Reid Haithcock

EXCLUSIVE // Getting What You Want with Alexis Marshall of Daughters

(Author’s Note: Fecking Bahamas would like to extend their extreme gratitude to Ipecac Records and Alexis Marshall for gracing us with the opportunity to do this interview.

We would also like to take this opportunity to offer more sensitive readers a Content Warning in regards to certain mental health issues, like anxiety, addiction, and suicidal thoughts. Lex went far and beyond the predicted scope of our originally planned interview, and we were as grateful as we were humbled by his honesty and willingness to share this information. Reader discretion is advised.)

Last year, Daughters shocked the world with an album so raw, so intense that many considered it more of an aural exorcism than a collection of songs written and performed by a band. Although the band’s sound has always found itself at home on the very edge of comprehensible chaos, the places Daughters had decided to take their music after so many years surprised even the most die-hard of fans.

You Won’t Get What You Want marks many distinct turns for the band in terms of experimentation and dynamic range, although it still shares DNA with Daughters’ previous outings. The guitars still wail and pop like computers thrown into vats of boiling acid. The drums and bass are still a snarling and unrelenting four-legged beast. Vocalist Alexis Marshall’s haunting croon still solemnly carves it’s initials into our utterly unprepared ear canals.

But what separates the Daughters we see today from Daughters we saw nearly 20 years ago isn’t as simple as a change in sound or coming of age. It’s the clearly evolved application of sincerity and intent. Is the band still capable of writing songs like “Pants, Meet Shit” or “Flattery is A Bunch of Fucking Bullshit?” Without a doubt.

But would the band that put out those songs have the guts to put out songs like “Guest House” or “Less Sex?” Tough to say. In the following phone interview, vocalist Alexis Marshall (or Lex) was kind enough to share candid details regarding album’s recording sessions, what goes through his mind onstage, and what it means to create lasting art in a disappearing world.

Greetings Mr. Marshall!

Lex: Hey, how are you?

I’m great thanks, how are things out there?

Lex: Oh, it’s fine. It’s a bit cold.

Actually, where is there, are you in Rhode Island right now?

Lex: No actually, I live in central Pennsylvania.

Oh, cool! I’ve never been there to be honest.

Lex: No, no. It’s not cool at all. You’re not missing anything.

(laughs) Fair enough, I’m in an Oregon valley right now myself, so it’s dreary always.

Lex: Oh yeah, exactly. I think two years ago I think we had the most rain in the country was here. It rained all fucking summer, and then all fall, and we had a boring rainy shitty winter, it was terrible… well, you know.

Yikes, I definitely feel you there. Well here, let’s get through this together, I just got a few questions for you, and hopefully we get this as quick and painless as possible (laughs). Did you have any questions at all?

Lex: Uh, yeah, I got the questions before hand, but I didn’t read them, it seemed like cheating, you know?

Oh man, that’s cool. It could be cheating, and some people cheat I guess. I just wanted everyone to be happy, I also wanted Ipecac to know it wasn’t hopefully too boring of an interview.

Lex: It’s fine, I’ve done so many fucking interviews this past week, you don’t even have to explain. It’s just a thing, sometimes they’re great, sometimes they come out the same, a little cookie-cutter sometimes. You never know. We’ll see how it goes, I’m feeling optimistic.

I appreciate the hell out of that, I’m feeling pretty optimistic myself, so let’s see here…

Lex: Cool.

First up, across the discography the band is known to employ some pretty harsh, outlandish tones. You also maintain a pretty consistent emotional authenticity, I don’t think anyone thinks you’re pulling any punches or anything like that. Do you guys have a way of deciding when a sound or song comes off the way it’s supposed to, or is it just a matter of leaning into experimenting?

