“I am in my own lane. I do not care. I do not care. I’m in my own lane,” is what daine tells herself in the mirror every morning: a deflective charm against the perils of giving a fuck. This morning, you’d be forgiven for believing the reflection daine casts is that of a typical 18-year-old: her smile betrays a flash of braces, and her long hair is washed out to a soft, dusky shade of rose after she’d dyed it bubblegum pink. Except, of course, it was a little more than a teenage experiment – but then daine is a little more than just a teenager. Try: protegee of Charli XCX. Better still: daine is an otherworldly emo pop star whose fairy-dusted melodies tempt pop music into a gothic, online netherworld.
daine’s latest single, ‘boys wanna txt’ is a little different to the emo-indebted precedent she’s set so far. The track is a glitchy hyperpop confection co-produced by none other than 100 gecs’ Dylan Brady, with a guttural, ripped-at-the-edges verse from the scene’s poster boy, ericdoa – almost a who’s who of the scene. Rolling her bored, listless eyes upward instead of batting them at the camera, we see messages whooshing behind her; she lays in bed scrolling through them until she’s suspended in a universe of her own creation. Everything we see is through the prism of a screen, a slightly different dimension – even ericdoa dials in his verse over FaceTime. It’s the hyperpop aesthetic taken to its own extreme.
But let’s get one thing straight: daine isn’t a hyperpop artist. “I think I was leaning into a moment in music,” she explains. “I feel like hyperpop is just a moment, like emo-rap was a moment for a little while. It’s another one of those things.” While it perfectly captures the pop zeitgeist, she’d written the track over a year ago before crafting it to fit Dylan Brady’s beat, which her friend and member of the producer collective KEYWORLD, Ryan Jacob, had collaborated on with him. They had a group chat going for a little while, actually. “It was mostly just me and Ryan sending photos of our dogs, and then Dylan occasionally sending an updated version every day or so. He’s like, a god – he just works so quickly. I think the only thing I said in that chat was ‘oml’ and then Dylan had to text Ryan like, ‘What does “oml” mean?’”
‘Hyperpop’ itself has become a dirty word. It’s an umbrella term that melts anything experimental that happens to be online into the same sludge without acknowledging their nuances. “I think it makes me cringe a little bit — it makes everybody cringe,” says daine. “I feel like everyone’s like, ‘Oh, I hate hyperpop. I’m not hyperpop because it doesn’t really have a definition’ — but I feel like I was definitely part of the SoundCloud community. When emo-rap fizzled out, all the SoundCloud kids went towards this more intense sound. I think they are the same scene, but it had just evolved. I’d say, more than anything, I’m in the realm of internet kids.”
But hyperpop remains a closely guarded territory — not by the artists of the scene, but by the fans themselves. “I think there’s a lot of gatekeeping,” daine admits. It’s a feeling echoed by glaive, one of the scene’s essential artists (who also happens to only be in eleventh grade). “But they’re not gatekeeping my music — they’re gatekeeping to keep me out of it,” she says. “Everyone’s like, ‘Oh, you’re an industry plant! You don’t belong in this!’, saying my music sucks. Stuff like, ‘You’re the least original one here. All of this is fabricated. You’re not actually a part of the community that you make yourself out to be in!’ — which is hurtful. I’ve been doing this SoundCloud shit since I was fifteen, and while it has been slow, it’s not like I faked anything. But it would be cool if people were trying to gatekeep my music though! That’d be funny — that’s how I’d know people care.”
Trying to carve a space of her own, having to repeatedly insist on her integrity as an artist, has been taxing for daine. While her image graced the cover of Spotify’s hyperpop playlist, which is prime real estate for anyone in the scene with its 200,000 followers, down in the trenches of Reddit, daine’s presence has been met with resistance, from fans of Swedish SoundCloud rap collectives Sad Boys and Drain Gang whose members boast the likes of Yung Lean, Bladee and Ecco2k. Much of the discussion was about how the playlist is homogenised and reductive to artists who get lumped in with the genre for making anything remotely experimental. But some took shots at daine herself.
