Daddy Issues are the Nashville-based grunge trio of Jenna Moynihan (vocals, guitar), Jenna Mitchell (bass), and Emily Maxwell (drums). The band started as a parody Twitter account when Moynihan saw the phrase “daddy issues” written on a bathroom wall at a Nashville DIY venue and thought it would be funny to make into a band to fool her friends. Maxwell and Mitchell got on board with the joke and eventually, the three started teaching themselves how to play, effectively turning the parody into a reality.
Daddy Issues will release their first full-length debut LP Deep Dream on May 19 via Infinity Cat Recordings. The band has already released two singles, “I’m Not” and “In Your Head” off the upcoming album and just shared another single, “Locked Out” a few days ago. Listen below.
The matured sound of Deep Dream is proof that Daddy Issues is more than just a punk band who can write catchy songs. These women have cohesively evolved from the messy, loud, sludgy grunge of their debut tape Can We Still Hang into prudently arranged power pop songs that perfectly complement Moynihan’s vocal. What Deep Dream does maintain, though, is Daddy Issues’ unashamed, bold, and blunt lyrics that call out the patriarchy, grapple with gender roles, and delve into mental health issues. As Moynihan, Maxwell, and Mitchell have mastered their respective instruments, they have also found an organic and signature sound to support the creative lyrics that were born as 140-character-long tweets on the parody Daddy Issues account.
Daddy Issues just finished touring with Diet Cig in support of their excellent new record, Swear I’m Good At This. On one of Daddy Issues’ final days on the road last week in Florida, I spoke with Moynihan, Maxwell, and Mitchell about the parody Twitter account, being self-taught musicians, the ambition behind Deep Dream, sunburns, their songwriting processes, and Disney World.
Will you guys tell me a little bit about the parody twitter account and what your tweets were like? Was there a moment of revelation when you decided to make the band a real thing?
Jenna Mitchell: Basically, Jenna [Moynihan] came home one day and was like ‘oh my gosh, I saw this name on a wall at a DIY venue that said ‘daddy issues’ like how could this not be the coolest band ever?’ And we were like ‘okay, how silly would it be if we just made a fake Twitter account pretending to be a band called daddy issues.’ And we looked it up and there is was nothing else of that name, no nothing ever, and all of our friends are in bands in Nashville so we were like ‘oh my god, this is hilarious.’ I’m trying to remember what the tweet content exactly was like.
Jenna Moynihan: It was a lot of like, if I was playing guitar, a picture of me but not showing my face and stuff like that like ‘yeah warming up’ or whatever.
Mitchell: We were just trying to not tell who was behind the Twitter.
Moynihan: And it didn’t really last that long because we weren’t actually trying to lie to people, it was just kind of for us. Then, the more people we told about it, I guess our friends were like ‘That’s actually a pretty good idea, you guys should do it.’ So then, I wrote a song on guitar and I told Jenna to grab her bass and play along, and then our friends heard it and were like ‘that’s actually really good, let’s record it tomorrow in our living room.’ It was still a joke but we recorded it and it sounded pretty cool and they booked us a show so we had to write more songs.
Mitchell: Yeah, we kinda got forced into it, but it ended up being really cool, clearly.
That’s pretty awesome. So, what was the process of becoming self-taught musicians for each of you guys? How much experience did you really have before starting the band?
Mitchell: I played violin when I was a kid. I played from when I was 6 or 7 until I was 15 or maybe 17, I don’t remember when I called it quits. But, I was classically trained. I used sheet music and had lessons once a week and all that nonsense. So, the practice of practicing was already within me. Because of that, picking up the bass, which wasn’t that far different from the violin, honestly, it was very easy for me. Having a good ear is really important when you’re playing an instrument, and for me, I would listen to songs and be like ‘Ooh, I like that bassline, let me try and teach that to myself, on my own.’ And within doing that, it helps you learn better, and hear better, and do better.
