Daisy House are a father daughter duo from Long Beach, California who I was only recently introduced to by Douglas Charles Hammond (the father). After a brief email introduction I headed over to Bandcamp to hear what they sounded like. Whatever my expectation was from reading Doug’s email I can’t recall, the mention of “Fairport to Donovan, Nick Drake, the Byrds, and REM, down to Bon Iver and Sharon Van Etten today…” left me curious but I was not expecting to hear what I heard.
This is the opening track (and our Song of the Day) of their playfully titled album Beaus And Arrows which features the lovely vocals Tatiana who has been compared to a young Marianne Faithfull, Mary Hopkin, and Sandy Denny….I can hear why:
Raise High The Roof Beam Carpenter
I really think this duo have something very special. Long Beach may not be the best place for them to be to get heard but thanks to the internet they are making good in-roads, and so they should. You should all go and check them out.
In short I decided to interview them both…the results were insightful, very honest and often humorous given I found myself agreeing with what they had to say about the shallowness of a lot of modern music.
FRUK: Father daughter duos are fairly rare although not unheard of in the music world, what inspired you both to perform as a duo?
Doug: The original inspiration was a simple notion to do a music project in the style of 60’s folk-rock in general and Fairport Convention in particular. I’d recently discovered Fairport’s and Sandy Denny’s work and was still in my infatuation phase with them. I basically roped my daughter into it because A: She’s female. B: She’s the only 21 year old I know personally who knew the words to “Some Velvet Morning” AND “Blackwaterside” and C: Her singing voice holds a certain quality that seems to have been leached out of most contemporary singers in general; which you can call “the songbird singing”. That, combined with her absence of any notion of “having a career” in pop music, made her absolutely perfect.
Tatiana was in college at the time we started two years ago (she’s soon to begin her last year) so the further thought was to split vocal duties and harmonize with her on a “new set” of “Fairport” Songs that I would write.
The early results, like “Ready To Go” were very encouraging and so we just kept going at it.
For the sake of touring, I did try to find another local female singer to take my daughter’s place but I quickly realized there was NO ONE in Southern California, who could or would even come close. What’s left of “the bizz” lies right up the freeway from us and they are as about as interested in retro Anglo folk as a fruit bat foie gras, so that extends to the local talent pool. You see adverts for R&B/EDM divas, technically adept yet inexpressive, and various clones of clones. “Urban” Los Angeles is in fact, a terrible place to be doing what we’re doing; especially when it comes to radio.
Tatiana: I feel as though folk’s power comes from the sense of intimacy of somebody sharing a story with you, which can break down to one guitar and one voice. But here you have a 21 year old channeling a 50 year old’s thoughts in a folk idiom. It makes for some pretty big songs.
FRUK: You’re both heavily influenced by 60’s-70’s era of English Folk-rock such as Fairport as well as the the more acoustic pastoral feel of say Nick Drake. What’s the attraction to this particular era and is it through Doug Tatiana that you’ve come to enjoy this music?
Doug: Yes, and Vashti Bunyan, Cat Stevens, Donovan, Bert Jansch, Richard and Linda, The Byrds, etc. The attraction for me lies in that music’s hand-made “hauntedness”. It is music that literally belongs to another era, yet remains capable of stopping Time. It’s exotically “human” in scale and incredibly generous in spirit. Who wouldn’t be attracted to that?
[pullquote]Unfortunately we’ve had Mumford leading, or blunting, the charge with their brand of “sincerity flavored” folk music[/pullquote]Folk music COULD be that popular force now. Unfortunately we’ve had Mumford leading, or blunting, the charge with their brand of “sincerity flavored” folk music. What disappoints me about them is, if you look at the lyrics, the man says absolutely nothing. They hit the ground running so to speak, already commodified and culturally neutered, and yes, I just killed our shot at the Mumford tour.
No matter. Daisy House formed before “I will wait I will wait for you. I will wait I will wait for you. I will wait I will wait for you” was ever deemed a suitable chorus for Pop radio and we do not live or die based on the fortunes of MumSo.
Tatiana: While I grew up in the 90’s, most of what I heard as a child was what my dad played around the house. When it came time to sing in front of a microphone, all those voices of the 60’s and 70’s are what came out.
