The Darlings take some time to talk about establishing their sound, defining success, and winning over crowds on their first US tour.
Disarray Mag: So you guys really got your recent “break” by winning the Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands last year, right? Earned you a stint on Warped Tour?
Darlings: Yeah, we got the Ernie Ball endorsement, love Ernie Ball. We did two weeks on Warped Tour, credit at Guitar Center for goodies and stuff.
DM: KROQ is a major supporter of local acts and you have gotten some support there, too?
Darlings: Yeah, we get spins in the Locals Only and we were the Bud Light featured artist a few months back, too. Hey, where’s all our free Bud Light anyway? (laughs) So it has been really good.
DM: The Anaheim Ducks used a track off your EP for promos a while back, right?
Darlings: Yeah, that was a little while ago, but it’s all those little things, ya know?
DM: So what happened around winning the Battle of the Bands? Were you working on the new LP, The New Escape, at that time?
Darlings: We had our EP out, and we were working on our LP at the time we were on Warped Tour. It gave us a good little boost, kicked off some momentum that is still moving today.
DM: In the process of making this new album, is it that one person might bring something in and everyone works on it, do you all just sit down and say, “let’s write a song,” or is it more organic?
Darlings: We collaborate, and that’s what really fuckin’ works. There’s not really a structure to how we write. Sometimes Buddy [Darling] will have a riff, or a whole song just skeletoned out and we’ll all finish it from there. So yeah, it is kind of random how that songs come together. Sometimes they just come, you know, and you can’t force it. They just come to you from somewhere. (sarcastically) It’s like someone is “speaking through you.” (laughs) Seriously though, it took a minute, but we got it done. Almost had to go to the insane asylum, but we did it. It was a lot of hard work, and we’re really proud of it [The New Escape].
DM: So how did you get from Warped Tour to here with legends like Face to Face and Strung Out? This was a two months haul across like 59 stops?
Darlings: Well our manager knows all those guys, and we’ve done a couple one-offs with Face to Face and Strung Out. We’re buddies with all those guys. It all started a couple years ago. We would go to Victorville and pass out CD’s. We were hungry, ya know? So we heard Face to Face was playing, and we’re thinking that they don’t play a lot. So we would pass out the CD’s, talk our way into the back to hang out with them and other guys and we just started the relationship from there. So with this they said “Fuck it” and put us on. It started out we only had half of the tour, but we kept pushing and we got the whole tour.
DM: What has the reaction been for all of you guys on the tour? People come for Face to Face or Strung Out, and as the openers you guys have your own sound. I even heard you guys do a great Elvis cover. What do you get from people?
Darlings: People dig it. We’re not a “punk” band, because we’re more just “rock ‘n’ roll.” We have a great fan base that is just growing and growing. A couple shows ago I saw people already wearing our shirts and singing along. It is so cool to see. It is a serious thing, though, when you go into a venue. No one knows who the hell we are, in some of these places, so you put your soul on the line, you work hard to win these people over, and nine out of ten times we have won every show over. We’re just getting more good fans, and there is nothing like that feeling. It’s funny to see a crowd’s reaction when you first start [your set] and there just analyzing you, and by the end of the show you’ve either won them over or you haven’t. So we’ve been successful in that sense.
DM: Is coming on a tour like this a good learning experience? Is it kind of like a Big Brother program where you can be mentored by these more veteran guys?
Darlings: (Zacc) I’ve learned so much from being on this tour. Whether it is guitar things, where to set up, and the mental things and emotion things. A band is a dysfunctional family and you got to do it right, make it work, I feel blessed, as the new guy, that these guys took me under their wing, ya know?
DM: To the new album, The New Escape, is there any tracks any of you feel particularly attached to or proud of? Or is this just your first LP baby as a whole?
Darlings: Right now we really want to push the song “Hypnotize,” which I feel is our first song [single]. I feel like we really established our own sound as a band. We got good and bad responses back on our EP, so the one thing we wanted to do was establish ourselves on The New Escape. We feel like we have carved our own sound on it. It’s funny because we rotate our set list almost every night, to show that we don’t favor a particular song any more than another. It shows that we are all comfortable with the songs, across the board, and how the whole album turned out. We have to put out singles, of course though, so we’re going to do a video for “Hypnotize,” and maybe “These Wings.”
DM: As a new band, do you guys have a list of goals laying around right now or what is the move now?
Darlings: Just build a fan base. Let’s do it. That is it right about now. Go big or go home, ya know? Whether it’s the internet, word of mouth, touring, whatever, just get out there. We feel like we’ve built up a lot of momentum from this tour and you can’t stop. So, we’re gonna take a little break, more like a nap, and then get back out there. We’re hungry, and this is it, this is the only thing I want to do for the rest of my life and we’re gonna keep going.
DM: At this point in your career, what day jobs do you have, if any?
The Darlings: Yeah, some of us still have “day jobs,” boosting cars, that kind of thing (laughs), but it is impossible to have a regular nine to five job and do this band on the side. It is all about this right now. This band and our LP are what it is all about right now.
DM: Are you guys nervous about the sell-out moment? I remember the Green Day moment when they “sold out” and their fans just spit on their graves for going all Hollywood. Do you guys fear that at all? Eventually selling Goodyear Tires with a greatest hit track?
Darlings: I think that stigma has changed a lot now, from back in the day. That is success, though, ya know? That is the goal. I don’t think people see it as “selling out” anymore and they are more accepting of success. I do see that when your song is on a commercial I can kinda see that, yeah, ya know? Hopefully we’ll be fifty before we are there [selling tires with a song].
We just really want our music to speak for itself and stay true to that. We write our music for ourselves and things are so cheesy today. I (Buddy) feel like I was born in the wrong era. It is scary what’s going on out there with music. So just stick with the music, it’s a numbers game, and there are still a lot of good, soulful bands coming out and I think we fit in with them, like Gaslight Anthem, The Sharks, Social Distortion; that rootsy, rock ‘n’ roll with a punk rock edge and I think we fit in well with that kind of sound. So check us out!
DM: So you are Redondo Beach guys, where can LA expect to find you if they’re looking to come to a show?
Darlings: Almost anywhere in a 25 mile radius. Seriously, just bookmark our website, find us on Facebook, and you might catch us at The Roxy, Slide Bar, or somewhere in Hollywood. We’ll see you when we get back in to town.
Thanks to The Darlings for their time almost immediately AFTER their great set. It was a long tour and this Ventura, Calif., stop was the second to last show, so we appreciate them powering through the road-fatigue and giving the crowd a great show and spending a few minutes with us.
For everything you need to know about The Darlings check out thedarlingsmusic.com for upcoming shows, links to getting the album, and any other info a prospective stalker might need to do their creepy job well.
Also, check out their Facebook page, facebook.com/TheDarlingsPunk, to listen to four tracks from their new album, The New Escape. Personal favorites “hypnotize” and “these wings” are up there for repeated listening and iTunes is just a click away to purchase the album to put in your earholes any time you like.
All photos by Wesley Bauman
About the Author
Wesley Bauman, author of Doggy Paddling in the Deep End, is a writer/photojournalist originally from Oregon who makes his home in Ventura, CA. He's contributed to the VCReporter and maintains an active blog (http://projectpoppycock.com/) where he writes on political and social satire regularly. Follow Wesley on Twitter @myownfalseidol