Emily Maxwell: I didn’t play the drums before we started the band, so that has been interesting. I had taken a couple drum lessons, like two or three, when I was young, but I stopped pretty quickly. So, I pretty much just had to learn as I go and teach myself how to do everything. I remember, my parents had bought me a drumkit back when I was taking my drum lessons, and I went home and packed it up and put it in my car. When I got back to the Jenna’s house, we had to watch a Youtube video to figure out how to how to put it together. We didn’t even know how it looked, we didn’t know which drums went where, we didn’t know how to put the hi-hat stand together. And that took me a while to learn too. I would take the drums apart and be somewhere and forget and be like ‘uh oh, which one of these things goes where.’ So yeah, I just pretty much have learned through writing songs, I guess. And listening to music and trying to figure out who’s playing what at what time. And I’m finally starting to get the hang of it, I think, now… three years later.
Moynihan: I knew basic chords and stuff on the guitar and I wrote songs pretty much all through high school. But it was really simple stuff. And when we started the band I learned power chords and lead stuff and how to use pedals. I was playing mostly acoustic before the band, so I had to learn how to make an electric guitar sound the way I wanted it to. That was my learning process and I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better since we all started playing together.
Along the same lines, do you guys have any advice for young people who are maybe worried that it is too late for them to start learning to play or join a band?
Maxwell: I would say, if you want to do it, you totally can. I was 20 when we started so that is somewhat late to start learning an instrument, but I did it. As long as you practice and work on it and it’s something you want to do, there is no reason not to give it a try.
Moynihan: And it helps to have friends. For us, it really helped having each other to learn together and push each other. But, you can definitely learn at any time, you can learn to do anything.
Mitchell: Dogs can learn new tricks!
Moynihan: Yeah, and just believe in yourself no matter what you do. If you doubt yourself if makes it harder. You’re just doubting yourself if you don’t think you can learn something at any time in your life, I guess.
What were your goals and motivations for Deep Dream in comparison to Can We Still Hang?
Moynihan: We wanted to sound a lot cleaner because we rushed through a lot of our first tracks on our first tape Can We Still Hang. We wanted it to sound perfect, almost, this time. I think we wanted the songs to be a little more mature but still have the same attitude behind them. We wanted to push ourselves to do better musically and try new things that even though they were hard when we were writing it, the more the played we’ve played it, we’ve gotten better at it. Overall, we just wanted it to sound like a step up from the last thing we put out.
How do you guys go about the process of writing songs? Do you get together and write simultaneously or do you write on your own and bring it to the rest of the band or is it a combination?
Maxwell: Usually Jenna [Moynihan] will come up with a guitar part and some vocal melody and then we will get together and work together on the lyrics and bounce ideas off of each other. And then, we’ll work on the rest of the band and flushing it out. And that always kind of changes it because we’ll maybe, add different parts to it that we didn’t have or cut things out. It’s all collaborative in the end.
What was different about working for the first time with a label to record and release Deep Dream rather than taking the more DIY approach?
Mitchell: I would definitely say that it was quite a bit easier only because our producer Jake Orrall (JEFF The Brotherhood, Colleen Green) came in and gave us direction. He was like, ‘This is what we should be doing, this is what is going to sound good.’ We were all working collaboratively but he was like ‘This is the person we should be recording with. This is who is going to master it and this is how it is going to be done.’ So the administrative side was definitely easier. Having Jake on board was absolutely a dream and working with him was a blast, along with all of our engineers and the people in the studios we recorded at.
It just went over really, really, really smoothly. And we recorded with some fantastic people on the last record too, but we definitely didn’t know what we were doing so it was hard. With no guidelines, we were just trying to figure it out on our own. So that definitely took a little longer to gather an idea about what should be going on. But everybody that we have worked with in the entirety of this band has been fantastic and helpful and lovely. I think we just know more now so it was a lot easier.
Deep Dream, stylistically, seems to be a bit more moving into the realm of power pop and is not as heavy as Can We Still Hang with the lighter harmonies and stuff. Was this an intentional shift or was it something that happened organically?