[pullquote]Dad says the most important word in the English language is “bullshit”[/pullquote]He also used to point out the absurdity of Gangsta rap and the “Disney strippers” like Britney Spears and Christine Aguilera to me when I was pretty young and mock American popular culture around the time tattoos and breast implants and celebrity worship started coming into vogue so I never got caught up in the pop culture of “my peers”. No one else in my generation seemed to get the irony of showing up to a suburban High School dance with full body searches at the door after which the DJ would play “Get Low” with its deathless lines “To the window to the wall, till the sweat drip down my balls” but I had stuff like that pointed out to me ALL the time. Dad says the most important word in the English language is “bullshit”.
FRUK: Besides the ballad themes what other strong influences come into play?
Doug: Psychedelia, Powerpop, 3 minute pop songs, The Beatles, the Lutheran hymnal, 19th century French Symbolist poets, The Child ballads, the Beats, Shelley, Yeats, middle age and the Middle ages and the CRAZY times we are living through right now.
Tatiana: In terms of lyrics, we try to keep things timeless. I think story forms are one of the most compelling ways to do that, but we have other songs that don’t really take ballad form. One of the things that sets us apart is a certain directness, a wider lyric frame of reference than usual and the attention songs can command from simply having a point of view. Some spring from dad’s intuition, like “Plague Song,” which he wrote a year before Ebola hit the news, or like “The Remnant,” written before the gun debate really kicked off in America with the Trayvon Martin “stand your ground” case. Some songs are inspired by people in our lives. “Running Man” and “Golden Slippers” were both written loosely for people we knew who were going through some fairly representative hard times. “Time to Make up For” was inspired by Arlo Guthrie and a real guy named Joe. The idea is to play with the parameters of folk conventions while paying tribute to sources.
FRUK: What’s the folk scene like in Long Beach? With your music having a very English Folk feel do you find audiences more receptive or less so?
Doug: I don’t know if there is a folk scene in Long Beach. We probably ARE the folk scene in Long Beach. lol. We are definitely holding down the Anglo Folk rock contingent!
I know there are earnest Mumford disciples down in the O.C. with banjos and civil war beards and lusty vocals about…sharecropping…people chat through it for the most part.
When we play the world goes away. We sing TO people and FOR them. It’s a fairly retro experience on many levels and, I think, as pleasantly “exotic” for them as it is for us.
I was in the Super Market the other day and “Sunshine On My Shoulder” came on and, given the current cultural moment, I laughed because… I hadn’t heard it in 25 years and it hit me like “Anarchy in the UK”. I certainly couldn’t imagine doing a drive-by shooting to it. Folk music, done well, has its timeless appeal, even in our times.
Tatiana: I spend most of my year at school in Pennsylvania, and I find many people who are fond of 60’s music, and that’s probably the touchstone for them when it comes to Daisy House if they think about it that much. I’ve gotten the impression that when people hear the folk elements in our songs, it sounds exotic to them, but it’s not really necessary for them to “nail down” what Daisy House “is” or “means”. They just like it.
FRUK: Your plans for the future?
Doug: I vacillate. On a manic week I want to write an album of 10 lost 60’s classics and the next I want to write 10 for the angels then pack it in and start….sharecropping….hmmm.
Lately, I’ve been thinking of the old 80’s Tee shirt riff: “Nuclear War? There goes my career!” The world has never seemed rockier to me or more lost than it does now. Let’s ask the wee sleekit in a year.
Tatiana: We’ve got more shows coming up before the end of this summer, another video to shoot with some of my old high school friends, then we’ll record more songs come Christmas, and the following summer I’ll be out of school. Tour.
Doug: Wider recognition… and the gaining of more allies this year to make that happen.
We’ve shared radio playlists with some of the artists I’ve most revered in my lifetime. I’d like these songs to help widen the parameters of the cultural dialogue beyond the safe, Corporate approved messages that dominate popular music.
I wouldn’t mind if folk-rock and the idea of “music for music’s sake” took pride of place over the airwaves of the western world again for awhile over the idea of the “guaranteed revenue stream” that labels have tried to ensure over the last 20 years in particular.
It’s a bigger, wider world than they let on…..
Tatiana: More song placements wouldn’t hurt either!
Doug: So practical. Where she gets it from I have not a clue!
Go and order the album Beaus and Arrows here: http://daisyhouse.bandcamp.com/