Daisy Glaze’s self-titled debut album is one of our favourite records of the year so far.
The New York duo – Louis Epstein (HITS, Jump Into The Gospel) and Alix Brown (Angry Angles w/ Jay Reatard, Golden Triangle) – have created a moody, psych-pop-meets-drone-rock soundtrack that’s heavily in debt to the druggy, haunting cowboy country sounds of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood, as well as the film scores of Jack Nitzsche and Ennio Morricone, and the narcotic-fuelled, art-rock weirdness of The Velvet Underground. There are also surf and electro influences at play – twangy guitar and spooky organ sit alongside synths, as well as strings.
Produced by the legendary Sonic Boom (Spacemen 3, Spectrum), the record was made in Sintra, in Portugal.
In an exclusive interview, we talk to the band about working with one of their heroes, their ambition to write film soundtracks and their new disco direction.
You made the album in Portugal, with Sonic Boom (aka Pete Kember). How did that come about?
Louis Epstein: Paul, who runs the label we put it out on [The Sound of Sinners] has a good friend I know, who is pretty good friends with Pete. I sent him some of the demos and I asked him if he’d reach out to his buddy – he said, ‘Sure – Pete is actually on a Lee Hazlewood kick right now, so it might be a really good match.’
Pete said: ‘Dude, this is great – let’s do something. Do you want to come to Portugal, or do you want me to come to New York?’
We both thought it made more sense to spend a concentrated amount of time on it, without all the distractions we would have if we were recording in New York. Pete knew a great studio [BlackSheep, in Sintra] and some great musicians out there, and we got to go to Portugal to do it.
How was that?
Alix Brown: It was fun. We were in a studio with nothing else around, so we got fully immersed in it. Next door there was a place to get chicken – we ate there every day and chilled. It was nice to be out of Lisbon.
We were in Sintra, near the castle [The Palacio Nacional da Pena]. We took acid and went there! It’s where they shot that Polanski film, The Ninth Gate.
How was Sonic Boom to work with? Was he a big hero of yours? There’s a big drone-rock influence in some of your songs…
AB: Yeah – I’ve always loved him. He worked with some friends of mine and did the MGMT album, Congratulations, which I was a big fan of. I used to live in Memphis and I love Jim Dickinson – he worked with him. There was so much of a connection, He was able to understand us and get our sound – he brings like a whole vibe. He’s like a shaman.
‘We were in Sintra, near the castle. We took acid and went there! It’s where they shot that Polanski film, The Ninth Gate’
You used some local musicians to play strings on the record, didn’t you?
LE: They were from a local conservatoire. We also brought our friends Erik [Tonnesen] and Rex [Detiger] to play keys and drums. We made the record in three weeks – Sonic Boom was going to mix it there in the last week, but that didn’t happen, as time got the better of us. I did the original mixes and would send them to him – he would send back notes. During Covid [lockdown], I remixed some of the tracks to help breath new life into them.
It’s a 10-track album – just over 30 minutes – and it starts with an instrumental and is broken up by another one halfway through. The vinyl version, which is coming out later this year, will have five songs on each side. It feels like a soundtrack album – it works as a whole piece, rather than just a disparate collection of songs. Do you agree?
AB: Definitely – that’s how I look at making a record. I see it as a record – Side A and Side B – not just 10 or 12 songs. The instrumentals that start each side set the tone.
LE: It’s not a concept album, but we thought of it as if it was a soundtrack – I’m glad you picked up on that, because that’s the point.
You sound like Nancy and Lee at times – there’s a contrasting darkness and sweetness to your sound – and you also cite composers like Jack Nitzsche and Ennio Morricone as influences. I can definitely hear that in your music…
AB: Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Italian library music and lots of soundtracks.
Do you have a favourite film or soundtrack?
AB: I like Danger: Diabolik.
LE: Jack Nitzsche’s The Lonely Surfer. I really wanted to emulate the guitar sound on that.
I don’t know if I quite got it, but that was definitely the guitar sound and style that was a big influence on me.
And Nancy and Lee? You’ve been compared to them…
LE: I have no problem with that.
Ray of Light, which is the second song on the record, after the opening instrumental, Occasum, has a definite Nancy and Lee feel and a slight country vibe…
LE: That was the first song that was written when we decided to work together. We had played around with a few, but the sound wasn’t quite right – it was a little too punky.
After we did that song, I thought ‘this is the sound we’re going for.’ That’s why we put it towards the top of the album.
Strangers In The Dark has a great video, which highlights the dangers of hitchhiking at night…
LE: When we wrote that song, it was also early on – there’s not much to say about it. It kinda speaks for itself.
AB: It’s definitely a rip-off of Nancy Sinatra’s Lightning’s Girl – I used to cover that song.
Your new single, The Ghost of Elvis Presley, is one of my favourite songs on the album. It has a really cool video too…
AB: We shot it in Memphis – I used to work in the restaurant and bar we used. My friend, Karen Carrier, owns a few of the best bars there – she’s a Memphis legend and a culinary master. I had a lot of friends who came to help.
‘I wrote the opening riff for The Ghost of Elvis Presley when I was around 15 years old. The lyrics were driven by Alix wanting to capture that Memphis mystique’
That song has some great twangy guitar on it. In fact, there’s a lot of really good twangy guitar on the whole album, as well as some brilliant organ sounds…
LE: I wrote the opening riff for The Ghost of Elvis Presley when I was around 15 years old. We needed an intro for the song and I had this thing that could work, so we tweaked it to fit the song. The lyrics were driven by Alix wanting to capture that Memphis mystique, for want of a better word.
Mary Go Round is psych-pop. Did Sean Lennon co-write it?
AB: Yeah – he helped with some of the lyrics.
I like the guitar solo on it…
LE: That was my little surf guitar.
Statues of Villains has almost an electro feel, but with strings too. I think it sounds Middle Eastern…
LE: I hear it as being more Russian…
That’s very topical…
AB: It’s a Russian war song!
The last song, How The City Was Lost, has a spoken word part and reminds me of The Gift by The Velvet Underground…
Will there be another single from the album?
LE: I’d like to do another video in time for when the vinyl is released. I think we’re debating between Mary Go Round and Statues Of Villains – we’re leaning towards Mary Go Round.
‘We could do the soundtrack for a psychological thriller – in the desert, with some aliens’
Would you like to write a soundtrack?
AB: That would be the goal.
What sort of movie?
AB: A psychological thriller – in the desert, with some aliens.
Like Gram Parsons, outside of LA, hanging out with Keith Richards, looking for UFOs and taking Peyote?
AB: Yeah, but they already did a movie like that, with Johnny Knoxville.
It was called Grand Theft Parsons.
AB: It was a great idea, but… It’s a crazy story.
So, what’s next for you? Any live shows planned?
LE: We want to start playing again – hopefully in the spring – and we have a backlog of another record – well, maybe not a whole record, but a whole bunch of songs. The stuff that we have written is in the same vein, but I secretly want to do an Amanda Lear record. How do you feel about that, Alix?
AB: Let’s go disco!
LE: It would be great.
Daisy Glaze’s self-titled debut album is out now on The Sound of Sinners.