On a chilly December night in 2015, singer-songwriter Lela Roy wandered into an open mic at Syntax Physic Opera in search of musicians to befriend and start a band with. She had just moved to town from California, where she had earned a degree in wildlife biology at Humboldt State University, and was fresh off travels to India and Nepal.
At the open mic, she ran into another Denver newbie named Eddie Schmid, a bassist. They bonded over their shared appreciation of Kate Bush, Yo La Tengo and Justin Bieber's early work.
The two combined their talents and added Ramel Sanchez, who played guitar and then drums, and a few other guitarists before adding Daniel DiMarchi. Oxeye Daisy, whose name comes from the plant of the same name, was formed in 2016.
“I think at a certain point, you’re really trying to figure out a band name, and it’s probably one of the worst things that you have to do,” Roy says. “Everyone has an opinion. We just got sick of trying to find something. We all kinda like this name, and we’re a girl-pop band. Basically, it works.”
Oxeye Daisy's members celebrated a few milestones this summer. Their nine-track self-titled album, Oxeye Daisy, recorded by Dead Canary Studios and Cauliflower Audio, was released in May; Colorado Public Radio named Oxeye Daisy one of the best Colorado albums of 2018; and they participated in Denver’s Underground Music Showcase in July.
Roy has written songs since she was seven. Her musical influences range from Björk and the Smiths to Cocteau Twins and Pink Floyd. “I am a big fan of most things ’80s, especially anything eclectic or dark and broody,” Roy says. “I’d say my biggest heroes, performer-wise, are Kate Bush and Nina Hagen, because they are weirdos who are not afraid to experiment and be who they are.”
In her college years, Roy sang solo shows and formed a psychedelic-rock band called Mumford and Sons 2 with a friend.
“We just pushed people’s buttons, and we made really good music,” Roy says. “We had an electronic sort of setup, so we had a big sound even though there were only two of us. We both played guitar, and he played keys. That was really cool and really fun.”
Like many artists, Roy’s inspiration for her music comes from personal experiences — but also long, hot showers. Making bad decision, feelings of disenchantment and painful breakups are topics her lyrics cover.
“I have a lot of songs about this one guy who was my boyfriend in college. I was like nineteen, and he was a meth-head, and I had no idea,” Roy recalls. “Everyone I knew was just like, ‘Is he on meth?’ I grew up in a pretty sheltered and essentially privileged life. I really wasn’t exposed to drug culture at all.”
Oxeye Daisy’s first album, Roy says, is a mix of old and new songs she wrote. Bassist Eddie Schmid penned the dance track “Where Your Mind Goes.” “Casey,” “I’m Your Ward,” “Like We’re Dead” and “Stupid Enough” are songs Roy wrote when she was around twenty years old.
“It’s a little weird to still be singing them. I don’t connect as much with the words I wrote back then because I’m 26 now,” Roy says. “The lyrics feel a little teen-girl angsty at times to me. My bandmates liked them and politely forced me to keep doing them, and they’re still fun to perform.”
Roy hopes fans of Oxeye Daisy have a deep, profound and spiritual experience when they listen to her lyrics.
Oxeye Daisy’s next gig is at the Temple Tantrum music and arts festival on September 2, and the band is eagerly at work on adding a fifth member and recording its sophomore album. Roy hopes the next album will have more synth and harmonies intertwined with her lyrics.
She describes Oxeye Daisy’s style as a girl-pop band mixed with a ’90s influence; it's grounded in honesty, authenticity and the bandmembers being true to themselves.
“At the end of the day, we love each other,” Roy says. “We love hanging out, and we love making music together. We hope that that honesty and that genuineness really shines through what we do.”