wild daughter are a celebration of the light and the dark

Ahead of their performance at London's Sketch tonight, we throwback to i-D's The New Issue, when James Jeanette and Stuart Mckenzie sat down with Princess Julia to discuss their extravagant musical collaboration, Wild Daughter.

by Princess Julia
15 July 2016, 1:04am

They take to the stage, one walks on in front of the other. James is wearing a jock strap, a guitar to cover his modesty, thigh-high boots and not much else. His short dark heavily fringed hair flops forward as he tunes up. A microphone stands to the right of the audience. Stuart is wearing a suit, high heels, his long auburn centre-parted hair falls down his back as he bends down to adjust the beat-making machinery he has laid out in front of him. He quickly creates a series of rhythmical sounds he is pleased with and James follows with a rumbling bass line. Stuart slings his lead guitar over his shoulder and begins to play an intermittent jangling top riff. The stage is dark except for a couple of neutral spotlights and a projection of imagery to the far left. James struts across the stage to face the mic and melds his voice into a song, he sings about the things he knows about, his experiences, his ups and downs. As the song ends he turns his back, leaving his pert buttocks on full display. We applaud. The film projection continues to flicker as he walks over and stands in front of the screen, his angular silhouette casting an outline across the moving imagery. Once again we ready ourselves in anticipation, unsure what is going to happen next. Stuart then taps into a new spine of beats and approaches the microphone. Hair flying across his face, he looks up and toward us and begins to sing. The song is heart-rending, honest, it cuts through the air and into our minds as we listen and watch. One song links into the other, raw, beautiful, meaningful. A story unfolds...

"Wild Daughter are a celebration of the light and the dark." James Main and Stuart Mckenzie are two self-taught musicians who amalgamated their talents in the summer of 2013 and cemented a musical rapport. Stuart has had a long-term love for sound-making gadgetry, "I've always done it since I was a kid, I used to cut cassettes up, make little loops and Sellotape them together." And James had always wanted to learn bass guitar: "He's got very good hands to play bass," Stuart notes. Between them they share vocal duties, so James also sings, who knew? "Well I didn't know I could sing," he laughs, "my mum always said I was tone deaf like a cats' choir!" It seems Wild Daughter have formed at the right time and place.

It's like chucking mud at the wall and seeing what sticks. It's collaborative, you need another person to work against. What happens is somehow something that just kind of clicks, nothing's too pre meditated.

When I heard they were playing, a mere few months ago, I had to hotfoot it to their debut gig at Dalston club Vogue Fabrics, and since then they have performed at Giles Deacon's autumn/winter 14 fashion show and are being talked about with great enthusiasm in certain circles. After all, James "Jeanette" Main is something of a style icon round our parts. In Wild Daughter he wears next to nothing, a G-string and boots, and his bass guitar becomes the main feature as his languid form struts across the stage. Stuart on the other hand prefers a more dressed look but he too likes a pair of heels on occasion. "People seem to be intrigued or stunned by James," Stuart tells me. "At the first gig we didn't really think about it, at that moment I just didn't want to wear much," James explains. They have their own individual styles that complement each other and both have hidden pasts in the creative sphere. With such strong ideas of what music they want to make they draw on their experiences of the vivid lives they've led. "People say it's quite dark... is it?" James questions bemusedly, "but I think it's quite light actually… We're not too literal about what our thing is, it's just a mood." Stuart adds, "I think there's a muscularity to our music." James chips in, "Perhaps we're reading too much into it, it is what it is... a celebration. We're saying, 'It's all right.'"

Currently in the studio recording, they are releasing tracks when they feel ready, otherwise "it's like putting out a cake before it's fully baked." I sense Stuart and James wouldn't put anything out of the question if the right person came along. The pair are open-minded souls with an experimental attitude. "It's like chucking mud at the wall and seeing what sticks," Stuart says, describing Wild Daughter's music-making process. "It's collaborative, you need another person to work against. What happens is somehow something that just kind of clicks, nothing's too pre meditated." He goes on to say that as a poet his verse sometimes ends up in the songs they're writing, "I bring it into the music to some degree, all these strands of creativity are coming together like never before… But it's not just me writing stuff, we get together and I'll play a riff or James plays a riff and something just happens."

Wild Daughter are excited by the challenges they have set before them, "We just love the fact if you put your minds together there's so much potential in front of you, two people coming together over a love of music... It's major!" 


Text Princess Julia
Photography Brett Lloyd 
Styling Bojana Kozarevic
Hair Teiji Utsumi
Make-up Nami Yoshida
Stuart wears jacket Alexander McQueen at Selfridges. Top and trousers Alexander McQueen. Ballet pumps Capezio. James wears hat, chains, jockstrap, Gloves and armband Expectations soho. Fishnets and boots James' own. 

Brett Lloyd
music interviews
the new issue
james jeanette
stuart mckenzie
wild daughter