Melbourne artist daine uses an interesting collection of words to describe herself: goblin, a villainous character, a hermit. They’re all aspects of an otherworldly figure who moved into the music world still in the depths of their teenage years, joining the “hyper-pop” movement – a contested umbrella genre – of 2019 aside the likes of perto, erica, midwxst and quinn.
Some consider her a pioneer of the movement, and when I’m meandering somewhere in the back corner of an industrial cafe waiting for the young artist to enter, I’m excited to discover how much of daine’s persona is real-life. When she does arrive, she orders a can of matcha and, with a smile, sits across from me.
The first thing I notice are her enlarged-black contacts, covering the whites of her eyes, and her ethereal, elven-blonde hair. None of this should be surprising - daine’s discography and videos have all constructed this otherworldly, fantasy realm. She’s exactly what I expected. Her personality, though, is different. Her music, a sort of future-emo, can be dark, sad, and sometimes desolate. But daine herself is friendly, open, and warm.
It’s a contradiction she’s acutely aware of, rattling off a laundry list of the usual observations:
“Shawty’s a walking red flag”, “What are you going through?”, “She mentally ill af”.
“I get it,” she says. “My music’s sometimes sad and aggressive. “But I’m actually a very happy person. Everyone just seems to think I’m crazy.”
Since first breaking onto the scene in 2019, with singles like “Picking Flowers” and “My Way Out”, daine has easily found herself surrounded by celebrity friends. She sets the scene of a dinner party in LA, including British pop icon Charlie XCX (a close friend) and Sad Boys member Yung Gud. ericadoa and glaive’s names roll off her tongue as well. Daine, though, is only 19-years-old. Three years ago, while still in highschool, she was signed by Atlantic Records and since then has been circumnavigating the globe: recording, playing shows, shooting fantastical videos.
Now, off the back of her Quantum Jumping EP release, VICE chats to the rising star about celebrity connections, 5 Seconds of Summer, and being the villain.
VICE: If an alien came down to earth and you had to describe your music. What would you say?
daine: I’m not sure. That’s such a big conceptual question. But future emo is the genre label that sticks out the most. I think it’s easy for people to misinterpret that, and the future aspect is that it’s really futuristic and it’s pop music. I feel like people associate the word “future” with pop, so it’s emo-tinged-pop that’s a little bat shit.
I like that. I actually read that one of your musical influences was 5 Seconds of Summer.
I never said that!
I said that I was a big 5SOS fan girl when I was 11, but that’s the thing, half the people that I was a stan of aren’t an influence. I never made music when I was 11 years-old. Yes, I was camping outside of 5SOS’s hotel when I was 11 and 12…
Did you meet them?
No, I failed many times. I’ll meet them now. I’ll see them at the ARIAs, I’ll tell them.
Bring them back, I say.
Yes! It’s 2014 revival, that’s something I’ve been waiting to talk about. The kids are listening to Yung Lean again, Charlie XCX is on the charts, Sky Ferreira is coming back, the kids love The 1975 again, people are wearing American Apparel, indie sleaze is back. 2022 is 2014.
Indie sleaze coming back is a very controversial topic in my office at the moment.
It’s back! Everyone wants a blackberry and is shaving their eyebrows.
Yeah, I’m not complaining, I’m into it.
I love it.
So you were pretty young when you started writing music. Fifteen-years-old. And you just released Quantum Jumping. You must have changed a lot since then.
Well I made Quantum Jumping when I was 15 or 16, so it’s all my earliest stuff. So it’s been weird to process all the feelings that I had when I was so young, many years later, but it just kept getting delayed. COVID kept throwing spanners in the works, but I think it’s divine timing that it’s out now because I’m burying my adolescence as I shift into a new sound.
Did you change any of the lyrics at all to reflect who you are now?
I actually didn’t. I re-tracked some of the vocals because it’s really funny. You can hear how young I sounded. It’s a tombstone, it’s an artefact. It’s special, I guess in retrospect.
I love your aesthetic by the way [gesturing to daine’s large black contacts]. It’s mediaeval, elvin, fantasy-esque.
Thank you, yeah, I feel like I’ve always had a strong creative direction. I know people think it’s this huge evil, corporation, mastermind project, and I’m this “industry plant”…
Yeah I saw another interviewer ask you that. Rude.
It’s fucked up, its atrcoious. But at the end of the day I’m a young, disabled woman with a migrant background, that’s been given a budget from a label in Australia where the teams and everything are way smaller and I’ve done what I can with that budget. I creative direct everything I do and I handpick all of the artists and all of the directors that I want to work with to convey my story and I don’t feel like I have blood on my hands for using corporate money to do that, because I know that young disabled people deserve to exist in these spaces.
