“Boring boy, don’t hurt yourself”: The feminist punk of Daddy Issues
[Photo credit: Kelsey Hall]
Daddy Issues, made up of Jenna Moynihan, Jenna Mitchell and Emily Maxwell, are equal parts “fuck you forever” (the searing opening line from first single “In Your Head”) and falling in love. Doses of the realities of womanhood—heartbreak, sexual assault, band boys that don’t know when to shut up—strike mercilessly in each song like adrenaline shots to the heart a la Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction.
Yes, they’re a punk rock band—and a great one at that—and yes, they’re made up of all women, but you can’t put them in a Bikini Kill-stamped box, and their upcoming debut album Deep Dream won’t let you. There’s an unflinching complexity to them that “girl bands” are so infrequently afforded, wherein they get to write songs about surviving sexual assault, but they also get to write songs inspired by viral videos. And why shouldn’t they?
The Nashville-based band spoke to us about every side of being a musician (woman or otherwise) right as they started their most recent run with Diet Cig. It’s a candid look from the inside; after all, thinkpieces about the abysmal state of gender parity in the scene are often the stories of outsiders looking in. Daddy Issues are the real thing, and they have no plans of quieting down any time soon.
Tell that classic story of how you got the name.
JENNA MOYNIHAN: I was at a show at an old DIY punk venue called the Owl Farm, and I was in the bathroom and I saw "daddy issues" written on the wall and I thought it was probably a cool all-female punk band or something. I went home and Googled it and it didn't exist, so we just got the idea to start a band ourselves.
Is there any truth to the story that when you started it was your first times picking up instruments?
JENNA MITCHELL: I had played violin when I was a kid and then I kind of fooled around on bass in high school and almost accidentally took it to college—like, "I'm going to a music college, may as well bring an instrument, I guess." I didn't really touch it for years and then Jenna came home and was like, "Let's play a song!"
EMILY MAXWELL: I didn't play drums at all. I had taken two or three drum lessons when I was younger and then was like "I'm bored," so I stopped. I just happened to be in the room with [Moynihan and Mitchell] and they were like, "Do you want to play drums?" and I was like, "I guess," so I learned to play just by being in the band.
It feels like there's all this talk about punk music—and also music in general—and especially the scene in Nashville being this boys’ club. Is it frustrating hearing that and also being like, "Hey, I exist!"?
MOYNIHAN: I don't think so—it's not difficult to hear to me, just because it's partially true. I think it was really hard at first, even though there have been really important female musicians and bands before we formed. But I think over the past couple years we've really found our place in the scene and I think people really recognize us more than they ever have. And it feels kinda good to have proven something to ourselves and to the community.
I imagine it's difficult to toe the line as a female musician between really wearing being a woman and being like, "Yes! We are women in a band! We are out here in this scene that's entirely men!" but also having to be like, "We're just a band and we don't want you to see us as a 'girl band.'" Do you fight between that distinction sometimes?
MAXWELL: I do a lot because I feel very conflicted by it. I don't necessarily like people describing us as "all-girl punk band" because "all-girl" is not really a description of our sound. But at the same time, I do kind of like the inspirational aspect of it—maybe for other people, knowing that women are playing and especially in a city like Nashville, where there aren't a ton of women in bands.
MOYNIHAN: Well, they're starting to pick up now, they're just not "cool." There's a ton of women playing music but it takes a while for someone to be in plain sight for everyone to see in Nashville, I guess. I also feel like it does kind of bother us being described as a "girl band." People always think it bothers us, or me, when they compare us to other female musicians, but that doesn't bother me at all, because it's an honor.
[Photo credit: Kelsey Hall]
In pop punk, there’s a sort of “Paramore effect” where any female-fronted band gets compared to Paramore. With this genre, do people really tend to throw Kathleen Hanna and Carrie Brownstein at you and be like, "Oh, you sound just like them," and your response is "Well, I think you're just saying that because they’re feminists...”?
