When setting up an interview with Daddy Issues, a force of nature stirred up by Jenna Moynihan (vocals/guitar), Jenna Mitchell (bass), and Emily Maxwell (drums), I made an assumption based on the grunge outfit’s natural gravitation towards DIY venues and undeniably attractive, scuzzy sounds that we would meet at a similarly DIY and scuzzy yet full-of-character location. I was wrong, and this was a sweet reminder gained from my afternoon hang with the locally favorited band: don’t make assumptions. Instead, I arrive at City Winery and head up to the rooftop patio that’s been monopolized by the three-piece who have made themselves at home on the lounge furniture and ordered pizza and champagne. Recalling their first song released as a band (‘Pizza Girl’), one which included “surf glam” and “witchy grunge” as descriptors on their Bandcamp page, it’s a strangely fitting habitat for the band to talk about their anticipated full-length, Deep Dream.
“Hanging out with them is like, daily adventures. But one daily adventure was starting our band, so,” Mitchell explains, simultaneously deciding which slice to go for next. Everything Daddy Issues has been a product of necessity, a modern-day grunge rock Manifest Destiny made both inevitable and critical to their individual and collective identities. Their necessitated existence began when the band’s name was scribbled on a bathroom wall and acknowledged by their soon-to-be lead singer and adapted by the three women who learned to play their respective instruments out of, yes, necessity, and since that moment, every action, every lyric, dark melody, release and show to follow has contributed to a more fundamental understanding of who and what they are. “I think for me, Daddy Issues helped turn me into the person I think I always should have been. It helped me identify as myself and someone who is unapologetically myself,” continues Mitchell. The term ‘unapologetic’ surfaces often with Jenna, one who contrasts eloquence with off-the-cuff one-liners. “I think it was really important about me learning about being a woman. Just with writing, we started talking about more things together, and I think that pushed us into who we should be, in a healthy way,” Moynihan states, with an echo of “I agree” from Mitchell. This development of self-awareness and character isn’t as mild as a coming of age; for all three musicians, it’s a championing of on- and off-stage presence and voice, both articulate and unavoidable, even if you hate to hear the reality about which they sing. And usually, if you hate to hear it, it’s the kind of message you need to heed most.
And if for some reason you’ve never listened to Daddy Issues, they have always been a wildly untamable bunch, making gorgeous sad-girl rock in seedy venues and shouting about blue-haired boys and confessing to actualities of female situations. Can We Still Hang, their first EP that followed in the blaze of their sensational single, “Ugly When I Cry,” was a riotous and blistering eight-track experience, again made real with a need, this one being for enough material to fill a 30-minute set. It was more than an introduction to the potential-ridden trio; it was a palpable sound that sparked curiosity in its audience and left people pondering how Nashville had never had their resonance and what greater, seismic sound would soon come from three people who had only picked up their instruments in response to a (probably) drunkenly penned phrase on a random wall. Deep Dream is the brilliantly blatant and critically captured album made by three women acknowledging their evolution and translating it in a way that speaks to any person willing to show up and listen. “We’ve been learning a lot more about ourselves and a lot more about our instruments. We’ve definitely gotten more competent I’d say…a lot of people have [said] Deep Dream sounds a lot different, and I think the biggest catalyst there was us getting better at our instruments,” mentions Mitchell. “And we were younger [during Can We Still Hang], and the things we were singing about were different (“less mature,” peeps Mitchell). We had more experiences and wrote about those,” Moynihan explains. Sonically, it’s true. The new album is indicative of gained familiarity and confident, curated pop grunge sounds amplifying the narratives sung by a sweet voice purely memorable for its unchallenged delivery. Their sound is electric, lighting fires with open chords that sound like utter chaos and wrapping gentle harmonies like lace around tough and intoxicating instrumentation. Stoking poignant and punchy lyrics with irresistible guitar tones and pocket-living rhythms, the sonic synchronicity between the three is truly better than ever. Even in terms of album connectivity, they transition from the blitzed fuzz and dark poetry of “Dog Years” to the halcyon nostalgia of their Don Henley cover, “Boys of Summer,” without a misstep from the freshly-established identity they’ve been eager to own.
In a matter of ten tracks, the album is an antidote to (mostly male) conjecture about women as served by three women who have found what it means, for them, to be women. And if the intention was to sound unapologetic, Daddy Issues achieved it, because Deep Dream is a declamatory address, unabashedly real and totally unforgettable. “I think we tried to write good songs. And I know that sounds vague, but by hanging out and naturally talking about things, things…we were all dealing with when we were writing the album, it turned into breakups, stuff about being in a scene, dealing with other musicians, especially men. And like, the patriarchy, yeah fuck the patriarchy,” affirms Moynihan with the help of a “smash it” from Mitchell. In their first single from the album, “In Your Head,” they criticize assumptions made by men about women, saying, “you’re delusional/you’re a pet fish/assume I tell myself that chick with you is an ugly bitch.” Though it’s a singular lyric, its direct delivery calls out men for presuming women inherently rag on other women. And like I learned earlier, assumptions rarely transform into anything but ignorance. Beyond ignorance, though, is the thought that there is a “better” and a “lesser,” and it’s that kind of a toxicity of both thought and action that catalyzes the most powerful confession on this album. “One of the songs (“I’m Not”) that we realized we wanted to write [was about] sexual assault and abuse, and we pushed harder on that subject,” Moynihan states. “I was able to confront something that I’ve been trying to figure out how to confront for a number of years, and this [album] has given me a platform to do so,” says Maxwell, expanding on the subject at hand. The song stems from Maxwell’s very real past, and with her experiential connection to its content, she says it’s “[been able] to help people and give [them] an outlet,” a sort of musical opportunity to hear an unfamiliar yet comforting voice describe an all too familiar situation. It shatters loneliness to know that others have gone through similar trauma. And no, it doesn’t cure the pain of assault or abuse, but it gives a small bit of peace to feel heard, even if you’re not the one performing on stage.
“The most frustrating thing is when we encounter people who don’t understand and people who are different from [us] that don’t understand what [we’re] saying or the community that [we’re] in or the differences people have between each other,” explains Moynihan. “We’re just trying to do something we enjoy and believe in, and it would be cool if other people enjoy it and believe in it and support it….I want people to listen for what they need to hear.” Thankfully, Daddy Issues has created an album that says it all with wit and spit and intention to communicate, both with themselves and their listeners. Deep Dream is unapologetically who Jenna Moynihan, Jenna Mitchell, and Emily Maxwell are, and you’ll love them, if you don’t already.
Deep Dream is out this Friday on Infinity Cat, and if you know what’s good for you, don’t miss Daddy Issues’ release show at the East Room later that night with Sad Baxter and Dreamwave.