Lex: There’s always been a great deal of experimenting in this band, a lot of the time it’s sort of different ways of doing the same thing in a way. Nick has this way where he rewrites and rewrites and rewrites, but you know… we don’t discuss an aesthetic or a theme. Everyone does there part, and it’s always complimentary, or often complimentary, we’ll miss some marks here and there. But with this record I had my own agenda, lyrically and vocally, it wasn’t discussed. We all found each other in the same place and that worked out really well. We could probably be a bit more of an all together, exchanging of ideas type of thing, but there’s much more of a “let’s see where this goes” type of attitude that we have, and it seems to be working out.

Yeah, of course! Especially with you guys getting mentioned in a couple top 100 albums of the decade lists, does that sway you in any way? Does that stir any feelings for you or is it sort of a “fuck it, I don’t care any more” kind of thing?

Lex: Well, I mean, it’s great because these things “put asses in seats” as they say, so it’s necessary but I don’t put a lot of my own emotional or mental dependency on that. It’s a great thing that people are paying attention though, if they didn’t we couldn’t tour, we couldn’t live off it, so it’s great. But I mean, so many shit records get great reviews, and a lot of great records get ignored, so I don’t feel validated by any of it, but it’s nice, it helps us function and keep going, but we’ll continue, what’s great now might not be great later. I try not to think about it too much or worry about it… demand it. (laughs) It doesn’t seem to beneficial to my personal life or my well being.

I guess sort of in the same breath, you guys did have sort of have a “where is this going to take us” thing going on for a while: now it’s been just over a year since the record came out, and one thing I’ve noticed in friends that are hearing it for the first time is that they’re still having very cathartic experiences to it. They’re listening to it over and over, and trying to decipher parts, turn up their headphones and really dig into this thing… so, I feel like a couple of the records in the past still have a lot of depth to them, but this one certainly seems a couple levels deeper… was that depth part of the agenda you were talking about personally earlier, or was it just the level you all found yourselves on after all these years, where you wanted to make something that would last?

Lex: Yeah, well…there’s no way to know, I mean, you hope you’re creating something that’s useful that people get something out of it, but you can’t hang your hat on that, or put all your efforts into creating something that is going to get a particular kind of response… so… um… shit (laughs) I’ve been trying to get analytical about this whole thing, especially after the year, it can be exhausting… the way I felt about the record a year ago and the way I feel about it now are I suppose a bit different.

Yeah, I wondered!

Lex: It is important for me to convey a part of myself and my own struggles with my mental illness and other things, and to create characters who are maybe living on some… some far, distant shore of the worst of me, while also maintaining their character, with murderous intent, that’s something I would never physically act out, but these thoughts exist, and these feelings exist. So there is a lot of shit like that where to me, I just wanted the lyrical content to be good when you read the words separately from the music, but I also felt it was important to convey something that everyone can feel. Everyone knows joy, but you don’t learn a lot about yourself personally when you’re laughing.

Very Nietzche.

Lex: Yeah. There is no reason to reflect in those moments, and I spend a lot of time reflecting, over thinking, and analyzing, then processing, then de-processing things and you go and relearn… you know, I imagine everyone goes through that. But several years ago I was having a conversation with a friend, another sort of big artist who I won’t mention because it would be kind of weird, but we were talking about suicidal thoughts we had, and it’s a way I always thought about my own death and killing myself and the process of, and the repercussions of, and he said flat out, “I think about killing myself everyday, I just figure everybody does,” and I thought “Yeah, that’s exactly how I’ve always felt!” But once you discuss it openly, you realize that’s not something everybody’s going through. It’s just the extreme full swing of the pendulum on either side. Some of us suffer more than others, but I just try to find an in between, and convey a lot of my own issues… suddenly I feel like I’m in my therapists office. I didn’t mean to say all that type of shit (laughs).

Oh god, I’m sorry. (laughs) I just have that vibe.

I didn’t have an agenda so much on my end but was really just important to me to process in general and use my own feelings as a way. I feel like anyone who writes puts a part of themselves in it, because we only know what our experience is. You only know what you know, which seems very obvious but when you’re writing you can sometimes lead yourself and try to be something else, but when you create a character there’s always a part of your self in there somewhere because you process that experience though your writing. It can be an experience you’ve ever had, but you have to connect with it. If you don’t connect with it, it doesn’t seem human, and I think that becomes really transparent to people and it doesn’t resonate with them strongly.

