Before launching DANA in late 2014, singer and theremin player Madeline Jackson described herself as "floundering." Months prior, Jackson's uncle, who had been the musician's primary caretaker following her mother's death nearly a decade earlier, died, and the loss temporarily left her feeling directionless.

Before launching DANA in late 2014, singer and theremin player Madeline Jackson described herself as "floundering." Months prior, Jackson's uncle, who had been the musician's primary caretaker following her mother's death nearly a decade earlier, died, and the loss temporarily left her feeling directionless.

"I was grieving for my uncle, who had been passed away for a couple months, and I was spacing out," said Jackson, 25, who joins bandmates Bobb Hatt (guitar), Andrew Morehart (drums) and Albert Gray (bass) for a FemFest performance at Ace of Cups on Saturday, Aug. 20. "I very abruptly moved here [from Athens, Ohio] and was making friends, but I still felt untethered. Starting a band felt like a good grounding thing, and it was something I'd wanted for a long time. I looked at my life and thought, 'This is what I can put the energy towards.'"

A month later, in January 2015, the group, then performing as a trio, made its live debut during a Sunday show at Café Bourbon Street - bassist Gray was in the audience and joined the fold shortly thereafter - bashing its way through roughhewn art-punk ragers not too far removed from its current output (think noisy and desperate with unexpected sonic and vocal flourishes).

"We spent a few weeks jamming [prior to the Bourbon Street show] and we turned up a lot of bones that could be songs," Jackson said, describing the creative process much like an archeologist detailing the act of assembling a prehistoric skeleton following a dig. "We were just churning things up and piecing them together."

In the process, Jackson rediscovered a sense of purpose that had been missing in her life. "That was the first time I had performed with a band onstage in years and I realized it was something I really needed," said the singer, who previously fronted punk-leaning bands during her time in Athens. "Not the validation aspect, but the catharsis was really good for me. That's the reoccurring theme: catharsis."

Jackson explained she has dealt with anxiety and depression "literally [her] entire life," and performance has always existed as a necessary release valve. As a child, she would regularly belt out radio songs to anyone who would listen - and even some who couldn't (it wasn't unusual for the musician to stage concerts for a captive audience of teddy bears).

"I was playing in the laundry room and running up and down the stairs, and I did that to some extent well into high school," said Jackson, who went on to participate in high school theater, once nearly stealing the show as a spitting, cigarette-smoking Southerner in a production of "Dead Man Walking." "My uncle was my legal guardian after my mother passed, and when he got home from work I think there were definitely moments he sat in the driveway until he heard the stereo go off because he knew I was having my time. That's how I didn't drop out of high school, honestly. It was allowing myself those little moments. I didn't think of it as mediation then, but it was certainly that."

While DANA songs can be rooted in sad, insular emotions - "I'm a sponge [and] the songs are whatever I've sucked in," Jackson said - the music tends to be defiant rather than despondent. Take "Mr. Goddamn," a rabid howler driven by rabbit-punch guitar, distant-siren cries of theremin and Jackson's furious, broken wail, which sounds as though it's being held together by glue and odd bits of tape.

"I've always been angry," said Jackson, recalling the initial recording of the track, which can be heard on a live album the band produced for pirate radio station WLSD in June 2015 (a new album recorded in April with Bloody Show's Jah Nada should be out by year's end). "Whatever is going on, it's not like I have to get myself pumped up. There's not a go-to like where you're acting and you have to conjure up the tears or whatever. In those moments of visceral anger … it's me kicking it into gear. It's just what I do."

In previous groups, Jackson sometimes struggled to find this footing, and she said she was never able to mold earlier projects enough to suit her ambitions or tastes. This has never been an issue for DANA. Early on, the bandmates bonded over a shared love of avant-punk acts like Brainiac, Pere Ubu and the Gun Club (covers by the latter two appear on LIVE for WLSD), drawn in by the music's energy, freedom and heart, and from the onset the players have flashed an almost-familial bond.

"There's never been a moment we tried to put something new together where one of us was like, 'No.' We're all very much aligned in taste and goal," Jackson said. "We've come up with this language where we do everything and write everything together. It's easy."

This connection reveals itself in songs like "Bastard Child" and the prowling "Confirmation Name," where Jackson's voice builds from a slurred moan to a full-throated roar, matching the instrumental power surge.

"There's a waxing and waning for me to come in as a vocalist. It's not a sword fight," Jackson said. "We're going in trying to get to the heart of [a song]. It's not all just all over the place and a dog fight of cacophony. It's purposeful."