The kickback is something she finds not only embarrassing – but ironic. “There’s a huge misogynistic and sort of elitist attitude around Drain Gang fanbase”, she says, quick to point out that this is a culture very separate from the artists themselves. “They’re so mad that I’m doing this cringe hyperpop thing – but I think they’re just pissed off that a teenage girl is doing something that’s somewhat Drain-adjacent. Not even, though! I get why the hyperpop playlist is suggested next to Bladee.” She feels that Dylan Brady used a very Mechatok-sounding synth, a producer who has worked extensively with the Drain Gang rapper. “My jaw dropped when I saw the Reddit thing, because Bladee has listened to my demos. He likes my demos. Mechatok messaged me about the song and said he loved it. Like, oh my god, Drain Gang themselves fuck with the music, but the fans are like, ‘Oh, this is cringe!’, like I swear they don’t even know what Drain Gang is about!”
The hate is something daine confesses she doesn’t handle very well. Her mentor, Charli XCX, has been the best person to look to for guidance. They met at Melbourne’s Laneway Festival backstage and bonded over playing mini-golf together. “She’s just a great support and an iconic Leo woman in my life,” she says. “She’s got the quickest, smartest pop brain ever. She really knows how to work melodies and write catchy lyrics, so I think having her there for thoughts on music is great, but on a more personal level, she helps me deal with hate and criticism. When I was sixteen, I was really dragged through the fucking dirt, whether it’s online or not. So yeah, I appreciate her guidance.”
The intense levels of scrutiny as a woman in the hyperpop realm really took its toll in the early days. On the release day of her debut single, ‘Picking Flowers’, a dark lullaby with punishing basslines, she was living through an intensive lockdown in the first stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, and was on the phone to her team, crying. “At the time, I wished I could take it back. I thought we’d fucked up. I was really hesitant about releasing stuff. On release days, I’d be, like, super sad, and just stay in bed all day. But my team were just like, ‘No, trust the process. It takes a long time.’” But she admits, “I think I’d be over the moon if I saw myself now. It’s slow – it’s really slow – but it’s so worthwhile.”
daine is rightfully protective of her identity as an artist, but even more so of her progress. She tells me she was at a car dealership the other day (she’s learning to drive, although she almost crashed the car in a lesson switching lanes), and her dad told the salesperson that his daughter was a singer. “The guy asked, ‘Oh, is she famous?’ and my dad was like, ‘Oh, no. She’s getting there!’. Like, I don’t know… if someone tries to say that, like I haven’t really grinded shit and made it somewhere, I will get defensive. It changes day to day. Sometimes I doubt myself, and then the next day I’ll be like, ‘I’m the fucking shit!’” she laughs.
Since being a heartbroken sixteen-year-old, daine has been a songwriter, and she has been nurturing her SoundCloud profile ever since. Her bio simply reads: “beyond form”. Her music similarly shapeshifts: one moment haunting, gothic pop with bass-heavy beats that hit you in the solar plexus like ‘Ascension’, the next, doomed, vulnerable and guitar-driven, like its counterpart on double-sided release, ‘Angel Numbers’. To label daine’s music as hyperpop tells only part of the story; the genre that she feels a true alliance with is emo. I ask her about the game-changing records she grew up with: “Oh my god, let me get the list out!” she says, pulling up the notes app on her phone where she’d compilated them for her boyfriend, glitchcore artist miniskirt. American Football’s 1999 self-titled album is at the top, along with the 1998’s ‘Stratosphere’ by space-punk band, Duster. daine talks at length about slowcore, with its bleak lyrics and downbeat melodies, which has bled into her work far more than hyperpop ever has.
