Sisters, Meg and Dia have come a long way in the music industry, both performing together in Utah where they both grew up and not long after Dia went on the voice becoming a finalist. I catch up with Meg and talk all things music from making it to their brand new album ‘happysad’, equal rights for women in music from underrepresented backgrounds and much, much more!
What got you into music?
My dad got me into music. He used to play a lot of Queen, The Beatles, and The Beach Boys while we were growing up. Because we have a large family, we used to drive around in this 15 passenger van. He would blast music. He sang harmonies to whatever the lead singer would be singing, and that’s how I picked up being able to sing background vocals to a lead singer. I would sit in the back of the van, stare out the window at the passing telephone poles, and play air guitar, as I imagined myself playing the solo to Bohemian Rhapsody.
Who would you say inspires you, musically?
Derek Trucks of the Tedeschi Trucks Band. He inspires me because, although he’s a virtuoso guitar player, and he could be shredding non-stop, he’s so tasteful, and his licks and solos seem to take on an almost conversational tone. His licks sound like a group of people who love each other exchanging ideas over a casserole on a hot summer’s day. He is such an incredible guitar player and yet he seems so humble and down to earth.
How would you describe what your new music is about, what’s the story behind happysad?
I think that sometimes, as a society, there is pressure to be happy all the time, and to pretend that everything is fine even when a person is going through a difficult time. There can be shame or guilt during these periods in life, and for this reason people don’t feel comfortable asking for help or showing any signs of weakness. Of course, this situation can go the other way, where we are constantly complaining or feeling victimized, and feel guilty about feeling pleasure or enjoying ourselves.
Happysad, to me, means enjoying the whole spectrum of human emotions without getting lost too far in either the pressure of needing to feel totally happy all the time or losing yourself in darkness. During certain chapters, there is a mixture of happiness and sadness, and that balance of both might just be the medicine we need in order to evolve.
What’s your songwriting process like as a band? To add to this what song on the record was the most fulfilling to write and that sends you back to a certain moment?
The writing process for this album was very collaborative. Dia and I learned to trust each other as well as the producer, to let our guard down a bit, and welcome all creative ideas. During the making of previous albums, Dia and I wrote most of the tracks separately and didn’t involve other songwriters, and the producers acted more like engineers.
But, that is why I think this record is so great, because everyone brings their own unique flavor to each song, and the combined effect was really great. Dia’s forte is lyrics. I wrote a lot of vocal melodies and weird instrumental riffs, and the producer focused on chord progressions and beats and rhythm.
You learn a lot in the studio this way. It pushes you, creatively, to bring other artists’ into the fold. I kept thinking a lot of the time, “Wow, I would have never done it that way, but now that we recorded that bit, how about this…?”
“American Spirit” was the most fulfilling for me to write. I had just returned from one of the most intense spiritual quests that I’ve embarked on, involving a stint in the Peruvian jungle with Ayahuasca, closely followed by three weeks of silence and meditation out in the woods. It seems like a bit more of a “spiritual circus” in hindsight, but at the time, I was earnestly seeking to find answers to the ultimate existential questions: “What am I doing here?” and “how can I find more peace in my life?” And I think Dia was also doing her own seeking through reading self-help books and eating sweet treats. Basically, we both had our own way to find answers, and in sort of a tongue in cheek way, we wrote the lyrics of “American Spirit”.
Was there any reason behind the split of the band anything that you regret to have said or done that’s become somewhat of a valuable lesson you have learned?
When we split up, we had been a band for several years at that point and found a fair amount of success. Slowly, over time, we stopped being thankful for how awesome it was to make a living playing music. We started taking our careers for granted and unfortunately stopped being kind and respectful of each other. In short, we were over it. Touring got hard. We were tired of the grind, and a group of ungrateful, grumpy twenty-somethings.
I regret the way I treated Dia after her ride on The Voice. I reacted with jealousy and fear instead of support. At the time, I directly associated fame and money with self-worth and competed with Dia to try and prove that I was somebody. And it was hard for me to be happy for her when my thoughts were “What about me? I’m getting left behind. I have nothing.”
And yes, I’ve learned a lot from that experience. I’ve learned to always treat others, especially those I work with, with kindness and respect. I’ve learned that your self-worth is absolutely not connected to the amount of money you have or fame. And I’ve learned that some of the most pleasurable and beautiful experiences in life are the ones you share with others you love and in order to feel that and experience that, you need to be open and honest, as well as happy for others’ success.
What would you say keeps you sane? What’s one thing or something you do to give yourself some self-care?
Alone time keeps me sane. I’ve really learned that in order to show up in social environments as my best self, I need to regularly recharge in a space on my own. I spent the past two months staying at Dia’s place as we’ve prepared for the release of “happysad”, and I came back from a mini-retreat, which was an airbnb down the street from her house, to give both of us some space to recharge.
Sometimes, I just need some silence, and I need to be in an environment where I’m not expected to say anything or do anything, where I can just chill and relax and exist. Today, as I was laying down on my back, I heard my inner voice say, “Nothing to do. Nowhere to be”, and I sank into a delicious nap, and I can’t imagine a better way to take care of myself.
Asian-Americans and other ethnic minorities are very much underrepresented throughout the music industry, what do you think should be done about this to help women feel and be more appreciated?
Well, I think a cultural shift needs to happen. And I think the change has already begun. More of us Asian Americans need to begin to see ourselves differently and realize we have strength and power that have been under-utilized for generations. And once we see ourselves differently, then we can start to find the courage we need to go out and do things, make art, or whatever our creative talents happen to be.
The more we see women and Asian Americans represented in the media, the more we will believe that it’s normal for Asian Americans to take the lead role or it’s normal for women to be part of a storyline to be something besides a cookie-cutter romance.
Are you doing anything in the future we should be looking forward to?
We are doing a U.S. headlining tour in the middle of September! We will be playing mostly songs from our new album, “happysad”. We also will be releasing our first ever Christmas album in mid-November. Also, check out our most recent music video, that should be available by the time this article comes out. It will be on youtube for the first track of the record called “American Spirit”. The making of this video was very challenging for me. I needed to quickly learn how to act and there are some intense moments. I’m not going to give you any spoilers, but it does have to do with Dia and I escaping a killer robot…
The album ‘happysad’ is out now on Pure Noise Records!
INTERVIEW BY ROJAN SAID