Daisy the Great — Interview

Kelley Nicole Dugan and Mina Walker, sole members of the Brooklyn indie-pop outfit Daisy the Great, sit down with Radio UTD’s Olivia Foster in an exclusive interview.

Olivia Foster: Alrighty, hi, I’m Olivia Foster with Radio UTD, and today I’m here with Mina and Kelley from Daisy the Great. Do you guys wanna introduce yourselves?

Kelley Nicole Dugan: Sure, hi, I’m Kelley.

Mina Walker: I’m Mina, hi.

So, are you guys in New York right now? Is that where you guys live?

KND: Yes, we’re both in Brooklin.

Nice! But, in a couple of weeks, you’re going to be hitting the road on tour. Are you guys excited?

MW: Yeah.

KND: Definitely.

MW: Super excited. We’re kind of like, I can’t believe it’s happening in two weeks. It just feels like there’s still so much to do. I was like, oh we have so much time ‘til tour, and then I was like, wait, it’s so soon and there’s still so much we wanna do before we start.

I want to ask, because I’ve never heard anything about this: What is planning for a tour like?

KND: It is very detailed. We’ve been recently supporting on tour, and that process is just different, I think, than headlining. And when you’re headlining, you are really in charge of the whole night, so it’s like, getting new merch together, or getting our set together and making a set that is really long, and also having enough time to practice it. And having support, and local support in certain places, down to having the right type of random extra stuff on the road, that when there’s a problem, there won’t be another headliner there to be like, “Oh wait, did you guys bring that?” We’re the ones who are supposed to have all that stuff, so thinking about anything that we want and anything that could go wrong, and making sure that we have everything. Like, I have a list of stuff that’s like, make sure we have some duct tape, and make sure we have a stapler and stuff, that’s really like bringing your house on the road.

MW: It’s also, there’s so many little things that you don’t think about that come up you’re like, dang. And Kelley and I are also very hands-on in the entire process. We were like, “We’re obviously going to design all of the merch, and we’d really like to have a say in everything,” which is awesome, but also creates a lot of extra work for us, because we literally won’t make somebody make an advertisement poster or anything without us… making it. So we’ve given ourselves so much extra work to do on top of the work that’s already required. With going on tour, there’s stuff like making a playlist for the, uh—

KND: —house music.

MW: For the house music to play. It’s so cool, because we get to decide these things, which like, I didn’t necessarily think we would get to decide these things, but it’s so nice to be able to design a whole night, and be the people that are deciding how the night is shaped.

That’s awesome. And it’s amazing that you guys are so hands-on, even though it sounds like so much work. Because, Mina—you’re an artist, right? Like, you do a lot of the album art and everything. That’s what I’ve heard, at least.

MW: Yeah. It’s super fun. I mean, I really like it. I feel like it’s an extension of the music. And Kelley also has a big say with me, and I trust her opinions so much when I’m making the album art or deciding what it is. We’re very collaborative when we figure out what the vision is for the art and for the posters, and what we’re trying to portray with what we want people to get out of seeing a show poster, or what we want people to get out of seeing album art and stuff. Usually, we come up with a few different ideas and then scrap a lot of them.

No, that’s awesome. Collaboratively, how do you guys work together when songwriting?

KND: It kind of depends on the song. Our kind of “classic” thing is to know that we want to write a song in that time, and then we both kind of just open up our notebooks or our Notes app on our phones, or whatever we’ve been jotting stuff down in recently, and then just kind of going through and seeing what pieces of things feel interesting in the room that day. And then we’re like, “Okay, this thing, do you have anything that’s like, along these lines,” and then we kind of just pull from stuff that we’ve been passively writing. There’s times when one of us will have the seed of a song, or half of a song or something, and say, “I think this would be a good song for Daisy, let’s talk about making this into that song together.”

MW: Yeah. I think also over time, our writing style has gotten more and more collaborative. I think early on in the band, we had songs that we had written before the band that we were like, “Okay, these will be Daisy songs.” I think that we developed the Daisy sound together, and now I kind of have this rule in my head that if I start a song that I know is going to be a good Daisy song, I don’t finish it, and I bring it to Kelley, because I feel like Kelley’s gonna have a better idea—or just a more open mind—as to where this song will go, instead of me finishing it in the standard way that I would finish it, and I think it’s really exciting. And same thing with the other way around. I think that we get these little pieces of songs, and then we go like, “Okay, I’m gonna let these sit until I see the other person. We’ll craft it together.”

