Daine: future emo phenom fighting for her fiery artistic vision

Daine’s debut mixtape ‘Quantum Jumping’ is the work of a teenage underdog-turned-rockstar. The Filipino-Australian emo visionary talks to NME about vulnerability and anger

It may be odd for an 19-year-old artist with no debut album to be looking back to her past – but Daine isn’t most artists.

Since 2020, the Filipino-Australian, Warner-signed Daine has been making waves in the fuzzy online space between modern emo and hyperpop. She calls Charli XCX her mentor and has collaborated with Danny L. Harle and Bring Me The Horizon’s Oli Sykes. On social media, Daine projects an offbeat mix of emo glamour, tongue-in-cheek irony, and popstar mystique. Onstage, she’s genuinely intimidating, contorting herself like Sadako from The Ring.

Over Zoom, draped in a Title Fight band hoodie, she’s bright and excitable, but easily slips into the deeper emotional register buried just beneath her surface. Daine’s 2021 singles had a deconstructed, metallic bent, but on her debut mixtape ‘Quantum Jumping’, she leaps back in time to revisit songs she first wrote when she was 15 and 16.

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Daine’s described ‘Quantum Jumping’ as a “tombstone for [her] adolescence”. It rings true – she’s never worn her heart more on her sleeve. ‘Cemetery Dreams’, the opening track and first single, feels both innocent and world-weary. Over shimmering guitars, Daine croons, “Let my ego unwrap and my soul expand / I won’t bleed for you anymore”. She casts her mind back: “I had my first proper break-up at the time. I was real angsty.” Yet there’s no anger in her lyrics – she sings softly, with nothing but compassion for her younger self.

‘Weekends’ is even more vivid. It conjures a powerful sense memory of teenage life in a dull reality, of being an autistic teenager ostracised by her neurotypical peers. Daine recalls, “I was at the start of year 11. I absolutely hated school, and it was the first time that my chronic illness had gotten really bad. I had a lot of time to myself, and I was really angry. And I wished that there was a way to completely turn my reality around and jump to a parallel universe.

“I sat in my room, wrote a bunch of songs, and I was like – this is going to transport me. This will get me out of this cycle of school and not being able to cope with my chronic illness. I’m going to find a way to support myself, and not be in an environment where there’s continual ableism and exclusion.”

“I’ve been hurled into so much chaos that I was kind of euphoric”

Daine sings about this mission on ‘Glitter’. Over a clean guitar line that evokes blink-182’s ‘Adam’s Song’, she finds that spark, that fire inside: “I saw a new vision emerge from my desires… / A glittering mosaic of loving eyes / I could try to rearrange the blueprint of my life / Build a road much less travelled”.

And on the swaggering ‘IDC’, Daine celebrates her triumphs, flipping her underdog vulnerability into a total rockstar persona. “I remember when they called me ugly / Now I’m sitting front row at the runway / Wilhelmina models steady tryna fuck me”, she spits, matched by producer Lonelyspeck’s cavernous, “slutty” (Daine’s term) 808 bass.

In the ‘IDC’ video directed by Ribal Hosn, Daine’s younger self (who she hilariously calls an “angry little incel – I really was!”) watches her “hot as fuck” future self on the silver screen, riding a motorcycle Akira-style. In ‘Quantum Jumping’, she’s both personas at once. But who is Daine now in real life?

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“I think all of my songs have manifested into reality somehow!” she says. “Everything’s made up in most of my songs, but especially when I’m rehearsing, I’m like: these lyrics apply to my life now. They didn’t three years ago, when I wrote them. It trips me out.”

She continues, “I’m completely different. My life is completely different. I was so unhappy and underconfident, and my life was definitely much more of a struggle back then. But now I’ve got an incredible team around me, I’ve got incredible friends. My label literally let me do whatever I want creatively.”

‘Quantum Jumping’ features just one completely new composition, the wistful ballad ‘Comes and Goes’. It slots in so effortlessly with the older material that it’s hard to tell the difference, which feels appropriate for the message of the project: time is fluid; growing up is not a straight line.

The mixtape “still very much sounds like 15, 16-year-old Daine. So for me, it’s pretty cringeworthy to listen to,” she admits. “I’ve been wanting to get it out of the way for the past two and a half years.” Releasing ‘Quantum Jumping’ is also Daine’s way of honouring her younger self, her hopes and struggles, and anyone else who may still be going through it.

Much of ‘Quantum Jumping’ feels like music that should have existed during the MySpace era, a suggestion that brings Daine to tears of joy: “The fact that this has been said to me twice makes me so emotional. That means I’ve done something. I love that!” Alongside the mixtape’s main producer Circle Pitt, she fuses genres in a way that could have happened 15 years ago, had someone thought to take the painfully honest words and clean guitars of Midwest emo and filter them through Southern hip-hop’s chopped-and-screwed production.

“There’s definitely a fire and anger in my music that I’ve carried from my mum and grandma’s generational trauma”

Of course, genre boundaries were more rigid back then. Emo musicians and fans were known to not just gatekeep musical styles, but demean – or even prey on – the young women themselves who were such a big portion of the scene’s fanbase.

‘Quantum Jumping’ feels like a rejoinder to that lopsided dynamic – like it’s correcting the historical record with a vision of emo that should have existed all along. Daine navigated much of her adolescence alone, immersed in the sense of comforting alienation that emo offered. Now, she’s found the catharsis within it – and within herself. She’s unmasked, triumphant, and feeling a fire in her belly.

“There’s definitely a fire and anger in my music that I’ve carried from my mum and grandma’s generational trauma,” she says. “My Filipino heritage is one that had to fight to exist – through Spanish colonisation, American occupation, the Manila massacre, and then my mum migrating to a very racist white Australia in the ’70s. The maternal figures in my life are definitely fucking crazy, scary, warrior-style shit. That’s just who I am. I’m very much a fighter. I’m not, like, chill!”

daine
Daine. Credit: Press

When NME speaks to Daine, she’s coming off a whirlwind six weeks that started with a Los Angeles trip backed by her international label Atlantic Records. After spending “the entirety of my career in my bedroom and in lockdown”, she was thrilled to be bouncing between “sessions, parties, events, gigs”. But upon her return to Melbourne, she was briefly hospitalised with COVID – which was especially worrying for someone who lives with chronic illnesses.

But Daine came away with a very different conclusion: “I’ve been hurled into so much chaos that I was kind of euphoric. I was laying in the hospital in Adelaide with COVID, in the most pain I’ve ever felt in my entire life. And I was like, I can do anything! If I can do this and still be thinking about music, and believing in it, then I can handle whatever the next few years have to throw at me.”

Daine has decades ahead of her, but she knows exactly where the path on the horizon leads: to “future emo”, the kind of music she’s writing with fellow Aussie musicians Hearteyes and Lonelyspeck. “It’s just crazy pop music that feels angry,” she says. “I don’t know how I did it, but I’ve made really slutty, feminine, Terror Jr-esque pop music that sounds like Deftones. I think the world’s gonna lose their minds.”

Daine’s ‘Quantum Jumping’ is out now via Warner Australia and Atlantic (US and UK)

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