Introducing Daughter: The new darling of UK indie

By Andrew Little

Daughter are beginning to create waves in the UK indie scene with their simple yet enchanting brand of indie-pop.

The London-based duo, fronted by the beautiful and charming 21-year-old, Elena Tonra, accompanied by guitarist Igor Haefeli, possess a rich and poetic nature to their music, akin to that of artists such as Regina Spektor or Belle & Sebastian.

The pair, who met at music college a year ago, spent much of October on the road in support of indie singer-songwriter Benjamin Francis Leftwich on his UK tour, including a show at Manchester’s Ruby Lounge.

Elena described touring with Leftwich as ‘an amazing month.’

“It was great. Ben’s such a lovely guy,” said Elena. “We got to see the country and play in so many places to so many people.”

Next month they are set to embark upon their first UK headlining tour, including a Manchester date at Deaf Institute.

“I really liked Manchester,” she said. “I’m really excited about coming back. We had such a great time. I want to have another great night. Though I did end up in a slightly dodgy club last time.

“It’s hard to fully appreciate a place if you’re only there for one day, but it seemed like a very exciting city to live in. And there are some amazing vintage shops.”

I was at the Ruby Lounge when they played and their set was stunning. The whole audience, which had until then been pulsing with the steady hum of tipsy anticipation, fell into a silent rhapsody as soon as she started singing. Even the young couple beside me, who previously couldn’t detach themselves from each other’s extremities, stood frozen to attention, while the pints of Red Stripe, which had been flowing freely, were left to go flat by their transfixed owners.

The band received a rapturous ovation from the audience and were even beseeched for an encore, to which Elena had to meekly admit that they didn’t actually have any more songs to play.

When talking about that reaction from the crowd Elena said: “It was unexpected! That was such a great gig, the audience were so lovely and the whole atmosphere was great. One of my best friends came that night so I was wondering if she’d paid people to clap.”

I assure her she did no such thing.

At first glance you could be forgiven for thinking that Elena, with her neat bob, timid smile and vintage dress sense, would perhaps be most suited to running some charming second-hand book shop in a trendy part of London, maybe holding an evening cookery class from her hip, eclectically decorated bedsit (no condescension meant whatsoever). The point I’m trying to make is that you certainly wouldn’t imagine her to be most at home when stood on stage singing in front of hundreds of unforgiving and uncouth Mancs.

Elena, who cites Jeff Buckley, Sigur Ros and Bon Iver as her inspirations, isn’t an artist who had a burning desire to be a superstar musician from a young age.

“It all happened a bit accidentally,” she said. “I started playing my brothers guitar, and just really enjoyed writing.”

Having grown up listening to the likes of David Bowie, Bob Dylan and Neil Young, Elena wrote her first song when she was 14.

“It was about falling from a really high building. I have no idea why I wrote it,” she said.

“I am quite embarrassed by them (her old songs). It’s like looking at an old school photo of yourself. But without those songs existing I wouldn’t have written what I have today or I possibly wouldn’t even be performing now.

“But I would never sing them anymore. They just don’t make sense to me now like they did when I was younger.”

Elena has developed a wonderful depth and texture to her song writing which gives the tracks on her debut EP ‘His Young Heart’ a poetic quality. For instance the song ‘Landfill’ features the verse:

“So leave me in the cold.
Wait until the snow covers me up,
So I cannot move,
So I’m just embedded in the frost.
Then leave me in the rain.
Wait until my clothes cling to my frame,
Wipe away your tear stains,
Thought you said you didn’t feel pain.”


When I asked what the song was about, expecting the answer to be along the lines of ‘a tragic romance’ or ‘an emotional break up,’ Elena instead replied – with a smile: “It’s a list of ways to die.”

I can’t quite tell whether this is Elena being deliberately subversive or whether there is yet another layer to her songs which I haven’t managed to delve into.

While song writing obviously comes naturally to Elena, getting up on stage does not come so easily.

“Performing took a bit longer to get used to as I’ve always been a shy person,” she said.

This shyness is as apparent as it is endearing. Elena spoke of being ‘petrified’ when she performed to 800 people at Union Chapel in London, and even in the relatively intimate venue of the Ruby Lounge, Elena quivered on entrance: “Wow there are a lot of you.”

Finally, I asked how she came about the name Daughter.

“It was the first name that came into my head really,” she said. “I knew I wanted to change from using my own name, and Daughter is pretty relevant to me. My family have always been very important in my life. I have a large extended family.”

Daughter are playing at Deaf Institute on Thursday 8 December. Tickets are available for £6.50 plus booking fee.

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