Every Record I Own - Day 288: Daughters s/t
I’ve been slacking on these posts in recent weeks on account of being on tour. But I’ve also been slacking because I spent nearly two years researching and writing about Daughters and I’m now in the position of trying to figure out how to condense all those thoughts into one post. So instead of trying to parcel my thoughts down to a few paragraphs, I’m going to post an excerpt from the book discussing a somewhat disastrous tour we did together after the jump. Enjoy.
Here was the duality of Daughters. They weren’t necessarily the monsters they made themselves out to be on stage. They had the capacity to be incredibly friendly and pleasant. But over the course of the next few weeks, the ugliness of their music would begin to permeate into their off-stage lives. The tour travelled west through the plains and mountain states up into Seattle, then headed down the coast. The first week was fairly mellow. On the West Coast, it started to become apparent that Daughters weren’t having a good time on the road. “Not to say we were ahead of the curve,” Sam says in hindsight, “but it always took two years of steady touring before people wanted to hear the latest thing we had done.” Hell Songs had come out at the end of summer 2006 and we were touring at the beginning of summer 2008. And indeed, it seemed like people were still trying to figure out how they felt about Daughters on that tour.
Jeff Kirby, a writer Seattle’s big alternative weekly newspaper The Stranger, reviewed the show for the paper’s music blog. He loved Daughters’ set, but felt that the line-up wasn’t an ideal scenario for the bands involved. “I don’t envy any band that has to play after Daughters—I’ve seen them shame several headliners,” Kirby wrote. “Following up their explosive set with moody, atmospheric instrumental rock seems like a miscalculation, even if that’s what the majority of the people are there to see. There was no evidence from the crowd though that any of them felt this way—they loved every second of Russian Circle’s set. The transition was harder for me; I just got my ADD on and now I need to get my patience on? Whose bright idea was this?”
Maybe the bill wasn’t right for Daughters. Maybe Russian Circles drew too many folks that wanted to get lost in the cinematic compositions we were trying to craft, not rattled out of their stupor by Daughters’ abrasive sounds and unruly antics. But it wasn’t always Daughters that got the short end of the stick. I remember playing a dance studio in Morgan Hill, California and watching the crowd of underage kids tear each other apart during Daughters’ set, and then quickly exit the moment they were done playing, leaving us to play to an empty room. There were massive wildfires in the area at the time, and the whole skyline had an ominous orange and brown haze to it. I remember trying to assuage the demoralizing feeling of watching people leave as we set up by assuming that they all wanted to get home to make sure their homes weren’t burning down. But even then, that only meant that catching a Daughters show was worth losing all your possessions in a fire, and our set wasn’t worth the same risk.
In Chico, we played Café Coda, a small restaurant catering to CSU students. The show was packed, and a few latecomers found that they had to watch the show through the giant plate-glass windows that spanned the entire façade of the café. There was something magical in the horrified faces of the people on the sidewalk watching Lex spit onto the glass and smear his scrotum on the window for their entertainment. The latecomers were disgusted, but the crowd inside the club loved every minute of it.
The next night the tour came through Slim’s in San Francisco. I remember very little of the evening, but apparently the club was so offended by Daughters’ set and by the state of their dressing room at the end of the night that they were no longer welcome back. This was representative of Daughters’ various violations of decency and good taste: barring extreme cases as with Pelican in Montreal, the band was usually able to contain their mess so that it didn’t impact the other acts on the tour. At the Glasshouse in Pomona a few days later, the band brought some of their visiting friends from Providence into the communal backstage. The New England guests proceeded to get hammered and began throwing bottles against the walls of the green room. One stern reprimand from their manager Cathy Pellow, who was also hanging out backstage, was enough for Daughters to order their friends to settle down.
But eventually the mess couldn’t be contained. Two days later we were at the Casbah in San Diego. It was their first time back in the city since the whole debacle with The Locust. “Some tours we—though I guess mainly Lex and I—spent in a drunken fog. For years it was straight whiskey, cases of beer, and drugs,” Nick says. “It was fun and wild, so I look at it with a certain fondness, but there were other tours where I felt that I needed to exercise some personal control over myself and use the time spent in the van or before the show to focus on bettering myself somehow.” But the Casbah has no backstage room, which makes self-improvement, whether it’s practicing guitar scales, reading, doing yoga, or whatever else makes you feel like you’re helping cultivate a healthy body and mind, damn near impossible, unless you want to be the weirdo doing yoga back by the merch or the jackass who’s running through guitar exercises at the bar. And considering that members of The Locust were rumored to be coming to the show, Nick felt anxious and unable to focus. So he ponied up at the bar, ordered a whisky, and talked to the bartender. One whisky led to another, and eventually someone tapped on Nick’s shoulder to tell him it was time to play.
“I was in a fog, operating on muscle memory. Some nights that would work without a hitch, so I didn’t think much of it. We set up, everyone can tell I’m fucked. I think I was even making our set time cut short by showing up too late and taking too much time to get it together.” A couple songs into their set, Nick’s rig began to act up and cut out. So he unplugged from the pedalboard and plugged directly into the amp. That worked at first, but eventually his signal began to cut out again. “Without a second thought I walked back to my amp, banged the top of it with my fist, picked up my glass of whisky, chugged it, and slammed the glass down on the amp as hard as I could. It didn’t hurt, but there was a sobering ‘mush’ feeling that snapped me into reality quickly enough to see the exposed muscle of my fingers before there was time for the blood to start gushing out. Even though there wasn’t sound coming out of my amp, I kept playing until I noticed the small pool of blood on my setlist. As Jon later told me, I turned towards him, whipped my hand up in the air, and yelled ‘I have to go to the hospital.’ Jon says that a trail of blood spattered across his snare drum and up his face.