Moynihan: I think it just kind of happened. With Can We Still Hang, we were more into punk. We used to love punk music so that was a lot of the stuff we were listening to. We had to write songs really quickly because our friends booked us that show and the whole process, in general, was kind of rushed. So we just wrote these quick punk songs. We’ve been kind of realizing now that even when we play those songs live, they’re even quieter on the recordings than when we play them live because we had to deal with a lot of bad sound at a lot of the venues that we had played. So I had to yell in order for people to even hear what I was saying.
Now, I think, for this next album, we had more time to focus on writing and it just turned out to be more powerful pop songs. When harmonies got involved that just happened when Jake and I worked on vocals together. We would just sit there and be like ‘Oh, what would sound nice there?’ and we just found different harmonies that we liked and it wasn’t planned or like ‘We are going to make all of these sound soft.’ Also, I think that my voice, at this point, works better with softer harmonies.
Maxwell: I also think that the production style of the first one was just heavier itself so it made the songs sound a lot tougher. We did a totally different style on this record.
So you guys did the “Boys Of Summer” cover, which I love, by the way, for the ‘Cover Your Ass’ Planned Parenthood compilation. What made you pick this song to cover and how did you choose to include it on the album?
Maxwell: I really like the Ataris cover of “Boys Of Summer,” so I always liked that and I think I heard the Don Henley on the radio one day so I played it for Jenna [Moynihan]. We talked about it a lot and we had to do a cover for this live video thing that we did at SXSW last year and they needed us to cover an artist from Texas and we realized that Don Henley was from Texas. So that is how we chose that. I think we just really liked so we wanted to put it on the album. And Infinity Cat really liked it too so all of us were in agreement that we would include it.
One of your other tracks, “Dog Years,” is another favorite of mine. Can you guys tell me the story behind this one and how the explosive breakdown halfway through came about?
Maxwell: I was watching TV and on my phone one day with Jenna and she was noodling around on guitar. I saw a vine of a raccoon dropping cotton candy into a water bowl and reaching in to get it out and it dissolved. I was extremely sad and I was like ‘This is the saddest video I have ever seen in my life and also a great metaphor for human existence.’ I showed it to Jenna and we came up with the line “you dissolve cotton candy” just thinking about how terrible it was. The “dog years” [‘In dog years you’re dead’] quote I saw on a birthday card. We were just messing around writing a really sad song about this vine and it just grew from there when we put it all together. The middle part, the heavy part, Jenna Mitchell came up with.
Mitchell: I really love arranging music. For this song, I guess, you have the softer verses and lighter, almost dreamy instrumentation. It was heavy going into the bridge originally and then it changed. We came together and were like ‘This is how it should be’ with the light guitar in the verses, but as soon as it breaks down with ‘In dog years you’re dead’ we thought this has got to be heavy next. So there was almost a dissonant heaviness to it that sounded really great and worked really well with the lyrics and everything.
Moynihan: And then in the studio, it sounds crazier on the album, because even what we wrote, it kind of still sounded like it needed more and needed to get crazier in the breakdown. That is when Jake and I started messing with all those weird space sounds and modulation sounds and tried to make it even scarier than we all had originally wrote it.
So, you guys are about to finish up your tour with Diet Cig. What was that like? Are there any particularly inspiring or funny tour stories you’d like to tell?
Maxwell: I think being able to watch Alex and Noah play every night and see people reacting to their music and receiving the message that she is trying to send, is really, really inspiring.
Mitchell: The other night, in particular, was really cool. There were a lot of young girls singing along to her music. It wasn’t so much as they were singing, it was like they were feeling it. I love watching their shows, not just for watching them but their audience too because they are so inspired and I’m inspired.
Maxwell: We see a lot of young women at the shows and that is really cool to see.
Moynihan: They are also just two very genuine people and their team is also filled with genuine people along with them. It is very important to us to see good people doing good things and other good people recognizing that.
Do you guys have any plans for the band this summer? What’s next?
Maxwell: We are working on sending some stuff up right. We don’t have anything in the bag just yet, but we will definitely be on the road again this summer after the record comes out.
Deep Dream is out May 19 via Infinity Cat Recordings. Pre-order it here.