HEALTH (left) and Daughters | photos courtesy of the artists
Two to Tango: HEALTH and Daughters
Daughters and HEALTH both started life within the framework of mellow harshing no wave noise, each with their own cerebral brand of morass in which to contend — Rhode Island’s Daughters is more guitar grindcore and hard, while California’s HEALTH traffics is rough electro-rock.
Yet, Daughters’ Nicholas Sadler and HEALTH’s Jacob Duzsik have pushed their respective acts into greater diversity and more tremulous tones on recent albums such as, respectively, 2018’s You Won’t Get What You Want, and 2019’s “VOL. 4 :: SLAVES OF FEAR.” Admirers of each other’s work, as well as that of their opening band, Show Me The Body, Daughters and HEALTH are currently touring together for the first time with a December 20 stop at Union Transfer.
The Key caught up with Sadler and Duzsik along the way for an intelligent chat about a life in hardcore everything.
The Key: How do you guys know each other to start? Yours is a broad but particular wavelength.
Nicholas Sadler: We’re a little older than HEALTH and have been around longer, but we became aware of them immediately when they put out their first music. One of the things I liked about them, back in the MySpace days, is that they referenced one of my favorite bands, Ex Models, in the Bands We Like section of their page. I was totally drawn to them because Ex Models was great, and underrated, and HEALTH got them. I met them too around 2008 when they were opening shows for bands I liked, but that was it.
Jacob Duzsik: We were very absorbed with esoteric marginal bands that we obsessed about. That’s what we paid attention to. Niche stuff that allowed you to connect with that wavelength. Oddly enough, back then, when we were booking our own shows, we were supposed to play with Daughters in Providence until they broke up right before the show. It’s awesome then that we’re finally getting the chance to do what we set out to.
NS: You know what’s funny about that? I had to punish the bookers at Panache to get Daughters on that bill, and then two weeks later, we broke up. My other band filled that slot, just to save face.
JD: That was the last time we played Providence. We did meet Nick at that show, just not the rest of the band, and we barely spoke.
NS: Yeah, my first real hang with Jake was just a couple of days ago, our first real conversation. Oh, and someone forwarded some press shots of you guys, and you were wearing one of our more recent shirts. I’ve always been a fan, so it was cool to see you wearing the shirt in a public space.
JD: Same here.
NS: I should say too that we’re proud to be sharing the sage with Show Me the Body. Although, they’re different from HEALTH and Daughters, there’s clearly a line, a subcultural, creative thread that make this cohesive but different enough for audiences.
JD: There’s a sense of aesthetic identity.
TK: This sounds like a bond beyond just your tour’s three bands.
NS: I derive a lot of joy from meeting other musicians, especially in what you said earlier is that broad but particular wavelength. That matters to me.
JD: We were really into the Daughters record that just came out, and, as we were travelling this year playing shows…. One thing I’m happy about is that, while touring our own record, every time we we’d play somewhere, kids told us that we should tour together. Which was funny, as our agents had been talking about that, trying to make this happen. And it wasn’t as if this was public knowledge – our audiences just sensed that it SHOULD happen. There was clearly an appetite to hear and see us together. It makes sense, as there’s not many bands left of that era, the both of our bands came from. There’s a resurgence now, though – they keep making us, which makes sense that Show Me the Body is playing – of that sort-of physical music we do.
TK: What is the challenge then in taking what you started as, and evolving that? Both of your new albums hint at the muscular noise rock of your initial records, but, are certainly fresh.
NS: For me, at least, the main challenge is to catch Daughters up with my own listening habits and creative aspirations. It’s difficult in a way because what inspires and motivates me tends to live and die in a short span of time. You want to keep your band’s identity while including new stuff. Growing and changing and evolving from where we started is strange because when you become someone’s token underground band, audiences don’t want to share that, and often don’t want to see you evolve. Daughters has taken a long time to find listeners who understand that evolution is a huge point. There’s a cognitive dissonance to that evolution. Then again, one day you wake up, you’re 37, and you can’t be beholden to anyone else – you just have to do what you want to do. I started writing from a more selfish standpoint as to what I needed to get out, and from, this new record – to catch us up to what I love without erasing our identity. I like film scores. I like goth music, and surf music and post punk, and I’m just going to let that shit shine. It’s just what I’ve always liked. I just stopped trying to cater to the idea of Daughters, and now, just let it be what I make it to be. You would’ve thought that I would have done that the whole time, right?