Yeah, of course! I think you did an amazing job with that, you’ve always been good at conveying something really between… I don’t know, I don’t want to say spiritual but something very special and very visceral at the same time. Not in a way to compare you because you’re of course very different, but the guy from Mars Volta, the way he writes lyrics is somewhat ridiculous, but still very personal and signature to him, and I’ve always thought what you did had a very personal element, but also that it’s most evident on the newest record. There were some lines that really blew me away, like “head like a matchstick, sucking concrete through a straw,” where I was just sat there like “what the fuck…” but I believed it when you said it, which sort of brings me around to the next question. Was there a particularly hard part to getting the band back together as a functioning unit again?

Lex: You know, we didn’t have any expectations. Physically getting together was difficult because we all live across the country. So just the travel itself was a little daunting, and we had to realize that was something we had to deal with. But everyone was excited to create and technology enables us to keep in touch very easily and conveniently, so we could have ideas in an email exchange when we didn’t have the benefit of having a practice space. So yeah, it was easy to get lost with the distance, and we would sometimes forget like, “oh, we’re working on this, we need to keep our heads in it.” There were issues, but I think that luckily those frustrations sort of overshadowed any worry we had, like if the end product would have any legs, by the way we just knew we wanted to create, and it was a matter of how to do that and get to the end, and just have faith in our ability. We’ve been making music for two decades just about… there were of course points where we thought, “what the hell are we going to do if no one gives a shit?” But we’ve already been through years of people not caring at all, so the fact that people are still excited about this, we just appreciate it. It puts the joy in that while it’s here, because people come go. But we’re happy to do this. The fact that anyone is paying attention is something we’re thankful for.

Did having Seth Manchester so close to you from Machines with Magnets make recording any easier?

Lex: Yeah, we’d done almost everything, even our poorest sounding record with Andrew Schnedier, which was Hell Songs… and it all sounded very hollow. I don’t like the vocals, because my voice sounds ridiculous, and you can hear how large the room was. I don’t think it sounds good. But everything we’d done at Machines has always sounded good, even the records I don’t like, Canada Songs, and the seven-inch… our early work. I don’t want to listen to that shit, but I think it sounds good for what it is. I think is a great engineer, and a great producer. And he’s our friend, so he doesn’t bullshit. There were some points of contention within us in certain parts and he could step in and say “hey, here’s what you’re talking about, but here’s what’s really going on.” So there were really good moments he helped us get through, “Less Sex” was a particular song in that there was quite a bit of debate. There was a change in vocals. Whatever ended up was the original vocal lines.

I remember reading you had switched it up at least once!

Lex: I had switched it, but I didn’t feel good about it. It was like, “this doesn’t interest me, I’m not into this story, and the change doesn’t work.” I was no longer captivated by this vague narrative but… then we had a conversation and we all sat down, and yeah, we ended up going back to where we were, and I think it’s a great song. It’s one of the better songs on the record.

Agreed, that was one of the first ones I heard after I heard you guys were getting back together and were releasing an album. It was definitely quite different, but I loved it immediately. It was almost kind of a Nine Inch Nails vibe, or even darker like something from Ministry or Revolting Cocks.

Lex: Yeah. That was a strange one, and it was one of the earlier songs we’d written too. I think that by writing that, it encouraged us to take the gloves off and get dirty with the whole thing and not ask whether or not it was a Daughters song. We wrote it, and we thought it sounded great, and some people thought it might be too weird, and we sat on it, but then we went, “yeah, this is gonna work. This is ours.” Ultimately we decide what the band is. We need to fit in, and people always want to call us noise rock, but nobody knows what to call us. We’ve been called so many things. We’ll write songs that sound however we want them to sound, we can be the players, you can be the listeners, and if you enjoy listening to what we play, everything works out.

