Daykisser began life as a recording project three years ago.
“Sort of a vehicle for me to record music,” says Jesse Wilcox. “And it evolved into a live band format.”
The group, which includes Wilcox on vocals and rhythm guitar, Kenneth Piper on lead guitar, James Rose on bass, Peter Armstrong on piano, and Michael Todd on drums and percussion, will release its self-titled EP on September 4th.
His first band was The Door Knobs with Piper when he was 13, Wilcox says. “I think we ended when we were 18. Never signed, but we took ourselves pretty seriously for a high school band. We had a couple of albums under our belt. We played out pretty often. Almost every weekend there for four or five years. It was kind of the one music endeavor me and Kenneth had all throughout high school. So that leaves an imprint on you musically, and to experience that was an important part of our musical lives.”
Performing in a band took a back seat when Wilcox entered University of Arkansas. “I guess it wasn’t so much I quit music altogether, but I did quit music in terms of playing in bands.”
He was more into “trying to get that piece of paper.”
“Man, yeah, there were definitely several points in college when I wasn’t bonding with people musically. And it did occur to me it might not happen again.”
Piper was at University of Memphis law school. “I mostly stuck to myself,” he says. “I took lessons in college, but I never really tried to make a project. I knew I wanted to wait for Jesse to come back from Arkansas. We worked together during summers. Sometimes on Christmas break.”
After he graduated with a degree in marketing and communications in 2017, Wilcox says he “started picking up the pace” in forming “a real band.”
Wilcox, Piper, and Rose got together and did some recording. “And it was almost like a reconnection, if you will,” Rose says. “Jesse had written a lot of the songs beforehand. So, we ended up growing and changing when he brought everybody in to a full band setting. It did start as a recording project, but then we all started jumping in, putting in different parts and things individually. It started to turn into something we could take to a venue and do live.”
They began adding people to the band, which they named Porch Pigs, Wilcox says. “My parents would refer to their cats as ‘porch pigs.’ They’d be outdoor cats and always hang out on my parents’ porch begging for food. That name always stuck in my head for some reason. But Daykisser seemed a better representation of our music. We started taking things more seriously as far as music and writing. I felt a better name was in order for that.”
As for the meaning of Daykisser, Wilcox says, “I’m not sure if it’s a specific image or concept, but I do think it evokes a happy or warm feeling.”
Todd was the next member added to the band. “I also play with Louise Page,” he says. “And we had a couple of shows that I remember Jesse coming to and introducing himself. He approached me with basically an offer to come audition and try out and see if I liked it. See if it was a good fit.”
Todd learned a couple of their songs. “Honestly, a lot of the songs were super catchy. They grooved and they kind of had this rock element I didn’t really feel like I got to play in other places. I grew up listening to a lot of classic rock and Led Zeppelin. Kenneth and I kind of bonded over that immediately. We jam out a little too much at rehearsal.”
Wilcox approached Armstrong after a show. “It was kind of the same thing,” Armstrong says. “I was playing with Big Red and the Cuties in April 2019 at The Green Room. And after we finished, Jesse came up. He’s like, ‘Yeah, man, we should totally jam some time.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, cool. I’m really trying to load out this really heavy piano right now. I’ll talk to you later.’”
That’s usually as far as those conversations go at shows, Armstrong says. But when Wilcox later called him, Armstrong thought, “This dude is actually following up. Let’s see where it goes.”
Armstrong liked their music. “I hadn’t really played this style of music live. I was in The Summers. I was playing pop-punk easy core music. ”
They released an album titled Selfhood, Wilcox says. “I knew I wanted a one-word title and for me to represent the personal subject matter on the record,” he says. “Selfhood popped into my head one day, and I knew right away it would be the title.”
“The Good Life,” one of the songs, is “a pretty deep one,” Wilcox says. “I guess the short version is, it’s a song about realizing and recognizing you found something wrong in a relationship and kind of coming out in the open and trying to move past it. Almost a reminder to yourself that you messed up and need to own up to it.”
“Dishes in the Sink” is the song that “drew the most attention,” Wilcox says.
“I didn’t write it,” Armstrong says. “I just listened to it a lot. I think it’s about being super messed up at a party.”
“It’s a song about you burning your midnight oil and having a good old time with your friends and trying to find your way home in the end,” Wilcox says.
His songs then began evolving, Wilcox says. “They’ve become more heavy-handed. Louder. More rock driven. I’ve always written pretty delicate songs.”
His songs usually end up as collaborations. “I usually will write the songs — just the melodies, lyrics, and arrangements — and I bring it to the guys and they’ll help me refine them and make them final.”
Other band members contribute songs. Armstrong wrote a song they might put out in a few months. “We call it ‘The Bar Song,’” Armstrong says. “About being drunk at a bar.”
Last March, they began recording their EP at Young Avenue Sound. They originally planned to release it in May. “We were all cautious when we were in the studio,” Wilcox says. “Literally, the next week everything was shut down. We had one six-hour recording session in the studio before everything hit the fan.”
They recorded drums and bass for all four songs at that one session. “We got acoustic as well,” Wilcox says. “The pandemic started. That obviously hit its stride in Memphis. We started recording everything in our homes. I had to learn music recording software since we had to record everything on our own. Calvin Lauber coached me and helped me home-engineer the songs. It definitely was a challenge.”
“I really only did about three sessions in Jesse’s bedroom just plugged into his computer,” Piper says. “We knocked it out very quickly.”
There was “a lot of back and forth” on the computer, Armstrong says.
As for the selections on the EP, Wilcox says, “A lot of the songs were kind of hard to pinpoint. There wasn’t any kind of universal theme about them. They were written at different points in time. They’re about different things, but they’re all love songs.”
“All You Needed” is about “wanting to be there for someone but not being able due to the person not opening up and letting you in,” Wilcox says. “It’s less of a complaint and more of an objective realization that it’s out of your hands.
“It was a catharsis for me having this body of work that represents that period of time. A lot has happened personally since then. Maybe not as far as subject matter, but a dramatic part of my life. Just relationships and growing as a person through work and personal changes.”
As for future Daykisser plans, Armstrong would love for the band to play shows. But, he says, “I don’t think any of us are going to try to rush into anything uncomfortable. Let’s do this kind of thing. We have the EP coming out. Let’s promote it. We’ll work on songs.”
And maybe a virtual show. “We would like to see what we can do in December. Give everybody a little Christmas gift.”
To hear the Daykisser EP, click here: