They promoted their pop-rock sound on MySpace, which helped them land the first of their repeated gigs on the Warped Tour. They recorded an album, signed with a major label, released two more albums, toured the country over and over and Europe once, and had a song on the soundtrack of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” They put out a fourth album independently.
Then, Meg & Dia broke up.
After nearly eight years apart, Utah-raised sisters Meg and Dia Frampton got back together to record an album while nobody was looking.
“It was really nice not to have any outside voices out there, steering the ship,” Dia Frampton said of the duo’s under-the-radar recording of “happysad.”
The album was released without advance notice on July 26, along with a futuristic music video for the first single, “American Spirit,” and news that the sisters would have their first headlining tour in years, an eight-city tour starting Sept. 14 at Salt Lake City’s Kilby Court.
A lot has happened in those eight years. Dia, now 32, recorded a solo album, and took runner-up on the first season of NBC’s singing competition “The Voice.” Meg, now 34, came home to Salt Lake City, opened a coffee shop, and explored her spirituality.
On a recent Sunday morning in a downtown coffee shop, the sisters drank tea, and in this interview (edited for length and clarity), they dished a little of it — about themselves, each other, and the opportunity to make music again.
How did you decide to get back together?
Dia Frampton: I called my younger sister, Jade. I asked her, “Has Meg spoke about Meg & Dia at all? Or how’s her musical journey? What’s going on with her?” Because at the time, Meg and I weren’t really being very open with each other. ... Jay said, “I don’t know. Why don’t you ask her? Why are you being so immature?”
So I called Meg and, just kind of cold, asked her if she wanted to get back together again and start writing music. But it was very relaxed. It wasn’t, like, “Let’s put out an album. Let’s start touring. Let’s do all this stuff.” It really was just, “Do you want to write together again? Do you want to make music together again?” We didn’t have really any expectations of putting out an album or touring. We just wanted to start writing. And Meg said, “Yes.”
Meg Frampton: My mindset was, “Sure, that sounds fun. It’s been eight years, this is weird. But let’s try it, I guess.” Then we got a label, and we had management, and we had a record, and then we had a tour. And now I’m thinking, “OK, this is a real thing that’s happening, and I’m going to figure it out.” ... It’s almost like it feels too good to be true that we have another chance.
How is this real thing different than the real thing you had the first go-round?
Dia: Meg and I really don’t take anything for granted now with music, where when I was 17, and we were touring or whatever, I just felt, like, “Oh, this is awesome. Is this how it’s always going to be.” That’s the naivete of being a young kid. We know how much work goes into it, and we are just ready to work. ... Meg & Dia is a lot about second chances.
Meg: For the longest time, I had that grassroots mindset of we don’t need to do anything, like our art will just speak for itself and I’m just going to make the music and people will find us, you know? The older you get, you realize it takes a little bit of effort, it takes a little bit of figuring out, and you need to put in that groundwork, to find some clarity. I say this to Dia all the time: The cavalry is not coming. We have to do this.
MEG & DIA ARE BACK
Utah-raised pop-rock sister duo Meg & Dia launch their first headlining tour in eight years.
Where • Kilby Court, 741 S. Kilby Court (330 West), Salt Lake City
When • Saturday, Sept. 14, 7 p.m.
Tickets • $18 in advance, at Ticketfly.com. $21 on the day of the show
Opening act • New Dialogue, an alt-pop quintet
Dia: We’ve been talking with our management. "OK, where can you get a drum set? Is it more expensive on the East Coast? Are we flying? When is the merchandise coming?” We just sent all our merch boxes to my sister’s boyfriend. We forgot to tell him.
Meg: I did not even know this.
Dia: He was, like, “Why are there five huge boxes of T-shirts in my house?”
What happened that caused you to not record together for eight years?
Meg: We had been touring for eight years at that point, like 200 days out of the year. Nonstop music, nonstop around your family members [who comprise their band]. We were really young, and we weren’t appreciative of what was happening to us at the time. ... We were getting a little bit jaded, and we were getting frustrated with each other, and we were getting sharp and not being kind and not treating each other well and taking it for granted. We didn’t realize that the music was getting away. ... We had just gotten so much on each other’s nerves, and had lost that respect for music and each other, that we kind of imploded. Dia went on “The Voice” at that time and did a solo career. We were kind of blaming it on that, but truthfully, it was all of us just not being aware of how we were treating each other.
Dia: I think the breakup was about us being too prideful to really talk to each other.
Meg: Yeah. We were young and immature. ... We really needed to have that time apart, that time without music, that time without each other, to come back to really want to do it again.
Dia: Whenever something comes up, like, “Oh, this album art works really great,” I’m the first person to say, “Oh, this looks great. Let’s do it.” And now I’m like, “Looks great. What do you think, Meg? Do you like this?”
