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daine on how Charli XCX influenced their shift in sound from emo trap to pop music

Ever since daine released the beautiful, melancholic “Picking Flowers” in 2020, people have been trying to pin the Filipino-Australian artist down.

They haven’t made it easy, either, releasing songs that take influence from hyperpop (“boys wanna txt”), trap (“Ascension”) and Midwestern emo (“cemetery dreams”) that all maintain an otherworldly escapism. There’s been a glitching, punishing collaboration with Bring Me The Horizon’s Oli Sykes (“SALT”), while future-pop champion Charli XCX has taken daine under her wing.

Read more: How Mothica’s Nocturnal helped her through the darkest period of her life

Quantum Jumping, their debut mixtape, was released in March but was written years earlier, with daine describing it as a “tombstone to their adolescence.” It was quickly followed up by standalone singles “sleepwalking” and “dragging” ⁠— both of which lean heavily into sad, stripped-back and emotional elements but bristle with newfound confidence.

“I think it’s almost impossible for me to be boxed in,” they tell Alternative Press from a studio in London. Everything they make is “super intuitive. I never have a direction or a genre in mind; I just try things until I stumble upon what I like. My music is basically a Choose Your Own Adventure book ⁠— you never know what you’re going to end up with, but it’s always vibes.”

With the start of a new chapter right around the corner, daine spoke to Alternative Press about a newfound love of pop music, wanting to be more mysterious online and playing their first-ever international headline shows.

Quantum Jumping was released earlier this year. Why was it so important that those older songs were shared with the world?

It would have felt wrong to not release them. My younger self put so much into those songs — I had to honor that. RIP them, they worked hard and made something beautiful. I think it’s really confused some people though because musically, it’s about two years behind where I am now. I go into sessions, and people tell me they have a bunch of sad guitar stuff, which is not the one. I have to explain that those songs were written when I was 16. I’m not the same person anymore.

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You followed it up quickly with “sleepwalking.” What does that song mean to you?

It’s the first song that I’ve written as an adult. I wrote it on a trip to LA earlier this year, and that visit was full of these big, coming-of-age moments ⁠— I went through a breakup, I was writing every day and I just became so much more confident as a musician. I can’t say too much else about that trip because there’s a lot more music to come from it, but “sleepwalking” is about change, evil incarnate and cryptic dreams. I’ve never actually slept walked, though.

Does it feel like the start of a new chapter?

Everything’s about to get fucking crazy and poppy. I feel like things are going to start moving quicker than ever because I’m more confident but also because I don’t have a bunch of songs from when I was teenager haunting me. Quantum Jumping lifted a burden. Now I can do whatever, which is exciting.

Pop you say?

I just want to have more fun. I feel like I’ve made a lot of music that’s really reflective and honors a lot of those big moments in my life. I’m at a point in my life where using music as a coping mechanism and as an outlet to process trauma is done. All the bad shit is over ⁠— I’m out of high school, I processed my breakup, I’ve got a fun job. I really shouldn’t still be writing emotionally heavy songs. It’s time to find joy and make stuff that bangs.

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Any worries about the backlash? A lot of bands have found it hard to transition from writing deeply emotional music to something a bit more colorful.

I do get people messaging me to say that my music helped them through a hard time, but I know fun music can offer some sort of saviorism as well. I’m also really good at disguising emo vibes in pop music. Oli Sykes reached out to me after hearing “boys wanna txt,” which is the least heavy song I’d released at that point.

That sad, emo trap thing just isn’t resonating with me as much as when I was a teenager, and I needed that understanding. It’s time to move on, try something new. I played a new song “boythots” at a few shows recently, and people seem to love it. It’s stupid, fun and has no guitar.

You and Charli are close. Has she inspired that shift in sound?

She definitely made me more keen on pop music. I never really listened to it much growing up, and she was the first female pop artist that I really fucked with. I respect her confidence and swag onstage, and I love how die-hard her fans are. It made me realize you can be at the top but still do what you want and have a really intimate connection with your fans. I’m enjoying writing radio-friendly songs for the first time in my life.

Do you want to be a similar sort of role model to others? I know you’re super open on Twitter.

I think I need to shut the fuck up more, to be honest. I talk way too much. If the vibe is that I’m never scared to voice my opinion, that’s bad. I feel like I should just offer this escapist vibe to people. I don’t want to share every detail about my life because that’s very real, and I want everything I do to be very surreal.

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Obviously, Australia had some pretty strict COVID-19 lockdown measures, so you’ve only been able to start gigging recently. How has performing live been?

So crazy. My Australian shows were hype, but London was crazy emotional. I couldn’t stop crying ‘cause people had flown in from France, Spain, Italy, Poland. I was really overwhelmed because I couldn’t believe people actually cared about me and my music. Sure, I can see how many people are listening, but it’s easy to compare yourself to others and feel small by comparison. To have real people singing along to my music, I’ve never been so grateful. It’s changed everything for me.

Has that helped you with getting more confident?

It’s given me more drive. Being trapped at home for so much of my “career,” it’s easy to question why more isn’t happening. But playing that show to a few hundred people who really care and resonate with the music, that’s more than I could have ever imagined for myself. If I don’t get any bigger, I’ll still be over the moon.

That said, I do think things will get bigger because my new music is incredible. I’m going to drop hella music this year, including another mixtape. I’m worried I sound like an egomaniac, and it’d be really embarrassing to flop, but all the music I’m sitting on feels larger than me. It feels really special. Even though half of its stupid pop stuff, I feel like it could like go anywhere.

daine is set to play their first-ever shows in New York (Aug. 14) and Los Angeles (Aug. 23) next month. 


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