Meg & Dia

On growing apart, coming together, and crafting a musical mosaic


Talent: Meg & Dia

On April 1, 2019, Meg & Dia announced that the band was getting back together and performing at the Vans Warped Tour. Wary of the date, I frantically googled to figure out if my favorite band had been playing an April Fool’s joke on me. Turns out, they weren’t, and that summer, they released their fifth full-length album, happysad, followed by a Christmas album, December, Darling, later that same year.

Meg & Dia was founded by Korean-American sisters, Meg and Dia Frampton, who grew up writing and performing music together in Utah. They released four albums, starting with their self-released debut album Our Home Is Gone in 2005, before officially disbanding in 2012. During their time apart, Dia continued to pursue music as a solo artist, releasing multiple albums and EPs. She also collaborated with film composer Joseph Trapanese through ARCHIS, where they released an EP together. On the other hand, Meg explored other creative avenues, opening a coffee shop in Salt Lake City and making jewelry, most notably the Chandler robot necklace series. She also released new music with former Meg & Dia drummer Nick Price as The Khaki Scouts. In 2018, the band began to work on new music together again.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with the Frampton sisters to discuss their time apart, how their creative process has changed over the years, and the anticipation surrounding their upcoming album. These days, news of new music from Meg & Dia is always a little bittersweet. So many of my memories of the band are tied up with ones I’ve shared with people dearest to me, one of them being my late roommate and best friend, Mike. It feels odd to think that I’ll soon be enjoying the new album without him, yet there's a certain comfort in knowing that this common thread between us remains. Somehow, it makes his absence feel both bigger and smaller—a reminder of what’s missing, but also, a nostalgic echo of road trip playlists, concerts, and late night study sessions.

This intersection of memory and music took on deeper meaning in our interview, where we discussed old and new music and reflected on how they’ve changed and continue to change as artists and as people as they grow older.

“Whenever I listen to Something Real (2006), or Here, here, and Here (2009), it’s almost like looking back in a high school yearbook,” Dia muses on revisiting their old tracks. “It feels very special, but I also do see how far we've come and how much we've changed.”

Although no release date has been announced yet for the upcoming album, I eagerly await this next chapter on their musical journey.

Timid Magazine: I saw on Dia’s Instagram that you finished recording the upcoming album. Is there anything that you can share about it?

Meg Frampton: We started the songwriting process about a year ago over Zoom, and as we got further along in the process, the band and one of our producers came out to Austin to see me. We stayed in a house together and finished writing the rest of the songs for a week. As the album got closer to its completion, it became more of a communal in-person creation, which I really appreciated and felt added to the creative juices making the album. Because we were together in person, hanging out, bringing ideas, and spending time together, we came up with some songs that we really love and really embodied what we were trying to create. We wanted to make a rock album, to have a lot of high energy, thinking of live performances. We were really intentional about the lyrics, spending a lot of time with the melodies, and making sure that we enjoyed them and that they were the best that they could be. Then I flew out to LA, and we spent a month recording those songs that we've written, as well as writing a few more. I really love what we came up with. We have 10 songs, and they're all over the spectrum.

Dia Frampton: Eleven.

MF: Oh, I didn't know we were including another one. Eleven.

TM: What key inspirations, themes, or experiences have inspired or influenced the creative direction of the new album?

DF: All of us read Rick Rubin's new book, The Creative Act: A Way of Being, and that was really inspiring. I really recommend it to all creatives—not just musicians, but anyone who is creating any kind of art. And then, I think Meg and I really took directly from our lives. A lot of the time in the past, we've written about books. “Hug Me” was based on Brave New World. “Monster” and “Rebecca” were based on books. This time, we really dug into what's happening in our lives right now more than ever before. There's a song called “Casual” that's about [...] how it's hard to find deep connections in the LA dating scene [...]. And then Meg and I wrote a song called “Fireproof” about bad experiences we've had in current relationships, or just feeling kind of burned out. So it all felt very personal. “Cold Sweats” is about the kind of anxiety I experience at night when I'm [...] having a hard time getting into the REM state. Every song kind of took on its own life.

TM: What was your favorite or most memorable moment from the recording process?

MF: Oh, my gosh, that's hard. Okay. My favorite. Well, the thing that's coming to mind right now is the second to last day of making the album. I came in, in a bad mood. I was just grumpy and having a really hard time emotionally. [...] We were working on a song, and I couldn't get the bridge to be how I wanted it to be. And I couldn't explain it. I had to go on a walk around the recording studio to get my head together.

I'm bringing up this experience because it's something that I didn't think was okay for me to feel in a creative process with other people, and I felt really uncomfortable being moody that day. And when I returned, [...] I came into the room and I just started crying. I don't know if [my producer] didn't know what to do with me. He gave me a hug, which made me cry more. Eventually, we just got through my hard day and ended up writing a really cool bridge that was exactly what I wanted it to be. That day, he said, “You know, we're coming to work to make this album, doing the best we can every day. Sometimes we aren't in the best mood. But you know, we show up.” And I think it was really special to me because I felt really held. And that day, even though it was “bad,”  I just remember that the most and have the most appreciation for it.