Awesome. All You Need Is Time came out in late October, 2022. How long were you guys working on that? I know the Deluxe Edition had “The Record Player Song,” but other tracks on there, how long were you guys working on those?

KND: We had been working on those songs for a really long time. I think the oldest song that’s on the record, at the time of putting it out, was three or four years old. And we’d been playing it for a long time. So, there are songs that we wrote kind of around the time that we were putting out our first record ever, that weren’t on that record because it was in the process of already being made, but from the point of releasing our 2019 record, which was like January 2019, we started writing for the next record immediately.

MW: Especially in the past, the way that we’ve written is like: Write a song and don’t record it. We just have written songs to perform them live without even recording demos of them. Like, we’d have iPhone recordings, maybe, of the songs, which I think, overtime, we started to realize that a lot of bands have recordings of their songs before they’re performing them? I think coming from a performance background and not a super music-heavy background, we wrote the songs and just immediately performed them without having recordings, which kind of led us to taking a long time to actually record the song.

Between you guys starting to perform songs and actually recording, did you guys end up changing anything, or once you guys are like, “No, this is the song and we’re performing it,” does it just stay exactly the same?

KND: We definitely changed some songs. Some songs, we didn’t change at all; what it was initially is pretty much exactly what it was on the record. Some songs, we had played live that had a different feeling to the song, that it kind of just became that vibe when we were writing it, but we never fully thought about what kind of production we would want on the eventual recording or anything. 

For example, there’s a song that felt really folky-country-leaning that felt really good to sing, but we were like, this doesn’t feel like it’s completely serving the song in the best way. Like, it’s not letting the song shine in the best way. And so, before we were sitting down to record the album, we were like, “Okay, we wanna take this song in and workshop the vibe, and even though we’ve been performing it and it feels kind of Americana, we don’t want it to sound like that, so let’s just scrap what’s going on and start with scratch and just imagine that we’ve never played this before.” And it just became way rockier and had a lot more energy, which I think really served the meaning of the song as well, so I think once it’s time to commit, we really go like, “Okay, what is the vibe?” Like, now that we’ve been playing it—and, I think playing it really helps identify the vibe, because I think sometimes it’s hard to know when you’re writing what it will feel like onstage, or if something is slow-feeling when you’re writing, and then you play it onstage, sometimes you’re like, “Wow, this really feels slow; I would love to pick this up even though that’s not my first instinct when we were recording.” So, I think our record is really tied-in with the live show, and what we learned by playing the songs live really informs the eventual record.

Well this is making me even more excited to see you guys live. Like, I don’t know, I saw that you guys were touring with AJR a while back, and I remember my sister and I—because, I just moved to Texas from South Dakota—and we were like, “Dang, they’re not coming to South Dakota,” and so to be able and come see you guys, I was already really excited. But just hearing about how much care and craft you guys put into your performances, I’m really hyped, so, thank you in advance.

KND: Thank you.

So, how was the recording process then for All You Need Is Time? I know some people just go into the recording studio, they just bang everything out super quickly. Was it like that for you guys, or was it more drawn out over time?

MW: It was like a combination of that and being more drawn out. Going into a recording studio is pretty expensive, so I think that we wanted to—at least when we were paying for studio space and stuff—to have everything planned out. But, to do that, we sat with our producer, Ronnie, and we basically demoed out the entire album before going into the studio. So we figured out—because, like Kelley said, there were some songs where we were like, this song is not right yet, but we wanna put it on the record and we need to figure out what the sonic story is. So we sat with Ronnie for a few weeks, I wanna say, or maybe more. Well actually, we recorded two of the songs before we recorded the whole album, just to get a feel of how our working relationship with Ronnie would be. We were like, “We really like you, you’re a friend of ours, and we really like what you’ve made before, so we wanna see how it feels to make songs with you,” so we—I think in 2019, Kel?

KND: Yeah. It was like, right before the pandemic, because beginning pandemic, we were like, on the phone, doing FaceTime notes.

