On a crisp fall evening in Atlanta, Those Darlins (Jessi, Kelley, Nikki and Sheriff Linwood) blew into town and proceeded to heat things up. CMP caught up with them before their show at The Loft on Sept. 29th in support of their self-titled debut album.
Prepare to enjoy the gracious and playful banter.
CMP: Just today I heard The Jam’s “Going Underground” and it reminded me of your recent Bluegrass Underground show at Cumberland Caverns. How did that turn out, playing 300 feet underground? Was bat guano encountered? Is anyone in the band claustrophobic?
Darlins: Considering it was 2 pm and they didn’t serve beer, I’d say it was a success. It was an honor to get to play with the infamous Charlie Louvin. No bat guano, no bats at all actually. I don’t think they like loud music. Though Sheriff Lin, our drummer, dressed up like a bear. The cave wasn’t claustrophobic really, it’s in a huge room. We would love to play there again. In fact we want to plan a night show with a sleepover!
CMP: It seems like you’ve been on tour forever. How are you holding up? Any fights lately? Is the van still chugging along? (I remember seeing photos of a frozen wheel somewhere in Utah, maybe.)
Darlins: The van still works, so unfortunately we are still stuck in it, sittin’ in each other’s laps. We are holding up as well as always, kicking fucking ass. Breakin’ hearts, rippin’ farts.
CMP: Under what circumstances did you meet up with your manager, John Turner, and how did you decide to create your own label, Oh Wow Dang Records?
Darlins: He found us, we liked him (and he is huge so he can double as a roadie!), and then we made a label ’cause we felt like it. We had worked really hard and wanted to see how doing things independently would work.
CMP: Have you sought advice from other bands who started out with an independent and then signed with major label while retaining creative control? (R.E.M. comes to mind.) Do you have a timetable for when you might like to see this happen?
Darlins: No we haven’t. No we don’t. We’re on the go all the time right now, tryin’ to win one fan over at a time.
CMP: You recorded at Daytrotter Studios (Rock Island, IL — my vote for best city name ever) back in January, where you recorded three or four tracks. What was that experience like? I heard you were free to choose your own recording equipment and nearly got kicked out of the town’s only bar. True? Do tell.
Darlins: You can read about our experience [at the Daytrotter website]. Yeah we almost got kicked out because we took some shots of tequila, ranch dressing and hot sauce, and then had a puking contest. They didn’t like that too much.
CMP: You’re all superb musicians and songwriters. What are your musical backgrounds?
Darlins: Thank you. We all grew up listening and playing music at early ages … it just kinda grew from there.
CMP: Any words of wisdom for a shy 12-year-old girl who likes to wear all black, plays electric guitar (Ibanez and Gibson), but feels she doesn’t fit in at junior high? (This would be my most utterly awesome daughter, Julia.)
Jessi Darlin: I’d say she probably doesn’t fit in at school, but that is a good thing. Especially during the junior high and high school years, everyone is so afraid to be individuals. It’s all got to be this cut and paste image, and it’s just majorly uncool. I was exactly like that in junior high, and by the time I got to high school it was all of a sudden cool to play music and be in a band, and here I had been doing that for years. But even if it doesn’t pan out for her in high school, it doesn’t matter because I can guarantee you she’ll end up being one of the coolest people at her reunions, if she isn’t too busy being a rock star to go to them. Just tell her, don’t give up, don’t be afraid to be herself, and just KEEP PLAYING MUSIC!
CMP: Kelley founded the Murfreesboro chapter of the Southern Girls Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp, where for one week each July girls participate in workshops learning musicianship and positive self-esteem — is this where Kelley and Jessi met? What are Those Darlins’ roles with the camp now: do you all teach every year? Is Linwood allowed into the camp?
Darlins: The camp is where we all four met, basically, and yes we teach every year. It’s a very big deal for us, we looove volunteering. Yes Linwood has been volunteering since the second year of camp. [Editor: This summer marked the seventh year of the camp.]
CMP: You’ve covered quite a bit of territory on this tour. Can you tell us the highs and lows? Best and worst cities/audiences, best diners, worst bathrooms — odd stuff like that. People just want to know.
Darlins: We love NY! it’s got the best, worst, nastiest and classiest of all the cities we have played, I think.
CMP: Have you had the chance to play tourist on any of your days off? Have you even had days off?
Darlins: No. That’s not funny.
CMP: I read somewhere that Jessi got her tits pierced after the band formed. Chalk this up to TD myth or is it true? If so, how has it affected her (musical) performance?
Darlins: Oh no, that was Nikki. She plays great now.
CMP: You’ve probably been interviewed to death, but are there any lurid (or at least mildly interesting) nuggets of information about the band that have yet to be revealed? (Thinly veiled attempt at a scoop for CMP.)
Darlins: Jessi and Linwood are actually cousins. Kelley is still a virgin and Nikki is a taxidermist.
CMP: You’ve played with the likes of Charlie Louvin, Boss Hog, Ida Maria, O’Death, Deer Tick, and Heartless Bastards. Who are your favorites, and who would you like to play with but haven’t yet?
Darlins: Well Charlie is a a gem. Nikki is engaged to John McCauley from Deer Tick so you can imagine how much she loves playing with them. Love to play with Bubba Dubba our childhood hero. Also, enjoyed The Black Lips…they get the crowd crazy…we imagine this will be the same when we play with King Khan n BBQ show.
CMP: Yours is a sound I haven’t heard in earnest since Nick Lowe and Rockpile, but at one time you focused on acoustic numbers and standards by the Carter Family and Hank Williams; at the time you didn’t think you quite fit in with the revival scene. When did you decide to just let your punk and rock ‘n’ roll influences bust through?
Darlins: Well, I think when we went into the studio we really started having fun with our songs and altering the old carter family songs live. And thank you on that Nick Lowe comment. That is quite a compliment. We have actually daydreamed about trying to get Rockpile together and opening for them. Still tryin’ to write a song as awesome as “Awesome.”
CMP: I agree, “Awesome” is wholly awesome, and so is Nick. He’s a longtime favorite of mine. Truly the Jesus of Cool. And now, cocktails of choice and best hangover remedy?
Darlins: Bulleit and soda or ginger ale. Any juice with champagne or vodka. Deviled eggs with bacon.
CMP: What music are you listening to on the road?
Darlins: Right now we have been listening to a book on tape by David Sedaris, When You Are Engulfed in Flames. It is hilarious. Other than that its been a real hodgepodge of electronica and loungetronica. Though the new record by Jeff the Brotherhood is good-good.
CMP: What’s in store for Those Darlins after the tour is over. Back to the studio for the next album or take a well-deserved break? European tour? Off to Japan for the Those Darlins Live at Budokan?
Darlins: At the beginning of December we might be doing a music video. After that we will be going home to visit our families until January. There has been some talk about Europe and Australia next year. Gonna get in the studio as soon as possible next year. Small breaks but next year is probably gonna be just as busy.
CMP: Pardon the undergraduate-English-class-survey-style question, but where do you see yourselves five years from now?
Darlins: Having cut some bad-ass records that people can’t get enough of. It would be nice to have health insurance and not feel like a starving gypsy. Happy and able to go on vacations and stuff like that.