Melbourne's experimental-pop trailblazer daine on their continually evolving creative process, the valor of collaboration, and their codependent relationship with a little thing called autotune.
I recently had the pleasure of seeing daine, Melbourne’s very own emo-bedroom-tinkerer come experimental pop up-and-comer, live at Northcote theatre – one of a string of dates during which the fiercely energetic 20-year-old was lucky enough to support cult US hyperpop duo 100 Gecs. I was awestruck by their embodied swagger – howling powerful, auto-tuned hooks; long, bleached hair flailing across the stage.
Out Friday, daine’s shapeless mixtape marks a spiritual and sonic transformation for the young artist – distilling their emergence from the tumultuous throes of early adulthood. Where their debut mixtape Quantum Jumping encapsulated adolescence – loneliness, isolation, the act of writing as a form of reprieve – on shapeless, daine is stepping out of the proverbial bedroom; swapping Soundcloud streams for the sheen of the studio.
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Seeing daine live, one certainly feels privy to this creative metamorphosis – the artist who I had first come across via a mysterious Soundcloud link shared by Charli XcX, a breathy lo-fi track about watching Twilight with a lover, stood before me commanding a huge crowd amidst thunderous beats and razor sharp synths, lyrically baring their innermost turmoils and tribulations with confident ease.
Recently, daine sat down with Mixdown to tell us about their continually evolving creative process, the valour of collaboration, and not least, their love/hate relationship a little thing called autotune.
Tell us a little bit about your entry into the world of songwriting and creating music.
I think it was a bit of a slow burn into an avalanche type of thing. I was just very interested in music as a teenager and I was always going to shows. I got a guitar for my 15th birthday. Started making guitar loops. I had song ideas but no one to sing them, so I just sucked it up and gave it a try myself. By the time my second soundcloud release was out it felt like there was a lot of buzz around the project, so I just kept riding the wave out.
Are there any technical/production elements that influence your songwriting? Does autotune have a large influence on your composition style?
I feel like autotune and I are in a slightly codependent relationship. I see it as an incredible writing tool that can give someone like me who isn’t a traditional singer or naturally gifted the ability to try new things and feel out melodies they wouldn’t have been able to arrive to naturally. But I also realise that it’s divisive (people love it or hate it when it’s obvious)… and people tend to prefer to gate-keep musicianship as a sort of endurance and skill based sport. But personally I don’t see anything wrong with using technology to achieve things. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to start creating music without it… But I also just love how it sounds. We don’t obliterate guitarists for using certain pedals, why should we bash vocalists for using things like autotune?
Is demo-ing a part of your songwriting process? What kind of a set up do you have for getting your ideas down? Do you play any instruments?
In a lot of my earlier stuff I would start out with a riff or a few chords on the guitar, I particularly loved playing around with open tunings like I did on ‘glitter’. Nowadays I don’t really write in my bedroom much, partly because I’m less sad and I move around a bit more. More recently, I prefer to hear a hard electronic bassline first with maybe just a kick drum and nothing else to begin the demoing process. I think it’s been a nearly fool-proof method of writing a catchy pop hook.
Would you be able to tell us a bit about hearteyes’ production style and its influence on your latest body of work, what was the collaboration like?
The tape is definitely 50/50 hearteyes and I’s creative energy combined. He oversaw the whole process, directed everything, encouraged me to be more confident and step into this new era of the project. I think his production style is versatile and just super tough. He can make the most stripped back classic pop song, but also the craziest modern club banger like ‘boythots’. I think the entirety of Shapeless is a good middle ground and testament to his versatility and genius as a writer and producer.
Who were some of your biggest sonic inspirations going into this most recent body of work?
Mainly my friends and experiences inspired me with this project. I really wasn’t listening to much music at the time but it was really the time period I fully entered into adulthood… So I just wanted to create an honest picture of what that felt like for me, but at the same time it felt clumsy in its youthfulness.
Palmistry definitely inspired me as a writer and friend during the creation of the tape, I remember starting on ‘somebody to love’ and asking him for direction on how to write a good pop song… because I had no idea if I was doing it right at all. I feel like the guidance I received from Palmistry and Charli XcX on that writing trip helped me step into this new sound a lot more. But I was also still writing with people like Photographic Memory, Pvris, Ryder McLaughlin, Lexc Stacy and Ryan Scott Graham and maintaining some emo and heavy undertones in the music for those who listen.
I feel like ‘writhe’ and ‘doom’ were heavily influenced by a band called Modern Color I was listening to a lot at the time as well… and Oli Sykes, of course, continually motivates me. Sorry if this was just a huge namedrop paragraph, this is only about half the people that inspired and helped create Shapeless.
Daine’s Shapeless mixtape will be available on all good streaming platforms from February 24, pre-save now.