“Boring boy, don’t hurt yourself”: The feminist punk of Daddy Issues

May 2, 2017
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Oh my God, no! But I just let it happen. I was like, “Yeah, I write for a music outlet,” and he just started quizzing me about bands. He literally asked if I knew Brand New. 
MOYNIHAN: Who did he think he sounded like? Did he slip that in?

Nope, he never even told me. He just quizzed me and then went back to drinking his beers with his band friends. I was like, “Why are you a nightmare?”
MAXWELL: Seriously! That's like, everything that's wrong with men in the music industry! 

MOYNIHAN: And women do that too; it's just people trying to be cool. And hearing other bands say that they don't want to compared to anybody. 

MITCHELL: Sorry about that guy.

I want to talk about the song “Dog Years.” The instrumentation is very dark and kind of stormy.
MAXWELL: It's actually funny because we started writing it after I saw this Vine—I don't know if you've seen it, it's a raccoon that has a piece of cotton candy and runs over to this water bowl and all the cotton candy dissolves.

Oh yeah, I know exactly which one you’re talking about!
MAXWELL: Yeah, I saw that and I was watching TV and then I was kind of like, just noodling around on guitar and I saw it and I like paused my show and I was like “Jenna! This is the saddest video I've ever seen in my life!” And we both were like “wow, what a metaphor. That's how we feel, all the time.” And then she played that dark guitar thing—that's just like, when you dissolve cotton candy. 

That's awesome. I had no idea it was about that little raccoon! I just watched that video like two days ago. Although, I feel like the end result is not about the raccoon, but…the inspiration. 

MITCHELL: There's like a long one, too, where he drops it like three or four times.

MAXWELL: He just keeps getting more and bringing it back….he figures it out, but….yeah.

[Photo credit: Kelsey Hall]

You’ve written some songs that are really, really meaningful, especially for your female audience. Do you already have fans coming up to you and saying that this stuff is really resonating with them?
MAXWELL: I see it quite a bit at shows—a lot of young girls coming up and just saying they decided to learn to play guitar because they wanted to learn one of our songs or things like that. We recently put out a new single called “I'm Not” that was about a lot of things, but we wrote it around this abuse that I endured when I was younger or—survived, I guess I should say—and I've gotten a lot of messages on our Tumblr and stuff like that saying, “Thank you for writing this.” It's about surviving something and having your trauma dismissed by friends and family and having someone say, “Oh well, this person—maybe they did sexually assault you or something, but they're really nice or a really good football player or whatever, so we're just gonna forget that that happened and you can just go on with your life.” We've gotten a lot of messages from people saying that really helped them, and it's been really nice to know that we've been helping some other women in some way, hopefully. 

Putting that song out is very brave because it's not just a song about just pain, I think it's very explicit and it kind of takes people aback a little bit. 
MAXWELL: Yeah, it can be scary to do but I think it was important. 

MOYNIHAN: We wanted to write it also so that anyone could relate to it, too. It's for everyone, you know, guys and girls, too, not just women—anyone who has gone through something like that and was made to feel not good enough by somebody else. 

I do want to hear about the process of how that song specifically came to be, because I feel like it’s already having a big effect on people. 
MAXWELL: That issue of abuse is something I've been working on and dealing with for the past five or six years, just in terms of trying to process all of this stuff. I would talk to Jenna about it a lot. She would always hear me saying, “Oh, I have to, go do this thing,” because I'm not allowed to stand up for myself and say, “I don't want to,” because I'm not, you know, as good of a person as him. And we kind of got the idea from there to write the song. It started out as a different song and we've worked on it a lot since we first wrote.

MOYNIHAN: I mean it's kind of just exactly what Emily said. But I think the guitar is bright and kind of happy and it kind of sounds…it doesn't sound as bad as the topic is, I guess? And I think that was a goal, of mine at least, with just making it accessible to other people. Like, an opportunity like this, we could put it out and talk about what we really wanted to talk about. 

MAXWELL: And in putting it out, I was very nervous to do it, because it was not something I talked about with more than very few close friends and my brother and very little with my parents. It was scary to put that out into the world because I was worried like, “Oh, this is going to make everybody I ever know or ever meet look at me as like…'Oh, that's Emily, she was abused.'” But part of my decision to put it out in a single like this is that I kind of started thinking, after a while, like where I was feeling so alone all the time, I eventually got out of my own bubble and was like, “Oh, I bet there are a ton of other people also sitting around feeling this exact same way that I am and they could probably use a song like this.” Because, when I was trying to process all this stuff, there weren't really any songs about that that I could find. I listened to like…”Roar” by Katy Perry or “Brave” by Sara Bareilles or something and those are awesome, great songs, but nothing really touched on that topic. There may be songs out there, I just couldn't find anything. So we wrote one. 

I think it's fantastic that it's a song that really is about that, because I feel like it's one more layer that people can really connect to. But now that this is out there, it's something that you're gonna get a lot of questions about. Or, at the very least, people coming up to you, saying, “This song specifically means a lot to me because I was assaulted too.” Is that something that you're afraid of because now it's going to just keep opening up old wounds over and over again?
MAXWELL:  Well, I tweeted something about that—like, if anyone wants to come up to me at a show or if anybody's been through abuse or assault and wants to talk to me about it, I'm here to listen because I was very lucky to have good friends that would listen to me, you know? And not everybody has that. I am afraid of the questions about it, but I told our publicist that if we do an interview and someone asks me a rude question about it, I'm just going to leave or…I don't know. It's a tough topic to discuss and people can definitely do it the wrong way and I'm not sure how it's gonna go, but I guess we'll see. 

I feel like you're writing songs that have this really strong feminist-leaning message, but then you're putting them out into the ether of a pretty male-dominated, white cisgender male-dominated field. Is that scary at all? 
MAXWELL: I think I was nervous about it just because sexual abuse and assault are dismissed so often and so publicly—like Brock Turner and pretty much any popular case of assault or rape, especially with younger girls. I was kind of nervous that people would take it and not only dismiss what we were saying, but almost kind of think what we were saying was “Oh well, your band's called Daddy Issues, so of course,” you know? But it hasn't been that way luckily, so far. And I think that no matter what, even if people were going to react poorly, we'd just say, “We want to play anyway.” 

MOYNIHAN: The point is that we're not afraid and that's why we're doing it. Even though that was a specific situation where it's scary because a certain type of person is gonna think, “Oh well, of course your dad did.” Well, that's not even true, that's not really what it's about but yeah, I don't think we're afraid at all, I think that was probably really the only time. We're gonna keep trying to do stuff like that, and the more you do stuff like that the less afraid you get. That's the point of writing songs and doing things like that—for personal gain and for hopefully other women and hopefully men, too, to understand. 

MAXWELL: Hopefully we can try to change that fear of men by having them hear a song like that and having them be like, “Oh, do we make people feel this way? Maybe we should stop doing that.” 

I'm glad you’re doing this stuff right off the bat because I feel like right now with women who have been in the scene for a while, whenever they try to open their mouth about any feminist issue, it's just all backlash.

MOYNIHAN: A lot of female musicians we know that are working on projects or writing are telling us, “Oh yeah, I'm writing stuff that's really personal or about issues personal to women.” And so I think there's gonna be a lot more in the future of stuff like this, hopefully, more popular music, not just punk music that you can find in a basement somewhere. alt

Deep Dream is out May 19 on Infinity Cat.

Written by AltPress