Lockdown, legacy and letting it all out: Meet Daisy Brain

With ‘producer project’ Daisy Brain, songwriter Will Tse uses music to talk about the things he wouldn’t normally be able to. And with latest EP Disconnected Happy, he’s hoping his message will resonate far and wide…

Lockdown, legacy and letting it all out: Meet Daisy Brain
Emma Wilkes
Dan Sullivan

Will Tse is keen to stress that he’s not sad all the time. Anyone who comes across his music might think otherwise, but while he does find snatches of joy in life, he’s not as inclined to pick up a guitar when the sun is shining. “I do have happy days,” he insists, “I just struggle to write about them. It’s so hard to write a happy song in my head, I struggle to not make it cheesy. Hence, I write sad songs.”

Listening to Daisy Brain’s newest EP, Disconnected Happy, is not meant, however, to be a completely bleak experience. In Will’s own words, it’s about finding the comedy in misery. A longtime sufferer of depression and anxiety, he knows how cathartic – essential, even – it is to be able to do such a thing, and find moments of relief from the agony, even if they seem absurd. “It’s incredibly depressing to be depressed all the time,” he says. It’s a strategy that became particularly useful to him in lockdown, where he spent a little too much time “feeling in on myself” after being furloughed from his job in a pizza joint. Looking around at the world, at the otherworldly notion that he was legally obliged to stay at home, couldn’t see anyone and could kill someone by breathing on them, it was so absurd that he understood that if he didn’t laugh at it, he’d probably cry.

Will found that tragicomic absurdity in the story he tells within Disconnected Happy’s grunge-meets-Britpop-inspired opening track Kleptomaniac, of the catharsis his friend found in stealing things – including a full-sized fridge and a kettle from a Lidl – and it may well be the only rock song that will ever exist that features lines about getting banned from Currys PC World. Really, however, these comic mishaps came from a dark place. “It distracted him from the aching pain of addiction,” Will recalls. “He wasn’t a bad person. The adrenaline rush would take his mind off what was going on in his life.”

Mental health is a major theme across Will’s music, even when he can’t put a darkly comic spin on it. The wry, breezy Digital Atlas details the weary apathy of falling into an Internet rabbit hole when you lack the energy or incentive to do anything else, while Down makes sing-alongs out of laments of loneliness, and What Would You Do? acknowledges the struggle to find the way out of the darkness when you can’t find a metaphorical light switch. It’s the only way Will knows to talk about his own mental health, as he’s often too uncomfortable to spell his mindset out in conversation. He wouldn’t even open up on social media out of fear of being accused of attention-seeking.

Even if he has difficulties talking about how he feels, he wants listeners to avoid falling into that trap. “Holding everything in is, obviously, terrible. You should talk about your feelings, whether that be going to therapy, writing a song, writing a poem, even if you don’t show anyone, talking to a fucking wall,” he says. “It feels good to talk about it, even if it’s to an inanimate object. I spent many years not doing that, and I sort of built up a big bubble of anger, and I took it out on myself to be honest.”

Despite its garagey, down-to-earth guitar band-esque sound, and although Will isn’t the only person involved in its making, Daisy Brain isn’t a band, or a pseudonym for a solo artist. Will describes it, instead, as a ‘producer project’. “Producer projects aren’t limited to anything, which is quite nice. It opens so many more doorways to new variants of music if you’re focusing on making new sounds rather than sitting in a band room every day.” He’s tried his hand at making pop and indie music, simply happy to be making any music at all, no matter how it sounded or who it would appeal to.

After lockdown, his musical focus shifted to a sound closer to those of the bands Will grew up with like Green Day, The Smashing Pumpkins and the Pixies. He works closely with producer and songwriter Dan Hvorostovsky, or Russian Dan, as he’s known, and everything on the new Daisy Brain EP was made by those two men in Will’s bedroom. “He adds a new wave of colour to the music,” Will says, detailing Russian Dan’s contributions, helping him to fine-tune and bring the depth out of his musical ideas. When it’s time to bring the songs to a live setting, they bring in a full band set-up and record live sessions rather than music videos to share with fans.

“During lockdown, I was looking on YouTube because I was obviously bored every day [because] I was furloughed, and I tried to find live sessions I could watch,” Will remembers. “I just didn’t like any of them. I decided I just wanted to do loads of live sessions [with Daisy Brain] because there’s this huge gap that nobody’s filling. We’re just doing live sessions now for now until we can afford to do a proper music video, but I just think it’s more fun.”

For reasons that don’t need much explaining, Daisy Brain wasn’t brought in front of an audience till September last year. However, they already had enough people waiting for them, with ther live debut at London’s Sebright Arms selling out within a week and a half. YUNGBLUD’s booking agent happened to make an appearance, and he liked what he saw. “It was a crazy show, to be fair, one of the first since before lockdown,” Will recalls. “I think everyone was eager to just go mental. It was so exciting.” Six months later, they were opening for YUNGBLUD at the Royal Albert Hall as part of Teenage Cancer Trust’s annual benefit concert series. Now, the Doncaster rocker is only a DM away if Will ever feels like he needs some advice.

Naturally, Will is crossing his fingers for more big things to come. And one day, he hopes to have the longevity to stay relevant for decades. “The big dream is to have friends and family come up to me and say, ‘I was at my friend’s house and their son had your poster on your wall,’ in 20 years’ time or so. I want to be relevant to people who aren’t even fucking born yet.”

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