“Without waiting for a reply, I threw off my guitar, kicked over my amp, and stormed through the crowd. In kicking my amp, I mistakenly kicked the club’s mic stand and broke it in half, and not at a point where two parts connect. I broke it in the middle of the main bar. The sound guy was so impressed he didn’t charge us for it. Meanwhile, I’m outside the club panicking because I’m way too drunk to handle the situation and decide that I need to sober up, so I just start thrusting my bloody hands into my mouth to make myself throw up. The next immediate thing I remember is realizing that I’m surrounded by a crowd of people waiting to get in, some of which were members of The Locust who seemed to think the whole thing was funny.”
The show was running late at this point and everyone was drunk. I was trying to sweep up the broken glass, mop up the blood, and cobble together Nick’s stuff while the rest of Daughters tended to their own gear. No one in his band seemed too concerned about his injury. In fact, no one would drive him to the hospital, so Evan from Young Widows took him.
Despite the on-stage drama, the crowd didn’t seem particularly ruffled by the incident, probably because they were too distracted by the ruckus that unfolded in the audience prior to Nick’s bloodletting. Apparently, some guy in the crowd decided to urinate on an unsuspecting patron during the set. Not surprisingly, this led to a proper fight, which migrated to the back patio of the club. The altercation mostly involved two dudes shoving each other, and at one point someone got pushed into Daughters’ merch table, which resulted in a pitcher of beer spilling into a box of their records, ruining all the covers in the process.
I don’t remember our set, but I do remember getting off stage and finding all of the Daughters members (with the exception of an elusive Jeff Worms) completely hammered. The mood was surprisingly light, but when it came time to leave, no one in the band seemed sober enough to drive, and no one seemed particularly motivated to go by the hospital to pick up Nick. In the end, all three bands caravanned to the hospital, partially because the remaining members of Widows needed a ride to their van, which Evan had taken to the hospital, and partially because Daughters were sobering up and needed someone else from the touring party to drive them to pick up Nick.
We got to the hospital, ordered Daughters to tend to their injured bandmate, and decided to stay at a hotel half an hour outside of the city in the mountain town of Alpine. We gave Daughters the hotel name so that they could stay in the same spot as us. Shortly after arriving at our destination, we got a phone call from Jon. Apparently, the band decided to sober up and simmer down over burritos from a Mexican restaurant by the hospital. In a rare act of indulgence, the meal was paid for out of the band fund. Lex brought in the cash pouch, paid for everyone’s meal, and got a start on their drive. They were on the outskirts of town when they realized the cash pouch had not made it back into the van. Panicked phone calls to the Mexican restaurant failed to turn up the missing cash. Someone, either an employee or a customer, had walked off with all of Daughters’ money.
The more pessimistic estimate on the loss claims that there was nearly $10,000 in the pouch. But supposedly the band had paid off the majority of their tour debts to Cathy the night before in LA, so the less painful estimates within the camp put the amount of money lost around $1,500. The money was never recovered, so it’s hard to say for sure.
“That was the day I was coined ‘hot mess’ by Russian Circles,” Nick says. “It made me sad to hear that, because that’s not how I view myself. But in my absurd love of chaos, I felt kind of proud of the nickname too. Total duality—which is a pretty accurate description of the band as a whole, both with the psychology of the individual members, the construction of our music, and the choices we made as a group.”
While there was always tension within the Daughters camp, the biggest division existed between Nick and Lex, so it’s somewhat ironic that they were the two members of the band to screw up the night. Any animosity that could’ve been directed at Nick for derailing the performance was overshadowed by Lex’s loss of the cash.
It’s hard to illustrate the animosity between band members because it never manifested in a major altercation, even in San Diego. “They didn’t actually fight,” says Brian Mullen, “but there was always tension. There was never a blow-up, and you need that blow-up. You need that moment where you all scream at each other about something stupid and walk away. Then it’s out there and whoever was being the idiot takes a moment to evaluate, and then everyone moves forward. They never did that.”
Animosity was expressed in small gestures. Lex recalls a show in Texas where he had climbed into the rafters of the club during their set and stripped naked. He dropped his shoes and clothes onto the stage, but apparently he dropped them too close to Nick, because Nick kicked the clothing away from him. In terms of rock disputes, kicking a bandmember’s clothes is pretty benign business. But when these small, disgruntled gestures become standard protocol, it creates a very toxic environment. “There was always a power struggle,” Jon says. “There were always personalities that you had to coddle or manipulate to get to certain place. Meanwhile, they’re manipulating you the whole time for their own personal gain. It was just a power struggle for no reason.”
Nick has a slightly different take on the nature of the tension. “There was a prominent sense of humor or satire about the band. We all have really dry and terrible senses of humor. Most of us were kind of mean with it, and at the same time we were very childish. Looking back, it’s something we bonded over. But as we toured on Hell Songsthat sense of humor wasn’t at the forefront of what we did. It wasn’t conscious at all—we never did anything consciously because we had such poor communication skills.
“There was so much apathy within the group, and again, dualistically, we cared so much about everything that it made us sick. We hated the music. We hated being in a band at all. Sometimes we hated our audience. Sometimes we hated each other.“