DF: We joked because I had an emotional breakdown the very first day of recording and Meg had one the second to last day of recording. But the first day of recording, I did a vocal take for the first song we were doing and I just completely had a meltdown in the vocal booth.

I'm so hard on myself. I have such a perfectionist mindset. I just want to do the vocals in one take. I want it to be great. If I'm hearing it back and it's pitchy or flat or I'm shaky, I just get in my head, and it's really easy for me to completely shut down. [...] And I felt embarrassed because everyone was in the control room listening to me. That was kind of a hurdle I had to get over. After that happened, I was terrified to go into the vocal booth again, because I thought, “Oh my gosh, what if I just completely break down again? What if this is a pattern? What if this is forever?” [...] And afterwards, I had a really fun time. If I made a mistake, I could laugh it off. It was a really good environment.

TM: How do you feel the band’s sound has evolved since your first album, Our Home Is Gone?

DF: I think Meg and I have just become better songwriters. If I could use any word for the album as far as songwriting goes, I would say it's “surgical.” We are very particular about every single word. Not that we didn't care earlier on, but a lot of the time, I would just go with my mood and vibe. I would just put all the lyrics in there and capture the moment.

This time, Meg and I were very specific about what we wanted to say. How can we connect with our audience in the best way? Is the message we want to convey? How can we do that in the best way possible? And so we would argue over one word, and sometimes we wouldn't even agree on something. In that case, we would just toss it out. If I wanted to say this line and Meg didn't like it, instead of talking each other into it, we would just say “Okay, that line’s dead. New line.” We were just very intentional with every single melody and every single lyric. This time felt so intense in a good way. And I feel very confident and happy that the stories are as clean and clear as we wanted them to be.

DF: Writing in your youth is like getting a canvas and just throwing colors of paint on it, and writing as you get older (and hopefully wiser) is like using a tiny little paintbrush and just dabbling away, trying to figure out exactly what you want it to look like.

TM: I love that.
You’ve both pursued other musical projects during your hiatus, but many longtime fans often think of you as a unit. How do you manage to preserve your distinct creative identities while contributing to the band's collective sound and vision?

MF: Dia and I are so different. As we've gotten older, we see this more and more. [...] That's really great because we're different, but we really know how to work together and explain our ideas to each other and bring our different elements to create something together. There is a certain place where our creative vision aligns, and we can both see it and know where we're going, and then we use our unique tools to get to that place.

Even when it comes to specific styles in our music, I understand her style. I love this bluesy, indie rock, country vibe. Dia's got some pop sensibilities or some old classics. She's a vocalist, so she does a lot of training with musicals. I like that we're so different as artists and as people. It just makes it more of a mosaic experience.

DF: I always say that Meg and I were cut from the same cloth, but somebody made a sparkly dress and a really cool pair of overalls. We're very, very different, but we also are quite the same.

TM: Dia, I’ve followed your solo career as well, from your time on The Voice to your solo albums and ARCHIS. And Meg, you made music through The Khaki Scouts. Can you share your experience making music separately, and how you found your own sound distinct from the band?

MF: The Khaki Scouts was—I think that I was just missing music and wanted to play in some capacity. I had my boyfriend at the time help me record it. It was just something fun that we could do. When we weren't in our band, I actually moved to activities that had nothing to do with music. [...] There are seasons of my life where I don't want to pick up my guitar, and there'll be seasons where I need to play my guitar. There were years when I wanted to try out different things like do something really tactile or do something really personal and community-based.

The coffee shop was all about me designing something beautiful visually, and creating a space where other people can come together. I really loved that I took that time to step away from what had been my main art form for most of my life, because those other areas really enriched me in different ways that I eventually brought back to making music. Because I learned the importance of community, visual beauty, and creating aesthetic experiences, I can bring that back to our music by really appreciating the recording process with these five different people, how much that community means to me, and how the music is better when we're all connecting about our personal lives and what's going on day-to-day.

DF: I think for me, working on different musical projects is kind of just like working on a different film. If you're an actor, you get with another group and you make something beautiful and fun together for however long it lasts. I learned so much from working with [Joseph Trapanese]. And then I learned a lot working on my solo album. I also learned a lot of things that I didn't like. I recorded “Bruises” with Daniel Heath, who I adore, but it was also very lonely. [...] There was something so fun about working on this recent album. It was five of us in this tiny space [in K-town in Los Angeles] and it just felt so fun.

TM: Are there any other upcoming projects or performances that you can share?

DF: We have no tour set yet. But as soon as the album comes out, we're going to start looking at touring options.

Disclaimer: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.