Her fascination with spiritualism and the occult are woven into the fabric of her creative identity, too. At first, daine hadn’t even appeared in human form in her music videos, instead manifesting as an elfin CGI avatar who walks in a desolate, greyscale forest before ascending to the heavens. Even her first in-person appearance on the video for ‘My Way Out’ is a self-edited video filmed through her phone camera, interspliced with glitches and dizzying visuals from Google Earth. On her table while she films herself through a mirror are crystals. She even keeps one in her hair. As she looks around her room, she tells me about her vast crystal collection, her Tibetan singing bowls, and her spiritual books authored by Ram Dass to Alan Watts. She embraces the light just as willingly as she embraces the darker aspects of the occult which are all bound up in her personality.
From a young age, she’d gravitated to the pop-punk scene through the unlikeliest band: Aussie boyband 5 Seconds of Summer. “I was a massive stan, like I was creepy… this is so embarrassing,” she cringes. After watching the more rock-orientated American band State Champs support them at a show, she fell down a rabbit hole, going to see them and discovering Neck Deep, until she’d immersed herself eventually in the Australian hardcore scene. “My parents probably spent so much money on me going to shows,” she says. But it was what kept me going.”
Now, she’s been working on a song the Melbourne hardcore band Born Free to contribute a verse. “It’s gonna be my hardcore debut,” daine promises. “Although my room is probably not soundproof enough for me to scream to my full potential.” The guitarist from Hot Mulligan has sent her beats, and John Floreani from Trophy Eyes is looking for her to record a verse, too. “The whole Midwest emo thing has been my guiding star throughout songwriting,” she says. “It’s the only thing that has been consistent throughout my adolescence.”
Growing up, daine always felt very much like an outsider – “and I still do”, she says. “I don’t think I was accepted. There was always a lot of pushback from my teachers or my peers, or literally anyone. But I had always pushed back against authority… I know that sounds like really cringe punk-type bait, but I just really wanted to do my own thing. Music has made that possible for me. Now, my day to day life is on my own terms, and it’s great.”
And now, after ‘boys wanna txt’, it really is. She quit her nine-to-five job at a call centre after she recorded the track in Sydney. “I just hated my job, and I wanted an excuse. I don’t know, I feel like I probably shouldn’t have done that. I miss having money… but, like, whatever. I was laying in this hotel room with a face mask on and I was like, ‘I’m not coming in on Monday. I’m in Sydney and I’m not coming in again after that either.’”
A lot of the bullying she suffered growing up for being different she now attributes to being “straight up ableism”. Recently, daine has been vocal about her autism diagnosis, which is notoriously difficult to identify in women and young girls. “It’s something that’s always made it really hard for me to socialise and feel accepted in groups. But I think the thing with hyperpop that’s really cool is that there’s actually a lot of autistic artists who are even bigger than me. Obviously, I’m not going to out them, but I’ve spoken to them over DMs and stuff, and it’s been really cool to hear other artists say, ‘Hey, me too, I get it. Growing up was shit.’”
More than any genre before, hyperpop artists have the ability to self-define and find acceptance through online community. It’s become a sanctuary for creatives who would otherwise face offline prejudice. “I swear, literally every person is either trans, queer or neurodivergent – or all of them at once. It’s really cool. It’s such a unique phenomenon that everybody has stuff in common and everybody’s able to connect – I haven’t found that anywhere else,” says daine.
Soon, daine will be bringing her online persona into the offline world after she announced her first live show at Melbourne’s Kindred Studios in June. There is a clear divide between her two states of being: “daine the musician sustains the person. I think music came about as a necessity. On the internet, I feel that I’m more aligned with my creative sensibilities, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from my Instagram that day to day, I’m just cooking and cleaning and walking my dog. It’s my fun alter ego that I’m able to express creativity through. It’s a vessel. It’s sick,” she explains.
Success, to daine, is simple. “I would say I’m successful, but I’m not rich,” she says. “I think success is about putting stuff out that you’re happy with, and feeling supported and cared for, which I already have, like, times a million. But at the same time, I want to keep working because I’ve got to have them thousands round my neck.” Already, she is calculating her next move, with two more singles lined up to complete the double A-side for ‘boys wanna txt’; she’s alighted on hyperpop for a moment, but it’s far from her final destination. “I feel like I’m only at like 2% of my potential,” she insists. “I know that there’s a lot more to come.”
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