JD: I think we came out of a scene, DIY house spaces. The same 100-200 people, similar aesthetics. When you’re embraced by such an insular scene- noise/drone – anything that you do will disappoint them if you make a change, if there’s more people at your show, anything like that. So you have to absolve yourself from being a disappointment to anyone who bases their musical existence on excluding other things, or making changes in their lives. We tried to let go of that early. It is then, about the changes. It’s not as if either of our bands is known for anything catchy. Not to sound douchey, but it’s about expanding your sound palette, sonic exploration, finding different ways to do this. For us, if we’re doing something that is more traditional, maybe is more melodic, we want to make a sound that people don’t know what it is. If we’re using a guitar, we want to do our best to not make it sound like a guitar. We have a preoccupation with doing something novel. We’d rather alienate people in our trying to do something new than recapitulate an idea. I think Daughters is the same way. Now there is the minutia to all that – like how do you make this into a living? How does doing something more commercialized, like playing festivals, feed into the aesthetic? You don’t want to lose fans but you also don’t want to get stuck.
TK: Has the fan base always been supportive?
JD: The beauty of it is, unless you have a real squeaky wheel, angry troll hater, we’ve been blessed with supportive fans, and the ones who aren’t there drift away. We’ve been a band so long, you almost can’t expect to keep everyone. Now, I can tell you that we did a video game score not long ago, and that is a very vocal community. They didn’t know who we were, and expressed displeasure. I couldn’t believe that there were so many nerds mad at us.
NS: Daughters has always been afforded a fair amount of discontent and heckling in all areas of its existence. There were people who poked holes in our tires, to picketers – literal picketers – at our shows. We’ve always gotten it from somebody. Even with our recent press photos, and I’ll be the first to say, they’re not amazing, but we had people on message boards calling me a ‘twink.’ They made fun of the clothes we were wearing. Still, by the end of our second album’s release cycle, we found that people were at least starting to positively catch on to the idea that we were stretching out and trying to do something different. Things weren’t as open ended, and listeners weren’t as open minded as they are now. There are things happening now in hardcore that could not have happened 15 years ago.
JD: Back then, you had to pick a side. You couldn’t have been part of more than one scene then. Now, everything is intermixed.
TK: You two have a love of playing. Do you have a love of touring – especially as both of you play physical music?
NS: It’s weird. Daughters strangely never had career aspirations until recently. As noted, we were a pessimistic group that never saw ourselves as part of anything that could get us a crowd. Because we weren’t trying to do THAT. We never had goals. Just nothing. We just stayed out on the road – probably because we didn’t want to go home. With the new album, however, we find ourselves on the verge of a career. We’re in that echelon where we are a working band, just in that exact spot where touring is a must not a party. I’m older than I was and weirdly I just discovered that I have chronic Lyme Disease. But now, I can sleep easier and have a bus, which is great for me as sleep is important. I don’t do well on very little sleep – the disease means I need a lot. And meeting fans, and guys like Jake and the rest of HEALTH who tell me we’ve changed their lives has been interesting, and makes it all worth it. It makes this all seem so much easier to do, because I might rather be home with my girlfriend or my cat, or sitting eating peanut butter and getting stoned.
JD: It’s easier to tour now, because then we were all fucked up and never sober. I was 24 though, and I could just live like an animal. No more. Day to day on tour now I feel better based on how I treat myself – eat, sleep, not be all jacked all the time. It’s hard to compare those days to the present. I can say though, I know how to tour smart now, and make it feasible to not be on the edge of a physical and mental breakdown. We like being on the road.
TK: Is there any ritual you guys will follow going into each show?
NS: I don’t know what is wrong with me, but, I’ve become more rooted in ritualistic thinking and superstition. I don’t know why? And these are not things that I would readily share with a reading audience. It might destroy some of the power contained in the music.
JD: I discovered after years of touring that it is better if I don’t eat very much several hours before I play. I didn’t ever listen to music before I played, and now I build out a Spotify playlist, different music that will get me hyped No crazy voodoo bloodletting or transcendental meditation…
NS:….. wherein I have to find an animal in the alley and perform a blood ritual.
JD: We keep dead chickens on the rider. There’s a black metal band who toured Europe who spread animal blood all over the stage, and by the next day everything smells like rotten animal. Too raw.
NS: Stuff like that makes me laugh because they’ll bring out animal blood, but then, they’ll show off their guitar with an Ibanez logo that’s totally corporate. All branded and commercial and takes you out of the moment.
JD: Or, they had to send a runner to get all that animal blood.