From left, Igor Haefeli, Elena Tonra and Remi Aguilella are Daughter. (Courtesy Sonny Malhotra)

Daughter’s music evolves from ‘drawer of doom’

For Daughter vocalist Elena Tonra, recording her trio’s ethereal 2013 debut “If You Leave” was a walk in the park.

That wasn’t the case for the group’s recent moody followup, “Not to Disappear.”

Shortly after the release of “Leave,” she and her longtime bandmate-beau, guitarist Igor Haefeli, unexpectedly broke up, but then made the hard decision to stay together, professionally, for the sake of their music.

“So it was weird — doing a lot of touring with us not being in maybe the best place,” she says, “But we were lucky, because there are bands that just don’t survive that.”

Tonra, who appears with the band this week in The City, got through it thanks to time and determination.

She and Haefeli first met in a songwriting class at London’s Institute of Contemporary Music Performance, and there was an immediate intellectual spark.

“I loved his brain before I loved him. I loved the way it worked,” says Tonra, who had been strumming solo pub gigs until then. “So I’m so pleased that we were able to make this record, and that’s reflected in the title. We didn’t want this record to disappear under the weight of emotional baggage.”

The tension pulses beneath the serene surface of ”Disappear” dirges such as “Numbers,” in which Tonra disaffectedly intones, “Take the worst situations/ Make a worse situation … I feel numb in this kingdom.”

It’s also in the softer Alone/With You,” in which she gently declares, “I hate living alone/ Talking to myself is boring conversation…I should get a dog or something,”

Still, Daughter has mastered the art of self-restraint, and isn’t dwelling on heartbreak: “We don’t really talk about it, because it doesn’t really matter. We’re still making music together, and it’s cool.”

Tonra says she’s well versed in handling tragedy on her own. In British high school, she was harassed so much by a bully, she came home crying almost every day.

She secretly began writing down her innermost feelings, compiling piles of them in a cabinet compartment, what she now jokingly dubs her “drawer of doom.”

Eventually, the screeds morphed into poetry, then songs as she took up guitar.

“I was shy, an introvert, and strange, and I had to really grow into this nose that I have now. I had a very adult nose for a child,” she says.

That’s where Daughter’s music germinated. “When I got home from school, if I’d had a s— day or somebody had told me how strange I am, I would write,” says the ex-ugly duckling, now an exotic swan, who adds, “But I like being strange now.”

IF YOU GO
Daughter
Where: Warfield, 982 Market St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 29
Tickets: $25 to $35
Contact: (415) 567-2060, www.axs.com
DaughterElena TonraIf You LeaveIgor HaefeliNot to DisappearPop MusicRemi Aguilella

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