MW: Yeah. So, right before the pandemic, we got in the studio and recorded two songs. We recorded “Glitter” and “Time Machine,” because those were the ones that we were like, these will definitely be on the record. So, we worked with Ronnie and our band, and we went into the studio, and we did a base layer of the band just playing what we play live, and then we sat with Ronnie and played with all of the production elements and vocals and everything that we wanted to add on top. And we had those songs and we worked on them for a really long time. The first recording of them sounded very different than they sound now, because we were like, we were problem solving, because we’re very used to a live band sound, and then we had the option to add a bunch of production elements that we didn’t have access to before, so we were like, there are so many directions these songs can go.

We ended up finding a really good sound for them, and then the pandemic happened and we were like, okay, well. We started talking to Ronnie—we were still working on the songs over Zoom. I think a year passed, and then in 2021, we were like, “Let’s just record the rest of the album.” So, me and Kelley would meet up with Ronnie, and sometimes have the band come in at his home studio. And we demoed out all of the songs and mapped out and experimented, so that when we went into the studio, we knew what exactly we needed to record, and then we booked one or two weeks in the—how long was it, Kelley, was it one week?

KND: In the studio?

MW: Yeah.

KND: I think that it was only three days.

MW: Really?

KND: Yeah, I think we did three days, which, that section of the recording process was like, the record is, at its core, just the live band playing the songs, and then we added production at Ronnie’s house for weeks and weeks and weeks after that.

MW: Yeah.

KND: Which, that I think was probably like three months of adding vocals and adding extra stuff, but we wanted to get the live band in the—

MW: Like the grand piano.

KND: Yeah, like, in the big studio space, just to have that really great sound at the heart of the record. But then that, I’m pretty sure—I mean, it sounds crazy right now, but I really do think it was only three days.

MW: I think you’re right. I have a bad memory. Yeah, Kelley should have answered the question.

KND: Yeah, I think it was three days. It was three days, and then it was, like, forever after that. We would always be like, “Actually, we wanna try something else.” Definitely a mixture.

I mean, the fiddling with it really worked though. Like, it’s a fantastic album.

KND: Thank you.

For the radio station, they put out a spreadsheet of music of every week, and they add to it and they’re like, “You guys have to play three new songs from off the spreadsheet every hour.” And when your guys’ album came out, I was like, “Oh, Daisy the Great, I wonder what they’ve been up to.” It’s such a good album.

MW: Oh, thank you.

Like, “Tell Me Have You Been Dancing” and the stripped version of “Aluminum,” they send me. Like, I’m playing the stripped version of “Aluminum” today. They’re so good. It’s a great album.

KND: Thank you so much.

MW: Thank you.

Yeah, of course. So, I’ve already kept you guys a couple minutes longer than I said I was going to—

KND: That’s okay.

—but I have to ask: Do you guys have a favorite track on the album, or a favorite song that you’re really looking forward to playing on tour?

KND: Mm…. Yeah, definitely. It changes from time to time, and I think if we haven’t played a song in a while, then I’m always really excited to play that song.

MW: Yeah.

KND: When we were playing the most recent tour we did, I feel like my favorites to play were “Aluminum,” and I really like singing “Routine” live.

MW: Yeah.

KND: This time, I’m excited—we’re playing a lot of older songs, and some new songs as well, so I feel like, of the album songs, I’m really excited to play “Glitter” this time, and “Liar.” But I’m also really excited about the new songs and the old songs that we haven’t had a chance to play in a while.

MW: Yeah, I mean, “Aluminum” and “Routine” are my favorite songs on the record. And I always like “Tell Me Have You Been Dancing” live, because me and Kelley usually perform it just the two of us, and it just feels like a really sweet moment, and I’m really excited. We’re playing a couple new-new songs that no one’s ever heard, so that’s gonna be—


MW: That’s always exciting for us.

Oh, now I’m excited. Alright, well, I will let you guys get back to, I’m assuming, your very busy day of planning for tour. Thank you so much for meeting with me, and I’m so, so excited to see you guys in May.

KND: Thank you.

Yeah, no, thank you guys. Alright, have a great day!

Both: Bye!