Meg & Dia, the sisterly duo of Meg and Dia Frampton, disassembled in 2012 to pursue alternate endeavors. Then in 2019, the girls surprised fans by announcing they had quietly been working on their fifth studio album, happysad, which released on July 26th. In early 2020 they put out a deluxe version of the album, which includes stripped down versions of three tracks – “American Spirit,” “Teenagers,” and “Koala,” as well as a previously unreleased track titled “Yours.” The process took the duo into completely uncharted territory.
Meg deems the endeavor “a creative experiment” and notes that after making the full-length album and going back in to put an acoustic twist on a few of the tunes, she and her sister emerged as more seasoned musicians.
“It was a lot of ‘let’s just show up to the studio, not have a lot of preconceived ideas, and see what happens when the three of us get together and try to write something sporadically on the fly,’” she says, of teaming up with Dia and producer Seth Jones on both the album and the deluxe rendition.
The process of reworking the songs wasn’t seamless. “At first, they weren’t hitting where we wanted them to. They were pretty but they weren’t quite close coming alive,” says Meg. But after working a little, taking many coffee breaks, and repeating the process, the sisters found their flow. “Finally we were able to have the feel come, the rhythms come in, we got inspired to add the harmonies and different melodic variances vocally, and then we’re able to land on something that we’re all really excited about,” Meg says.
Dia reveals that the girls made a pact to work without the typical self-induced pressure that they often put on themselves in a studio environment. “I’m very type-A and I like to ‘be productive.’ Sometimes, when we work all week and don’t find the song, I feel like I’ve failed,” she admits. But experimenting with altering the latest album’s tunes helped her to challenge that mindset and realize that “time spent searching is also time spent growing and getting better at my craft and learning from others.” She says it was nice to go in the studio with the songs already there as a canvas to work upon. “I felt like a kid getting ready to play on a playground. There’s a lot of joy in songwriting that you can forget about when deadlines start knocking on your door,” she explains.
“Teenagers” and “American Spirit,” were some of the group’s album favorites and the girls looked at the task of stripping them down as a thrilling challenge. “They’ve very fully produced electronic, really dancey, really big on that album. And so we wanted to take something that was so opposite of how it was on the record and redo it completely, just to show a different side of the song,” Meg says. The same went for “Koala,” with its electronic elements, full drums and layered instrumentation.
happysad was a growth experience for Meg, who says her time away from the group made her doubt her songwriting ability. “I didn’t know if I still had the capabilities that I had before,” she says. Thus, she admits to leaving a lot of the initial ideas up to Dia and Jones — “I was a little bit afraid to say what I wanted to say or what guitar riff I wanted to add.” So Meg says she stepped into more of a collaborative role. “Before I actually came to the table writing a fully completed and produced demo but would bring it to the producer and sometimes they would even just put in the part that I wrote straight into the song.” But her recent studio sessions were spent “learning how to trust, to experiment, to get to know people, and to communicate so that we could land on the same page.” The journey has restored Meg’s faith and the next time around, she says she’ll go back to coming into sessions with flushed out ideas but will also embrace the notion of “bringing in other collaborators and producers “to add the icing onto the cake.”
Dia finds the new song versions to be relaxation inducing and was quick to send them off to her yoga instructor mother to incorporate them into her classes. “It makes me happy that these songs might help people settle in to their space a little bit more,” she says. “I love when our music becomes the soundtrack to someone’s day in any way, whether it’s their commute to work, yoga class, alone time, etc.”
“Yours,” says Dia, “was a very special song that didn’t make the album. I wanted to get it out into the world somehow, and having it be a part of the extended happysad seemed like a good home for it.” She admits that she tends to air on the cynical side but that the tune allowed her to explore the notion of becoming the hopeless romantic that she knows she is deep down. “Sometimes songs, like acting, in a weird way is letting different parts of you shine or temporarily wake up,” she explains.
The intention of the tune, says Mia, was to write “an over the top gushy romantic love that people could play at their wedding. We want it to be the summer soundtrack of their love affairs,” she says. But in order to do that, she had to work through writing a love song in the midst of a breakup. “My long-term partner and I had dating for 10 years, had just broken up, and I was really heartbroken, she says. But eventually, Meg worked herself into the headspace of “I know what it feels like to be in love and to feel this way about somebody. So I can get there and let’s all get there together.” The track, per Meg, was a massive team effort. “Dia and would bring in a melody, Seth would bring a piano part, and then we would nudge it till it was one way in and nudge it another way. But eventually, we found something that we all really love,” she recalls.
Meg says she and Dia left the last tour feeling incredibly inspired. Going forward, she wants to try her hand at taking more of a production role in her music; Dia wants to try “writing music more specifically for TV and film.” And fans can rejoice in the face that there is definitely more music on the horizon for Meg & Dia. The sisters are embracing the trend of putting out songs more frequently and not necessarily as part an album. “Going forward we want to focus on just having a really organic process and writing and releasing as we’re feeling inspired and creative,” says Meg.