For some bands, as the venues they play in grow in size as does their confidence, but this doesn’t seem to be the case for Daughter. The Hackney Empire was their biggest headline show to date and they were obviously nervous.
Anyway, the audience wasn’t there to hear the band speak (as Elena Tonra sings in lovely track ‘Candles’, “I have a little voice to speak with”) we were there for their dreamy and often poignant music, and this more than made up for the nerves that may have been expressed in the odd awkward pause.
The band kicked things off with ‘Shallows’, a new song that will feature on long-awaited album If You Leave, and I was struck once again by this band’s ability to make so much from so little. Elena, drummer Remi Aguilela and guitarist Igor Haefeli create and shape a lot of sound for just three people, manipulating their various instruments to crescendo from a barely there whisper to loud and layered in the blink of an ear.
Of course, Daughter first caught folk fans’ imaginations back in 2011 with EPs Wild Youth and His Young Heart, and when the chords for standout tracks such as’ Landfill’ and ‘Candles’ started up they were loudly appreciated by the 1,200 strong crowd.
However, the band’s sound does seem to have developed and become fuller since they first appeared on the scene, perhaps thanks to a new aptitude for effects pedals that littered the stage in front of Elena and Igor – but the essence of Daughter’s songs remains the same.
Firstly, there’s Elena’s voice – which is one of the most enchanting I’ve heard live – and then there’s an intimacy that comes from the lyrics. Many of Daughter’s songs practically drip with heartache, and not over-blown heartache but real, kick-you-in-the-guts stuff that I think everyone can relate to, such as in the opening lines of ‘Love’, “I can’t forget it, though I’ve tried. I know you regret it, love. You’ve told me so many times.”
And so, thanks to this combination of emotionally charged lyrics, Remi’s simultaneous drumming and bass guitar playing, Igor’s wafting of a bow over his guitar and Elena’s siren-like voice, the gig at the Hackney Empire was all rather captivating. So much so that the audience sat hushed with silent expectation in the gaps between the songs, which did nothing to stem the band’s nerves, “You’re making us feel awkward!” was about all Elena could muster to try and break the spell.
New track ‘Lifeforms’ sounded fantastic, as did the cinematic ‘Smother’, both of which carried a faint watermark of Sigur Ros – they were put together with Sigur Ros producer Ken Thomas, who has been helping the band with the new album.
But the night climaxed with ‘Home’, a swirling indie number, which builds and builds up to the battle cry refrain of “take me home, take me home”. And with the fading of the last chords the night was over, we all had to take ourselves home, and I hope Daughter grew a little in confidence because they have every reason to.