Daisy the Great Knows That It’s Cool to Care
No, this isn’t a solo act.
There’s a tendency in pop music to zoom out. Sentimentality is often expressed in vague terms and the minutiae of emotion is lost in the imprecise but relatable. Songs are pushed from micro to macro to ensure that everyone can find their own meaning.
Daisy the Great does the opposite. The band zooms in: on their emotions, on their surroundings, and on themselves. They sing about messing up while dying your hair, having a garage sale at a childhood home, and “validationships.” With lines like “I don’t really love you, I just said that for a change of pace” there’s something straddling the line between earnestness and humor, sentiment and specificity in every Daisy the Great lyric.
The band — who often looks like a troupe on-stage — was started by Mina Walker and Kelley Nicole Dugan. After meeting through an acting program at NYU they were… not exactly friends. But, after working on a few projects together in during their last couple years of school they found that, in many ways, they speak the same language. After Walker graduated early and Dugan’s class schedule emptied for her final semester, they decided to write a musical together.
The musical was about a pair of buskers who became accidental pop stars through a case of mistaken — or stolen? — identity. When they started writing the songs for the buskers’ pop careers they realized that they wrote well together and gravitated towards similar topics. In the end, they put the musical the hold and started writing together as “Daisy the Great.”
While the name adds some confusion to who exactly the band is made up of — it’s not one person! — it encapsulated a sense that they wanted to convey to the audience. They originally had a long list of potential names but couldn’t settle on one immediately. “We called each other in the middle of the night and were like, ‘It’s probably Daisy the Great,’” said Walker.
“I don’t think we ever actually had a moment of being like, this is it we’ve cracked it,” added Dugan. “It just sorta became the name like there was nothing else… I also think that came to us because we are into the band being girls and kinda punky sometimes.”
“Yeah, something that is pretty…” Walker paused for a moment. “It’s something that is naturally feminine and delicate, and putting ‘the Great’ with it is making it more amplified.”
The connection between the two frontwomen radiates both in live shows and in conversation. They finish each other’s thoughts and easily switch gears together while talking, hopping between serious and funny in the same breath. Their lyrics exhibit the same kind of easy sincerity.
“I think people connect to this mixture of being really honest and being slightly funny,” said Dugan.
“Well, I think being super, super honest is pretty funny,” countered Walker. “When you get really specific about stuff and about a specific emotion it’s something that doesn’t make immediate sense. I think people actually feel very similar things and they are very specific. But, when you hear something that’s really specific and relatable you’re like ‘Oh, this song is just about me.’ But then you notice everyone else is saying that. I don’t just have to say the thing that’s super vague.”
Despite not all their songs being online, Daisy the Great audiences often end up singing along with the band.
“Yeah, I think that’s really cool,” said Dugan. “People just come to shows enough to know the lyrics.”
“I am like shocked every time I go to a show and there are people singing songs that aren’t recorded,” Walker agreed. “I like cry a little.”
“We cry a lot,” continued Dugan. “I feel like I cry a little every show. There’s so many times I am like, ‘I need to laugh right now so I don’t cry.’”
“The thing about Kelley and I is that like… we’re both very nerdy and like, not cool,” explained Walker. And she doesn’t mean it in the post-cool way.
“We’ll just like sit on the ground with our notebooks and be like, ‘Oh, I wrote about this one time too,’” explained Walker. “And then we put all the lyrics together.”
“I started as a lyricist when I was writing music in high school,” she continued. “Lyrics always came first in writing for me. What Kelley and I usually do is put our brains together because we have similar writing styles and we write about similar things because we’ve had similar lives.”
They attribute their slow spiral into friendship to experiencing similar tragedy during their childhoods — both singers’ fathers passed away. There’s a comfortable give and take between them and an obvious intimacy founded on both shared experiences and a similar sense of humor.
“It’s so easy to let the future and the industry get you down or discourage you,” said Walker. “What is helpful is that we lift each other up. It’s so nice to have someone with you reassuring you that it’s not for nothing… Working alone a lot can be hard.”
“It’s easier for me, coming from doing things by myself,” agreed Dugan. “It was really hard for me to be the person who cares most about my project and trying to ask people to do stuff was really difficult. But, when you have a teammate we both care and we’re both there for each other.”
The band was always made to grow beyond just the two frontwomen — the current line up includes Briana Archer and Sophie Sagan-Gutherz as additional vocalists, Matt Lau on guitar, Bernardo Ochoa on bass, and Matti Dunietz on percussion. Every member of the band “really, really cares” about the project, Dugan and Walker agree. It feels like Dugan and Walker’s connection has created a solid foundation of love and respect for the entire band.
Now, often with glitter smeared across their faces, the seven band members cram onto Brooklyn stages for every performance — they seem to fill every stage they step onto with bodies and with performativity.
“We’re really into creating happiness,” said Dugan. “Which is kinda hard. I think it’s hard when you’re starting out to figure out what you want to….”
“Give,” finished Walker.
“Especially in the beginning, when we didn’t have drums, it was not a dance vibe,” continued Dugan.
“We were like these prairie girls wearing floral dresses with an acoustic guitar and a ukulele,” Walker said.
“Which sometimes we love! But it just wasn’t right for us,” Dugan interjected.
“Mostly because I look really strange in a floral dress,” Walker finished.
Every live performance is a little different — trust me, I’ve seen at least half a dozen — but they aim to end every show in the same place: joy. “We love Joytown,” Dugan mused. But, on the journey you’ll have ups and downs and Lucy Dacus covers and sometimes an unexpected pop punk vocal solo.
“We want people to go on this journey with us,” Dugan explained. “Part of feeling joy is like, going on this emotional journey and then being like ‘Okay, let’s all dance this out together.”
If you want to dance it out with Daisy the Great you can check them out live, this Thursday at Mister Roger’s for Paper Moon Records Still Spinning show. They’re also playing live a few more times this summer. If you’re not in and around NYC, you can still check out their Spotify, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to keep up with the band.