It’s been a good week for Darling. Tickets for their Whelan’s show on May 1st went on sale Friday (March 27th) and UTV have announced “Just One Look” as their Select Irish Track of the Month for the month of April. What this means is that you will be hearing a lot more of Darling on radio stations across Ireland. And it’s a well-deserved development for the band who have been working hard and figuring s**t out for the past two years. I caught up with Gary Harding to talk about the duo’s past, present and future.
“Yes”, says Gary, “we sat down in that café two years ago and wrote down a list of things we loved to do and what we didn’t enjoy as much from our previous experiences in bands”. “We decided we wanted to have limits. Like a limit on the amount of touring we did and how we wrote music in order to maintain a high standard. We also talked about how important songs were. Versus image, a good song could be the be all and end all of a band. It had taken us awhile to grasp that”, he explained. Second time around for Darling and they were determined to get it right by rediscovering their self-worth, figuring out the band’s identity and a determination for a “flawless game” and “to come out with a bang”. “We went into Jim’s bedroom and began writing songs. Songs that were polished and would work in any venue so that we would be ready to go. Pretty lofty ideals yes but we had faith in each other’s talent”, says Gary. And so they should. Producer Stephen Lipson heard some of their stuff and produced their second EP ‘With One Look’ which was released in January.
They went from a cramped bedroom to a “man-cave” in London to produce their EP. In all this shared space did they drive each other crazy. “Everything annoys you in that situation and Jim drinks tea like no man. He has a way of slurping it and aggressively stirring his sugar. After five cups a day we had to have a sit and talk about it. But seriously, we had a way of handling things and just talked it out. With everything. It was like, “Yes, this works”, or, “No, that doesn’t work”. You have to do it like that when you spend so much time with one person.”
And how did they approach the writing of the music. “We have very different approaches”, explains Gary. “I’m a massive fanboy. I watch lots of music documentaries and delve into band histories. I listen to The Strokes, The Killers and Depeche Mode. Whereas Jim would have grown up with the likes of AC/DC and doesn’t really listen to newer music. He just plays really good guitar and knows a good riff when he plays it. We are polar opposites but it works for us and we are able to create a sound we know is ours because of it.” Working with Stephen Lipson was like putting “a head under the bonnet of our music, finding the core elements, making them more technical and adding some fairy dust and excitement”, says Gary. “We really wanted that 80’s cinematic, anthem Tears For Fears/Depeche Mode, lush big sound. The 80’s had some great music and production. I’m real magpie-y and so I would pick out the bits I liked like a vocal delay for example”, he added.
If you go onto Darling’s facebook page you will find a page full of activity, between photos, events, EP’s as well as banter. The boys have taken the band’s promotion really seriously. “We’ve been really busy of late. It doesn’t feel like we have stopped between writing, and gigs and looking at treatments for videos. We just want to keep the momentum going. So we’re focusing on that at the moment”. Focus has been an issue for the two boys in the past and has already been brought up in this conversation. The two EP’s came out right after each other (October 2014 and January 2015) now it’s promotion time ahead of the Whelan’s gig and then some summer festival dates. “We’re going to limit the amount of festivals we do this year. Our focus is in album territory at the moment and we don’t want to spread ourselves too thin. So we’re starting to write and will be heading into the studio with an engineer soon. The album should be out September or October so the next thing we release will be a precursor to the album”, hints Gary.
And what can we expect from the album? “Well a couple of songs from the two EP’s will make it. ‘Echoes’ is a great track and is synonymous with the band so that will be there. After that, those dark synthy sounds of the 80’s will definitely be there.” I ask Gary what he has been listening to lately to further gauge what to expect from the album. “Well I’ve been listening to War On Drugs album “Lost in a Dream” A LOT and Beck’s “Morning Phase” which is another brilliant album. And actually I’ve been listening to One Direction too. Max Martin is their songwriter and I like to listen and pick out the bits I like from his writing which is brilliant. Then there’s the noughty garagey bands like The Strokes, The White Stripes and Ryan Adams, who I saw recently. It was amazing experience having been a fan for the past ten years and getting to watch him perform for the first time, he had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. ” “I listen to songs in two ways. I like looking under the bonnet of songs finding out what makes them work like Paloma Faith’s song “Only Love Can Hurt Like This”, written by Diane Warren. And then with bands like The War On Drugs I like to sit back and get lost in a song.”
Darling play Whelans on May 1st you can get tickets here http://www.ticketmaster.ie/darling-dublin-05-01-2015/event/18004E72975F14F2
Follow the boys antics on their website http://www.darlingmusic.ie/