As Daisy the Great, Kelley Nicole Dugan and Mina Walker make folk-inflected indie rock that spans a multitude of moods—capable of being clever, devastating, or both simultaneously, spanning harmony-laden folk pop to powerhouse indie rock balladry—and has attracted quite the following as a result. With a new single, “Record Player” featuring pop-rock outfit AJR, and a new album on the way, Daisy the Great only stand to grow their audience with their intricate and impossible to resist music.
Kelley and Mina met as acting majors at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and eventually bonded during a sketch comedy class where they first connected over their mutual passion for music: “We’d both written music on our own in the past, and we ended up writing this silly song together in that class that clued us into the idea that we might want to collaborate on other projects together as well,” Kelley remembers.
After graduating, the pair started writing a musical together about a band. “We got together nearly every day to work on it, and eventually we finished the script and moved on to writing music. When we started to share some songs that we had written individually in the past and rearranged them for the two of us, we immediately felt like we were on to something really special. We’d dreamed up this fictional version of ourselves in a band together and realized that we could just make it happen in real life.”
Once they formed their new collaborative & creative bond, the pair set out as Daisy the Great, eventually growing into a 6 piece rock outfit currently featuring Matt Lau on guitar, Bernardo Ochoa on bass, Matti Dunietz on drums, and Brie Archer on additional vocals. They recorded a Tiny Desk Concert submission of “The Record Player Song” in 2017, the same year the single was officially released. “It’s about finding yourself during the growing pains of not knowing who you are yet,” Kelley explains while discussing the songs’ thematic bent, and it’s since racked up over 20 million streams and had multiple viral moments on TikTok.
Daisy the Great’s debut LP I’m Not Getting Any Taller soon followed in 2019 on Paper Moon Records, a full-length exploration of the anxieties of entering adulthood that also marked the first time Kelley and Mina fully collaborated on an entire release together: “We’d come in with a hook and workshop together,” Mina recalls about the album’s creative genesis. Since then, Daisy the Great released the quarantine-born Soft Songs EP in 2020, as well as the recent “Persephone” / “Scarborough Fair” single, a two-tracker released on San Fermin member Alan Tate’s record label that features the pair’s take on the classic Simon & Garfunkel tune. “We’re both fans of Simon & Garfunkel and were really inspired to bring a more haunted, harmony heavy, rocky spin to one of our favorite songs,” Mina explains.
Then there’s the summer 2021 collaboration with AJR, “Record Player,” which originated after the band expressed admiration for Daisy the Great’s infectious tune: “Jack heard ‘The Record Player Song’ on TikTok and reached out to us about collaborating on it,” Kelley recalls. “We teamed up and went into the studio to write some new verses with AJR to pair with our original hook, and we ended up creating this new song together.” Kelley describes the new song as “about identity, imposter syndrome, and trying to free yourself from a version of you that you created – maybe to fit in, or to stand out. But I think that that experimental stage is actually a really important part of getting to know yourself, even if it feels like the stuff you’re trying on doesn’t quite fit.”
Daisy the Great’s newest single “Glitter,” gives the first taste of the sophomore album they’ve been working on for the last couple of years, coming out on S-Curve Records in 2022. “‘Glitter’ is about a night when you can’t sleep and you decide to stay up all night long,” Kelley & Mina note. “It’s about the freedom, and chaos, and magic of being alone with yourself. It’s about the courage and compassion of committing to seeing the messy parts of you as beautiful.”
It’s a freeing thoughtfulness that defines Daisy the Great’s music, as well as their creative mission. “Our music is generally pretty introspective, and we are often interested in the complexities or ironies we see within
ourselves” she states. “That’s something we love about writing—you can say something small and delicate and true that maybe feels scary to say, but once you put it out there, it can turn into a comfort for anyone that might also be feeling that way.”
In an age of hyper-stimulated doom-scrolling and over-polished social media stars, humble Hoboken three piece Phoneboy are all about living in the moment. Singer/guitarists Wyn Barnum and Ricky Dana met at a tiny technical college lacking much of an indie scene. Pulling in Wyn’s childhood friend, bassist James Fusco, the three college boys bonded over a love of midwest emo. But while you may find a tinge of that teen angst that comes with youth, Phoneboy are ready to turn up.
Phoneboy’s early efforts quickly earned a following on social media. Serving as a de facto street team, fraternity brothers shared the band’s breakout, ACID GIRL far and wide. Before they knew it these floppy haired crooners had racked up over a million streams across the web. It’s the kind of word-of-mouth buzz that makes you think the internet wasn’t such a bad idea. “There’s definitely a tension there,” says Wyn, speaking to social media. “There’s all this distraction, all this fake fun everybody’s pretending to have, but at the same time the discovery potential is insane.”
Coming of age in a global pandemic, the band sure are sharing lots of experiences. Remote learning has offered them plenty of time to work on their sound; flipping through files on yes, their phones, to piece together bits and bobs of riffs and licks. It’s commendable to come off so easy breezy in these uncertain times, but Phoneboy makes it look like no big deal. Their joyous jams and shuffling beats come right on time to get your butt off the couch.
You wouldn’t call them old souls, but their youthful exuberance is deepened by an already wisened sense of pop-production and alternative song craft. Pairing a 90’s art aesthetic against a fresh clean sound, these phoneboys are ready to bust out beyond TikTok. And with perfectly crafted hip-shaking singalongs like these, maybe we can all take a break from the endless notifications, put our phones done for once, and finally get back out on the floor.
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