Who’s Your Daddy? (Please, Tell Us)

DaddyThey recently came out with a psychedelic EP that got rave reviews all around (check out their latest video at the end of the post!); they’re buddies from way back when who make a killer duo; they’re nuts (for the arts) — and we got to meet up with them to chat.


The band consists of actor/poet James Franco and composer/producer Tim O’Keefe and is all about exploration and expression between the arts — visual, performative and musical. Whatever comes out is what you get (and what you get is up to you…). If you’re into crossing boundaries and mediums, you’re going to love Daddy.

Here’s the interview we had with them, Orchard-style:

Why the name Daddy? (Seriously guys, do you know how hard it is to Google you!?)

James Franco: It was a name that Tim and I came up in Providence with walking home from print class. We would have conversations about New Order and Joy Division and The Smiths and we were also looking for a name for our band. There were other incarnations; I think we thought about Dad. I’m not sure how we got on the father track. Maybe partly because my father had died while I was in Detroit, which was where we did our first recordings. Daddy is also a little sleazy. It is paternal and at the same time creepy. I think it’s a way to foreground that we’re wearing masks in this band, that the music and the band are performance oriented. We’re an art school band. So it’s helpful to have a name that highlights our assumptions of personas. It’s also cool that it is singular but there are two of us, it fuses us into a single entity.

Tim O’Keefe: Coming up with a band name is sometimes more difficult than coming up with the songs. I think it originally came from me trying to combine our last names into a name for the bank by connecting the O’s, but then I realized that that was my Dad’s name. James found that amusing and he said “how about Dad?” It naturally developed to Daddy.

What have you learned about yourselves and your audience by widening the scope of Daddy beyond music to film, installations and performance?

JF: I think people respond well to the whole package. It’s clear that we’re not trying to make the next big Pop song, or sell a million records. That the band and the different kinds of our output are explorations into different kinds of expression and performance. I like having this outlet because it feels more direct than narrative film or writing. It contains all of these forms but what is primary, as opposed to the narrative in commercial film, is the musical aspect, so we can make work that is more abstract than I make in my day job.

TO: Working the way James and I work on Daddy has influenced me to not strictly limit my concepts for music projects within the sonic realm, but to think of a larger concept, and not in a forced way, but in a very liberating natural progression way. What other mediums can serve this concept, and/or express it in a different way? Music and sound have always been very visual for me, so creating visual components that are part of the overall work has been something I’ve wanted to move into for a long time.

Can you give us a peek into your various production processes? Are you penning tunes and hiring engineers or is it much more DIY than that?

JF: So far we have had a back and forth process. I write the lyrics and Tim writes the music, but he will write rough music that will inspire lyrics and then once he has the lyrics the music will develop more and so on. But so far it has been very DIY.

TO: It’s DIY. James and I bring together our various skills and interests followed by some brainstorming, and then we create. James’s obvious film, writing, and art background in addition to his love of music informs Daddy’s stylistic directions, lyrics, videos, band artwork, and installation concepts. My music composer, production, and vocalist background allows me to take these ideas and material into the studio and start putting the pieces together, which is then followed by a back and forth between James and I. I think we both come to Daddy with our expertise in particular areas of Daddy’s work, but we’re also both very open and encourage one another’s ideas and influences on all aspects of Daddy.

James, with a masters degree in poetry it’s safe to say you’re not just messing around with this. What are your expectations for the project and do you struggle at all having found so much success in one area of your artistic life when you’re clearly passionate about more than acting?

JF: I have no expectations other than making work that we’re interested in and proud of. I don’t make my living off of music or writing so I am free to make music in whatever way Tim and I want. Meaning this is a form of expression that I take very seriously, but not seriously in the way that I need to be the best. It is more of an opportunity to mine an alternative disciple for its modes of expression that fit Tim and me best.

Is the Motown sound your mainstay or can we look forward to you appropriating other genres in the future? 

JF: I think there will be elements of what we did on the Motown EP in all our work, in both subject matter and sonic approaches. But we also plan to explore other genres of music.

TO: We plan to explore and appropriate a lot of different genres. Motown was our first exploration together.

What does the ultimate Daddy-live experience look like and will it be coming to a city near us anytime soon?

JF: Not sure. I’ll need some guidance from Tim on this one.

TO: We’ve discussed different ideas with this. I think a Daddy-live experience would be connected to a Daddy installation. We’ll keep you posted…

What questions do you typically ask yourselves about the album or the group? 

JF: What sounds do we like? How are we going to bring a group of songs and videos together to achieve a coherent concept?

TO: James and I usually discuss particular bands, sounds, and time periods, and then focus in on one. Once we decide, I usually watch a fair amount of documentaries on bands from the time/sound, and listen to albums over and over studying the elements. James and I exchange music too.

Here are some quick-fire questions for you: 

first concert:
JF: Soundgarden in Berkeley. I was in High School.
TO: New Order, PIL, & Sugarcubes, I was also in High School.

secret album you own:
TO: Wham, Make It Big

earliest memory involving music (or art):
JF: My parents were painters; I can recall their canvasses strewn across the driveway.
TO: I was always doodling when I was a kid, so that’s one memory, and in regards to music, I think some of my first memories of music have to do with being really young on a family vacation and hearing music on the radio or 8track player with the wind coming in through an open car window.

apps you can’t live without (online or mobile):
JF: Dictionary. Spotify. Huffington Post. 8mm vintage camera.
TO: NPR Stream, CSPAN Radio, AudioRecording App, Notepad, and the iPhone flashlight so I can find things in the dark.

pet peeve:
JF: I can’t leave the house without a book. I hate when people don’t wash their hands.
TO: Wealthy college kids who think they’re where they are because of their own merits, especially the ones who don’t wash their hands. :)

Alright…. Noted. If you’re going to meet Daddy and want to make a good impression: make sure your hands are clean. And hand sanitizer doesn’t count, guys.

Get your copy of MotorCity now and make sure to check out Daddy’s video premiere of “Can’t Say Goodbye” on MTV and below. You might want to get some tissues handy though, this one’s a moving one:

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