Dia, what was recording as a solo artist like?
Dia: Recording solo was really lonely. I really trust Meg to pull me back in. I don’t know if I call her the “cheese police,” but she can easily just say, “No, that’s too cheesy,” or “No, that’s weird,” or “No, you can do it better.”
Meg is a lot more of an indie writer, because [she hasn’t] been in the songwriting sessions that I’ve been in. Meg writes with no boundaries. ... So, whenever I write with Meg, it’s way more interesting and fun and you never really know what’s going to happen or what turn the song’s going to take.
When I was doing my solo album, I didn’t have that person there with me. ... Even when [the solo album] came out, I thought, “Oh, yay, it came out.” [Looks around as if no one’s there.] So I poured myself a glass of wine. What did we do when “happysad” came out?
Meg: I think we were on our way to a show.
Dia: We were in a van, and we were driving through Arizona or New Mexico. And Meg and I just looped the album really loud until all the other band members wanted to kill us. We just vibed out and that’s really what it’s all about: making music with Meg, in a van, nerding out, dancing and stuff.
So while Dia’s playing solo, Meg, you came home. What did you do next?
Meg: I started an online jewelry company, and I did that for half the time that Dia was doing her solo stuff. And then I had a coffee shop — I just sold it to my partner [who is also Meg’s ex-boyfriend, and the band’s ex-drummer], so I’m doing music full time now.
What were the first couple of Thanksgivings at the Frampton house like after you two stopped making music together?
Dia: They were horrendous.
Meg: Very, very awkward. We were on, like, opposite sides of every room.
Dia: Or we were in different rooms.
Meg: I was just so mad. I think I was mad at myself, mostly, but I was projecting that onto Dia. Just like this anger and frustration, and “You did this to me.” I wasn’t taking any responsibility for it, myself, and just refused to look at the situation. A lot of denial.
Dia: I was like most people when there’s family drama, and just pretended that it’s not there. I was like, “More pie?” ... If other family members would leave the room, Meg and I would sit there, and say, “Nice sweater, is that new?” “Yeah.” “Cool, where’d you get it?” “Zara.” “Oh, nice. ... I’m gonna go check on the chicken.”
Meg and I went to a therapist and she helped us talk about things that we hadn’t spoken about. The one thing I learned the most that Meg and I do is we have miscommunications. Something will happen and I’ll think that she meant this when she really meant this.
Whenever we are together, we’re together. Meaning we are in a tiny apartment and then we go to the studio together, which on our budget is usually someone’s garage, literally. And we’re in a van together.
Meg: And then we sleep in the same bed in our hotel.
Dia: Did you watch the Jonas Brothers documentary? That actually gave me a lot of insight on Meg’s and my relationship. ... Whenever you’re in that kind of close proximity with family members, things can get weird. Watching them talk through this stuff really taught me a lot.
There’s a lyric in "Dear Heart,” the last track on “happysad,” that says, “Can’t we go back to the way we were?” How much of that was applicable to you two?
Dia: It’s definitely the most personal song. It’s basically about us talking to ourselves.
Meg: We have a few songs on our album about returning back to your free-spirited, naive young self. ... Like, the nostalgia of youth. And we’ve gone through some challenging times, like most people when you cross that barrier into your quarter-life or midlife area. ... There’s something really wise and warm about going on this journey with our experiences now.
What was different about working on this album?
Dia: As far as songwriting goes, we wrote this album together. Which you would kind of assume we did on the old albums, but we really didn’t. Meg would write full songs on her own. I would write a full song on my own. ... For “happysad,” it was way more collaborative. We would get in the studio together from scratch, with nothing, and just start vibing off with different ideas. Usually it just started with a conversation. Meg and I would talk about somebody I was dating, or a breakup. ... Our opening track, “American Spirit,” Meg wrote a bunch of poetry, and then we went to a spiritual place, near Malibu. We just went and sat there for a while and then we started talking about what spirituality meant to us and how we’re different. Meg’s a lot more spiritual than I am. I took her poems and honed them into a mixture of both of us.
The tour starts in Salt Lake City, at Kilby Court. What is it about that place?
Meg: I met one of my boyfriends there, around that campfire. I tried my first cigarette, and only smoked that one time and coughed up my lungs, at Kilby Court. It’s part of Salt Lake, part of the history, it’s part of the music scene.
Dia: I think we played there when we were, like, 15.
Meg: Everything seems to be cycling around. So I think it will be so great to return to our hometown, and play in Kilby.
So what’s the hope for Meg & Dia in the next two or three years?
Meg: It’s always evolving. When we first started getting together, my hope was, “OK, let’s actually see if we even finish one song together.” And now, my hope is I want this ride to keep going. ... I want Meg & Dia to be my job. I want us to put out several records, and travel and make music and be artists... and just, like, live the dream.