Definitely seems to be working for you guys. I know you guys had so many different opinions between the four of you on how so many things went over the last ten years. It’s great to hear you all feel this internal ownership of your music, as opposed to what you hear a lot of people these days saying, “once that music hits the stores, once it hits Spotify and starts streaming, it’s theirs, not ours any more.”

Lex: There is truth in that. We can’t demand anything be interpreted any particular way. Obviously we’ve created music and its ours, it belongs to us, but we’re not here to tell anyone how they’re supposed to receive it. If you hear a song and to you, it’s speaking to you on this level, and it telling you things about yourself, that’s really great. I try not to engage in conversation about what it is I’m writing about, I try to be more vague because I don’t want to be told how I’m supposed to feel about something. If it’s doing something good for me, that’s good enough and that’s all I can hope for. So once it’s out there it’s open to interpretation by people, but this is our band and we decide who we are.

I’m happy for that. I was worried that maybe not you guys would do not necessarily the same thing, maybe change your mind later when all the sudden you hear things like “this isn’t Daughters.” But I’m just glad you aren’t worried about that.

Lex: We don’t need to. We’ve sort of set the precedent of having no precedent. We’ve always changed with every record. So if you listen to a record and you’re upset because it didn’t sound like the last record, you must have just gotten here. We’ve never sounded like the last record. You can se the connections, you can see how we got here from the last point, but there’s nothing to indicate that we’re gonna do the same thing again.


Lex: Plenty of people just want to hear Canada Songs. They like that type of music, and they don’t like anything we’ve done since then. And we’re like “that’s cool. We’ve made a record for you, that you enjoy. But we’ve moved on.”

Of course. Sort of transitioning from that phase of writing and production, when you’re on stage, I feel like you’re going somewhere in your head and it comes out in this most cinematic way. It’s like Greg from Dillinger Escape Plan but also Nick Cave. Do you consider it anything like a method acting situation? What’s going through your head wailing away and grabbing people by the lapels and fixing them up?

Lex: (laughs) Method acting, I’ve never thought of that. I don’t think I’d make a good actor, myself. I suppose there are moments where I’m very caught up in what I’m doing, but there are moments where maybe something humorous or strange is going on and I can look at Jon outside of the music and more of the moment we are living in. But… I’ve had outbursts while playing, and for me it’s like a raw nerve when I’m playing, things will feel good, or I’ll be negatively affected by the room or attitudes in the room. There are people who think performances are supposed to go a certain way, like we were back in Germany somewhere, and there was a lot of negativity in the room. Wait, maybe it was Belgium… Denmark… um, I’m like the worst geographically. Anyway, were you warned before the interview that I get tangential?

(laughs) Oh, it’s cool mate.

Lex: Aright. Well there was this kid in front, and he was kind of pulling and pushing at me. Then someone threw a drink and I ran into the crowd and grabbed this person by their shirt. It turned out it was someone I should not have, and the whole vibe sort of changed. People thought this was going to be an antagonistic experience, but violence was met with this sort of hyper-violence, and I didn’t know how it happened or why it happened. But you know, we’re just a band performing, and when I’m singing, I’m in this place where it’s a raw nerve and I’m thinking about things or why I wrote something or about my connection to it, and I’ll oddly cry while singing, it’s very intense for me. There is a lot of self abuse.

Definitely. That’s part of my next question.

Lex: Yeah. I don’t know how to explain it. I’ve played shows where I suddenly found myself in a very tough place mentally, and have stood statue-esque, or given a passive performance where I’m just wandering around. And I never feel good about that. Really, it never feels enough. It never feels like a never good enough job. I had a moment where I dislocated my kneecap, and I taped it, I got some duct tape and taped it and finished the set. I felt terrible afterwards, I should have done something else, like… (laughs) Your fucking kneecap came off.


That’s a little more intense than that perma-bruise on your forehead.

