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Love, Loss, And Parody Videos: An Interview With Daisy Harris For Women’s History Month 2022

Scottish musician and filmmaker Daisy Harris’ inaugural album, Tornado Dreams, beautifully encapsulates the post-breakup grieving process and makes sure to leave no stone unturned. This body of work is a testament to the success of the independent-singer songwriter – each song and video built up from scratch.

I had the pleasure of sitting with Daisy to discuss everything from producing videos on a skeleton budget to the intense vulnerability that comes from laying your whole self at the forefront of your art:

Your video for “Get Free” has a very intriguing theme of isolation that really resonates with the nature of the song. Can you tell me what your thought process was in developing the video? How did you see the imagery highlighting the theme of the song?

I drew from a number of influences for that video – initially my concept was a sort of American Psycho tribute, with me applying a face mask and doing my makeup, all just to take photos to send to someone. The inspiration for some of the visuals also came from the music video for “Heather” by Conan Gray, which I always find so relaxing and fun to watch. Ultimately, though, I found a real truth in it through, of all things, TikTok, and the way in which I used it during the summer when I was alone a lot of the time making the album. I’d find myself bored, with sunlight filling my flat and providing perfect lighting, so I’d decide to put on makeup and a fun outfit and film videos, mostly just for something to do, but vaguely hoping that maybe someone I was crushing on would see it. Embarrassing to admit, but I think a lot of people in my generation do it! Given that the song is about yearning for connection without the artifice of social media, the video is just a heightened version of one of those TikToks. It also features my pet rabbit, Alaska, who’s been my constant companion this year, and whose wellbeing I often find myself putting above my own. In having her run wild in the video, it’s a visual cue to the self-neglect I find myself in when I’m pining over someone I can’t have.

I especially loved your video for A24. Everything from the costuming to the camera work is such an intentional reference to A24 films – what made you want to film a video that walks the line between homage and parody for an entire production studio?

When I wrote A24 it was very tongue-in-cheek, a fun, silly song, but I realised it came off a lot more deadpan than I had hoped. As a film student, I think it’s best I don’t take myself too seriously, so while I love A24’s catalogue of beautiful films, I get a kick out of making fun of the pretentious culture around them. A24’s reputation precedes it, so I think sometimes people will kid themselves into liking a film just because they distributed it. That’s not to say I don’t like them – the video is born out of love, I promise! The video is an homage to student filmmaking, too, something that I’ve been massively involved in throughout university, and the way in which student filmmakers work around the limitations on their films. I made the video with my close friend Tillie Quattrone, who’s a talented cinematographer; originally I wanted to make it a much larger production, maybe with someone to play a love interest, but I actually love the way it turned out. It’s much funnier to see me take on the world of the video alone, becoming a brooding indie heroine in a world she’s constructed herself from a very unglamorous setting.

Each of the videos for this album is centered on a different characterized version of you as the subject, with each version of you more dramatized than the last. We go from seeing Post Breakup Daisy (in Get Free) to Cinematic Daisy (in A24) to Roadkill Daisy (in Baby You’re Bad Luck) throughout these videos. Do you see these videos as different chapters in a singular narrative or do you believe they act as individual works?

That’s a really great question! I have thought about it, and while I definitely think there’s some narrative progression, each of the videos came from a standalone idea I had. “Baby You’re Bad Luck” is my favourite, because it’s the idea that I’ve stuck with forever, right from when I wrote the song back in February 2021. I also think that Tornado Dreams as a whole sees me trying on all these different identities, much as I did in real life as a teenager, and so being able to showcase them through the videos has been a blast. It’s really pushed the limits of what I thought I could do with my filmmaking, and has made me even more ambitious when it comes to tackling what’s next for my music.

In your experience as both a musician and filmmaker, what have been the most impactful moments of building these bodies of work from the ground up without a real budget?

I think this year specifically, seeing my single ‘Come Home’ hold its own in playlists and best-of lists alongside major artists has been huge for me. Most memorably, I think, it was on a list of best songs of the week alongside Robin Guthrie’s new EP, and as someone who grew up listening to Cocteau Twins religiously, that stunned me. I was like, ‘I can’t believe I was listening to Blue Bell Knoll while queuing in Sainsburys today and I came home to this news!’ Another crazy thing that happened is that one of my best friends, who helps to edit a music magazine, called me asking ‘if the Daisy Harris whose song the magazine had chosen to review’ was me. The fact that a song I wrote, recorded, and produced in my living room got so much praise blew me away. Even before it was released it was one of my favourites on the album, and actually one of the songs I’m most proud of, so to see it get that kind of reception really had a huge impact. It really felt like my gut instincts about it and all the work I put in to get it perfect paid off.