MOYNIHAN: Yeah, they’ll just pull out any female punk band they've ever seen on TV or something.
MAXWELL: They'll be like Bratmobile or Bikini Kill or Sleater-Kinney. Yeah, anything like that that has a woman in it.
“In Your Head,” the first single off the new record, opens pretty boldly with the line “fuck you forever.” How do you feel that the reception has been to that song?
MOYNIHAN: It's been really positive. I mean, everyone's been saying that it's good, but I don't like...check the internet that much…
MITCHELL: People seem to really like it and relate to it, and that's always really cool when you put out a song of yours and people are like, "Oh my God, I love this so much, I really feel in-tune with this song and the lyrics you've written." So, I've been feeling a lot of that and it feels really, really good.
There’s this scene you describe in the song that starts off seeming kind of trite where you're talking shit about other women, but it turns around and becomes so empowered, where you say, "You're delusional/you're a pet fish/assume I tell myself that chick with you is an ugly bitch." I love this picture of talking about how the guy would assume you're thinking horrible things about the other woman.
MOYNIHAN: I'm glad you got the lyric because someone wrote something up about the song and they said the line was like, the opposite of what I meant when I wrote it. They said "I'm telling myself that the girl you're with is an ugly bitch" or something and it was like the complete opposite of the meaning of the line, and that line that they wrote about it [is] something that we would never say. But yeah, that was actually specifically one thing I read on the internet about the song and I was like, "Oh noooo, they don't understand what I mean!"
And I feel like that idea is the entire message of "Boring Girl" and I would love to hear you guys talk about that song, because that last line—“Boring boy/Don’t hurt yourself/I don’t think they have guitars in Hell”—I think I'm gonna get it tattooed on me.
MAXWELL: That was actually a joke I made to Jenna and we were just playing in our old living room and it just stuck.
MOYNIHAN: Yeah, we were really not gonna use that, but then the more we played it, we were kind of all like, "This is funny and awesome."
MITCHELL: I just wanna say that I lobbied for that line so hard!
MAXWELL: It's just true, like any ex-boyfriend, like band dude you have or whatever.
MOYNIHAN: It's about dating a musician and when their music career is “better than yours” or something, or just when they kind of make you feel like they're doing cooler stuff than you all the time.
MITCHELL: It's just kind of like when you're going out on the road and you mention it and they're just kind of like, "Oh? The road?"
MAXWELL: And they're just like, "That's so cute! You've never done that before! I've done that, like, sooo much."
MOYNIHAN: And then also having like, three girlfriends. It's kind of the same thing as like, assume I would tell myself that your girlfriend's ugly or something? It's kind of like, feeling for the other woman in the song, too. Like he's also treating her the same way and it's not her fault, it's his.
[Photo credit: Kelsey Hall]
Band dudes—like, not all dudes in bands, obviously—can be so fucking evil. I feel like every interaction I have with them is just hell!
MOYNIHAN: It is.
MAXWELL: It took some time. Trial and error.
MITCHELL: So much trial and error for me, even. It's crazy.
Whenever I have to interview a dude from a band that is clearly way too cocky, I'll be talking about it to my friends in advance like, "I have to interview A Man today."
MAXWELL: I used to work at a music magazine also and it was very different to do those interviews than talking to someone who understands me.
MITCHELL: They all think what they do is just so important, that they're all saving the world and it's just kinda like, "Hey, we're all trying to achieve the same goal here together!"
The other day I was going to like this small show on campus at this coffeeshop. Keep in mind I was the only person there other than the baristas, so I feel like the band should have been at least a little happy to have me. But I was talking to the singer and I was like, "Who do you guys sound like?" And he was like, "Oh, I don't know, like, do you like, know music?" and I was like "What?" I was like, "Take off your fucking beanie, dude!"
MAXWELL: You can hear the beanie in the story.
MITCHELL: Did you see that Hard Times article like "Man Automatically Turns Into Neutral Milk Hotel Expert When Talking To A Woman"?