Think about it, there’s no 40-year-old executive that could create this vision. It’s such a specific aesthetic. I don’t know why people throw around the term “industry plant”. It seems so obvious that this vision and this concept is coming from a 19-year-old.
No no, you can definitely tell when someone is an “industry plant”.
Because they’re corny and they’re rich and they’re usually white and they’re usually able-bodied and neurotypical.
So how did you originally get in contact with the label?
So I dropped two songs on soundcloud in early 2019. I’d just turned 16 years-old and they were getting pretty good traction. This Youtube channel called sad chill was popping off at the time, and they added me to some editorial playlist which I’m sure some labels were keeping an eye on. Then I got an email saying “I’m from Warner Records” and I was like “this is a scam” and archived it then told my friend “someone liked my song and said they were from a label. lol. Bullshit.”
He was like: “you dumb fuck look at the email address, it’s legitimate, unarchive that right now and reply.” And I was like, “but it's been three weeks” and he said maybe that’ll work in my favour.
Playing hard to get.
Yeah, I was literally so close to none of this ever happening to me because I was so close to ignoring it.
Would you consider yourself part of that Soundcloud generation that big labels kinda…
Scoop up? I mean I would but I feel like that would be kinda fake to say because everyone else had more of a following on Soundcloud. I would say quinn and eridoa they actually did hella numbers on Soundcloud. I wanted to be part of that space and I tried it and I had songs do decent but I was never doing it consistently. But now I am because that community’s shifted and everyone’s grown a shit tonne now. I feel like I’ve curated and worked together with people from the pop world and we’ve created Nocturne. It’s just working so well.
What is Nocturne? Oh wait, it’s that online festival you created over lockdown and you had Charlie XCX on it?
Yeah, we had a bunch of people. But we created this really good community and festival. I remember someone called it goofy cause we had Hot Mulligan, which is an emo pop punk band, and Wickerface, and we had these people that were like, “This is the goofiest fucking festival,” because it seemed so different, If someone thinks our lineup is goofy and it doesn’t make sense to them initially it means that we’ve hit the right community.
I know you probably get this question a lot but what’s your relationship like with Charlie XCX?
Daine: I think we just had a really similar entry into music. We both got a deal with Atlantic when we were 16 years-old, and we were doing similar things at the same age, not sound-wise but life-wise. I think she feels like she has a lot to teach me, and I feel really thankful that no matter what I’m going through I can be like, “Charlie, you’ve been through this, what do I do?” and anything I feel doesn’t feel crazy anymore cause she’s like “Yeah, when I was 19 I was in your shoes. It’s fine, breathe’.
It's always good to have someone like that in your life, that’s been through similar things.
Exactly, ride or die.
I wanted to talk about this quote that I saw in Dazed where you said “I’m not a fucking person, I don’t want to be a person.” I’ve taken that completely out of context though.
Out of context it sounds fucked. Psychosis-core. I think I feel quite vulnerable when people perceive me and my artistry as human and I feel like there’s a lot of pressure on artists to be very available, like “hey guys, here’s my music. I’m just a normal person like you, here’s what happened in my break-up and this is what that song is about”.
I am vulnerable like that - but I’m not gonna be like that in front of a camera. I’ve always liked listening to artists that I’ve felt were otherworldly. They had this pop stardom charisma that I was like ‘holy shit’ it seems like magic. You know what I mean? You go to a big show like Lady Gaga and it’s like this angel that’s flown down from the heavens. I want people to have a world to escape to. I think with my demos I’m leaning more into that bad pop bitch energy, but the way I do it isn’t like how Lady Gaga does it, or Charlie XCX does it. They’ve got that domineering pop energy - but I lean into more of the goblin shit. The weird shit.
So you split your persona to perform from who you are as a person?
I had someone come up to my friend at one of my shows because they saw her talking to me and they were like “is she really like that? There’s no way that’s a real person, she doesn’t act like that. It’s a bullshit act.” And I was like, “Why the fuck are you at my show then?”
But it is an act, it is a mask. That’s because it’s a performance. It’s art. In real life I just walk my dog, I make matcha, I like cleaning my house. I’m a hermit. But when I’m in artist mode and when people are perceiving me as daine I put weird contacts in. I do this whole deranged cocky goblin thing. I do the villainous shit. I’m an autistic INTJ. That is the most villainous character to begin with.
It always surprises me how many artists are actually quite introverted, but I guess to make interesting art you have to be somewhat observational.
Exactly, and introspective. But then you get out there and you put on the crazy shit.
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