Do you feel that your identity as an artist has evolved over the course of making this album?

Absolutely. One thing about Tornado Dreams is that, while I think it functions as a complete album, stylistically, it’s all over the place. When I was drawing out my plan for the album, I was sort of thinking, ‘okay, I want to write this kind of song, and this kind of song, and this kind of song’, and so I did, and I ended up with sixteen really different songs. It was a worthwhile process, because it let me experiment and find where I felt the most joy and fulfillment, but now I’ve found that, that’s really exciting. I can’t wait to write and record with those experiences in mind. The next album already has a name and a ‘look’ (and a Pinterest mood-board). I’m taking some time to have some more experiences that are worth writing about before I get started, but I think Tornado Dreams has really given me direction in a new and thrilling way.

What are some of your main influences and how did they impact the creation of Tornado Dreams?

My biggest influence is and always has been The Sundays. They’re my favourite band of all time, and incomparable in terms of their sound and songwriting. I also really loved their integrity – they’re unpretentious, and their lyrics switch from poetic to matter of fact so quickly. Another band whose songwriting I love for the same reasons is Fickle Friends, who I listened to religiously when I was 17, and who I credit for driving some of the album’s pop moments. When I was recording the album, I was listening to three albums on repeat – Third Eye Blind’s self-titled debut, Blood Bunny by Chloe Moriondo and Sour by Olivia Rodrigo. I think sonically there’s a little of each of those on there, even though I wouldn’t say they inspired the writing of the songs so much. Overall though, I really love 90s shoegaze and dream pop – Mazzy Star, The Cranberries, The Cure – and 2000s pop-rock. In terms of contemporary artists I love Beabadoobee, and the way she’s really brought both of those sounds back. I listen to soundtracks a lot, mostly for teen movies from the 2000s. My ultimate career goal is to have written something that sounds like it wouldn’t be out of place on the soundtrack for Jennifer’s Body. I’ll be entirely fulfilled when I’ve done that.

Tornado Dreams is a very emotional body of work. Each song seems to encapsulate a very specific part of the post-relationship grieving process. How has this album changed from the start of the writing process to the finished product?

I’m really glad you think so! I’m a very emotional person, and always have been, and I love emotional music. The album has changed a lot, in terms of the songs on it and the overall arc of it. Some of the songs were actually written mid recording process, because something I’d already written no longer worked with the finished product. There were a few things I knew I wanted for it, and those haven’t changed: I wanted to work with as many women as possible; I wanted all four of my grandparents’ voices on there somewhere; I wanted some banjo. I’ve done all of those things, and so the rest was really fluid and evolved as I was creating it. Being in complete creative control was daunting at times, but I think there’s a clear story on this album, and as someone who loves to tell stories, that’s incredibly special to me.

Every song on this album is so vulnerable and so honest, especially the songs that have videos attached. Your lyrics don’t dance around the reality of losing a relationship that you loved. There’s a very specific vulnerability that comes from creating art from loss, pain, or fear. Was there any moment in the creation of this album or making the videos where you worried about putting too much of yourself out there?

I always have moments where I wonder if the people I’ve written about will know the songs are about them! Sometimes I like to wear my heart on my sleeve about it, like album opener “Shona”, which is about my best friend. That one was easy, because she’s great, and I think everyone should know that. “How Would You Like It?” was difficult. I wrote it really quickly – in like twenty minutes – after several incidents of catcalling and being objectified, and so it came out raw and angry. I worried that I was being overdramatic, or taking up space I shouldn’t, or even that the song would be really triggering, being quite graphic. But being objectified and even scared for your life is something that virtually every woman and non-binary person can identify with, and the fear and rage behind the song are genuine. I played it live at an event for women in music recently, and several other women came up to say how the lyrics had resonated with them, and that was relieving and honestly cathartic to hear. I won’t pretend that my song is any meaningful contribution to this conversation, but I hope that anyone who can relate to it feels less alone in their emotions.

What have you learned from the process of creating Thunder Dreams that you can apply to your future projects?

I’ve definitely improved on the technical side of things! Being a producer is maybe my favourite ‘hat’ I’ve worn on this project – it’s just so much fun. I think my future projects will be more refined in terms of style, and that maybe I’ll see more of a signature style emerge, but I’m glad that I got to play with so many genres and styles in this project. It really couldn’t be a more energetic and emotional tribute to my teenage years.

Thunder Dreams by Daisy Harris will be available on all music streaming platforms April 8, 2022. You can find her videos and singles on YouTube here and on Spotify below.

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