol “Turn On The Bright Lights”, Sigur Ros “Valtari” Purity Ring “Shrines”. And we listen to a lot of MJ when our tour manager Neil is driving… So he doesn’t fall asleep at the wheel. There’s no falling asleep when Bad is cranked up!
What’s the best gig you’ve ever played?
We’ve been really lucky because we have played lots of great shows, with such beautiful audiences. One that really sticks out is Roskilde Festival in Denmark last year, we played at 1am, and we had maybe only 3 or 4 hours sleep the night before because we were travelling through the night. We didn’t know what to expect because we were all really tired and we were on quite late so we thought there might not be many people coming to see us. But it was unbelievable, the tent was full and everyone was really welcoming and energetic (and probably very drunk) it was such a dreamy atmosphere, but really warm and comforting like we were playing to friends. It was one of the first festivals we had done outside of the UK, so we were just so amazed that people came to watch, and even more amazed that some people were singing along with us.
Who would you most love to collaborate with?
This is a hard question, I am terrified of making music with someone I don’t know. I need to be alone in a dark room or with Igor somewhere familiar. But there are lots of different artists that I really admire. I think Sun Glitters creates really moving and ghostly electronic music. “Too much to Lose” is one of my favourite songs, it’s just a few lyrics repeated like a mantra immersed in a sea of glitchy noises and bass hum. I really love it.
How would you describe your sound?
How would you describe your style?
I don’t know. I love 60s style, but i don’t think I have a strictly 60s way of dressing. I really just wear black a lot. I get asked if i’m french sometimes by people i don’t know. Which is cool, I’ve always wanted to be French…
What are your musthaves when touring?
A mountain of black tights. Music and films for the van. (Spinal Tap has become an essential). A laptop loaded with episodes of the Walking Dead, for post-gig zombie times. Manuka honey and Yogi throat tea. My notebook for writing.
If you weren’t a musician what would you be?
Pretending to be French?
Catch them across the country on tour this year and get your hands on their debut album If You Leave due to release on March 30th in UK.
Watch them play Youth at a Williamsburg garage for Bowery Presents below.