Lex: (laughs) It’s all scar tissue now, it doesn’t matter anymore. For me performance is something else… I hate the recording process. I’m starting to enjoy it a little bit more, but for me it’s always been about lyrics, conveying what I’m feeling and then I guess acting it out. I don’t know if that makes me different from other singers that record.

It certainly makes you more genuine, we’re definitely in an oversaturated period of music where anyone can mean anything at any time. So to convey something unique but also heartfelt is hard to do, but you’re pretty good at that I think.

Lex: I just think I viewed it different. It’s always been different for me, and I never had a formula. When I was younger, and I was big into hardcore and punk, where you dress a certain way, act a certain way, behave a certain way… that got really old for me. I think in the previous band Jon and I were doing before Daughters, I started processing the performance differently. My attitude was changing, it started becoming more personal, this was the year 2000 or something. There are some singers that are really brilliant, they’re incredible performers and it’s because there is this sincerity in their performing but it’s beyond that. You feel like they’re performing for you, but you have to realize they’re not really there for you. But performance is something I need to do. I’m sort of selfish about it, but I’m also sharing it, and when I see it affects people, I’m getting more from it in the performance. There’s a strange duality to it. It’s like the story of the snake catching it’s tail, and then being like “well shit, I don’t know what to do.” I feel like I sort of caught my tail and I’m just trying to fucking rip it off. It’s just extremes with me. I’m an addict to my marrow, and everything I do is to an excessive degree, and I think performing is another part of my addiction. Like I need it or I’ll get sick. But the truth is I don’t understand it, or know what any of it is, and I’m just trying to live within it and hope for the best.

Was it as bizarre as it seemed when you guys did your feature on the Adult Swim Fish Center?

Lex: (laughs) I actually had a good time, I had fun. I guess normally they do the performance, and then they have the conversation with the band, but we flipped around for some reason. People didn’t know who the fuck we were. The question and answer portion was non-existent because no one knew what the hell was going on.

Yeah, the guy literally asked who you were!

Lex: I feel like I honestly would have had a better time in the interview process had we performed first, because it would have put me in some weird place mentally, and I have a wonderful vision of strangling one of the hosts or something, something crazy happening. But it was great to be able to do it and fun to just have the experience of going into the building, everyone was super nice. You play in front of a green screen. We actually had to play a show later that night and we had played one the night before, it was fun though. I’d do it again. Do it the right way though. (laughs)

Maybe you could get on something like the Eric Andre show!

Lex: I mean now that they heard I want to strangle somebody, maybe they won’t let us back on.

I don’t know, I mean they seem pretty open minded over there.

Lex: Yeah, they seem alright.

Do you have any vocal heroes that still inspire you despite your well-documented abhorrence for formulaic music? Either performance-wise or vocals on a particular record?

Lex: Yeah, I mean I think there are staples. I love Birthday Party footage of Nick Cave, who is a great performer. And obviously Iggy Pop, who is maybe one of the greatest performers ever. So yeah there are people I’m inspired by performance-wise, I don’t know if there are really modern performers that are doing things of remarkable or unspeakable brilliance, but I think Kristin Hayter who does Lingua Ignota is truly brilliant and unbelievable performer. Just amazing. I think Street Sects are a great live band, I think they do a lot of great shit, Leo’s a great frontman and kind of a weirdo. (laughs) There are some good bands, but few make me feel like…”something is happening right now.” When I play don’t want people to just come watch the show, go home, do their thing, I want them to feel like they’re witnessing something right now. I’ve always hated the idea of indifference, that people will come when we play the room and have their back to us at the bar, I go after those people. I’m trying to create an experience, sometimes at my expense. I’m not a passive performer, and I’m not a great singer technically, so I don’t rest on that. I don’t know. I keep getting older. My body, things have broken and fallen off and been dislocated, I feel like it’s telling me to stop, but I can’t do it, I have to.

You got that mind over matter.

Lex: Yeah. Maybe. But I got all this shit and I don’t need it at home, I gotta put it somewhere. It’s important. I just think I’m of an ilk that needs to do this. There are some people who see what we do and think it looks kind of ridiculous, and there are definitely moments where I’ve felt things look ridiculous. Like, I have to go out in public on tour and people are looking at me and I think, “wow, I must look great today, my hair must look outstanding” if everyone’s looking at me on the way to the airport, and I find out that “oh, my forehead is bleeding,” I have an open wound like I just got in a car accident. So there’s a dedication to it. It’s how I perform, and if I don’t, I don’t feel right.

It’s easy for fans to imagine what you might be doing between gigs and occasional downtime. Was there ever a point you considered yourself to be doing something strange or unnatural because you weren’t performing regularly?

Lex: When we stopped a few years ago, I had just got sober and really into training with mixed martial arts for six years. Then I suffered multiple shoulder dislocations, and I got really gun shy. So you know, if I can’t get myself in the face with a microphone, I’ll get someone else to punch me in the face repeatedly. So I still needed to do that, but it’s not even an outlet for me. It’s just something as an addict where something is released in my brain that makes me feel good and right and comfortable that shouldn’t, in front of large groups of people. I wasn’t able to replace it, but I didn’t even attempt to replace it. We all did other things with our time, but nothing felt good. Nothing had succeeded in feeding that void.

Is it ever exhausting to look back musically or personally and notice any drastic changes you’ve made? Do you ever wake up and think “Christ, I’m in Daughters again?”

Lex: No, it’s just something we’ve all done for such a long time. At the end of the day we’re just a band, yeah? So there’s no thoughts or concepts or feelings of grandiose accomplishment. We’re just a bunch of guys playing music, so I don’t want to think about it in any way beyond that. Although I know I’ve spoken a good deal about how it’s important for me to connect with people, that’s not the reason for doing it. People didn’t listen to us for years, and if no one were listening now it would be kind of just par for the course. We would just keep playing anyway. I think once you start saying things like “holy shit I’ve achieved something” or “is this what I’m doing with my life” it’s futile. I’m happy to analyze myself and think about my choices in my life, but to question the reason for, or validity of… it just seems not very beneficial to the greater good. Which I suppose is just staying healthy enough to play.

Sometimes artists lose what makes them unique without that kind of humility. How do you keep such a clear head when everyone is trying to congratulate you?

Lex: I think gratitude is a good thing, it certainly helps. I don’t think there is anything wrong with having the humility to look back and say “wow, we made some really bad shit.” I’m okay with that. I’m grateful because there are a lot of people involved with what we do now, it’s a large crew and everyone is important and helpful. We’re not an easy group of people to deal with and be around, so I am really appreciative that people want to help us do this. Because most of it is fucking thankless. Like our front of house guy, the guy who drives the bus… he’s got the hardest fucking job. It’s the hardest thing anyone here is going to have to do. And it’s thankless. Just so we can go play some fucking songs and people pretend it’s a big deal. It’s a strange life but it’s one I have. But I mean I’m thankful people care and help so I can go on stage and… punch myself in the face and sing about my shortcomings and failures. (laughs) It’s a strange life, but it’s the one I have.

You guys are about to leave for the last of the dates of the year with some awesome bands. When you look past that into the new year, do you get hit with pre-stress and anxiety or are you feeling pretty optimistic these days?

Lex: I’m fine, this is just what I do and what we do. I’ve lived other ways, and have had nine-to-five type jobs, so this beats the hell out of it. I am kind of a transient nomadic myself though. In some other wonderful world I would have sold vacuum cleaners door to door, or something like that. Something out and away and traveling and sleeping in strange places, where I could just go and and play. But sadly, we ran out of places and people get tired of looking at your face after a while so that’s all we can do. Wow. (laughs) It should be a good tour, I’m looking forward to a break but… I’m gonna miss playing.

Well, maybe it won’t be too long before you get out there again?

Lex: The well is eventually going to run dry, and we’re going to have to go back.

Daughters are about to finish up the year with dates featuring HEALTH and Show Me The Body. You can find tickets, stream their music, and purchase vinyl here.