Interview with Darlingside

The American quartet Darlingside have been making sublime indie-folk tunes since their formation back in 2009. Over the last fourteen years, the band have dropped five well-received records, garnered an exceptional amount of support from various tastemakers, and performed numerous shows across the US and beyond. The four-piece are now back with their new album, ‘Everything Is Alive’. It’s a project full of exciting risks, lush harmonies and it also manages to showcase each member’s individual strengths on a far wider scale than before. House Of Solo caught up with the band to discuss how they took more risks during the recording process, their earliest memories related to music, and their forthcoming extensive US tour.

Hi Darlingside, thanks for chatting with House Of Solo. Your new forthcoming record Everything Is Alive is out July 28th. As the record has been described as one that shows the group taking more risks, would you please tell us about this album’s writing process and how you all took more risks during its creation?

All our pleasure! Thanks so much for the interview.

Regarding risky songwriting, I’ll start with some context. On the albums, we put out before Everything Is Alive (Fish Pond Fish in 2020 and Extralife in 2018), lyrics were generally written via group songwriting exercises. We used these exercises to remove the stress of songwriting perfectionism and instead force ourselves to focus on discrete parts. You can think of it as an assembly line for songwriting: everyone is wearing blinders and only works on one bit (generative prose, turning prose into verse, turning verse into melody, setting melody to chords, etc.) 

We’d then end up with a big pot of song ideas, pick an album’s worth to work on, and then polish them up together. The process was militantly collaborative, and there was very little that any one member could claim as “their work”—fingerprints abounded.

For Everything Is Alive, we decided to pivot hard in the other direction. Our assignments were no longer limited to a single songwriting task, and we instead had to present finished songs to one another. No longer having the other guys to lean on was both intimidating and exhilarating, and the new process produced a collection of songs with lyrical idiosyncrasies and musical personalities that we likely never would have arrived at otherwise.

Given that this is the band’s first release in three years since the album Fish Pond Fish, how have you all changed as musicians and as people in that time frame?

To me at least, it feels like we aged a decade in three years. We are expressing our priorities, hopes, and dreams (both musical and non-) more clearly to one another, and our day-to-day existence is a constant reminder of how much we have to be grateful for. It is beautiful to be on this side of 2022.

Following on from that if Everything Is Alive was to act as a snapshot of the band, what would the record say about Darlingside?

Members of Darlingside

…think a lot about nature and domesticity, and aren’t totally sure where they fit in.

…struggle with decision-making.

…enjoy hanging out with children (theirs and others’).

…are friends with people who are into astrology.

…frequently think about water, both in large bodies and as a source of hydration.

…have a healthy appreciation for the certainty of death.

…talk to themselves.

How would you sum up the band for anyone who hasn’t discovered Darlingside yet?

A group of odd-but-approachable friends who make music that exists somewhere on the folk-Americana spectrum! Lots of harmonies, lots of instruments, no screaming.

What unreleased tracks from the record are you particularly excited for fans to hear once the album drops?

I have a fondness for “Lose The Keys,” the second track on the album. Among its many features is a processed banjo break that really gets me.

As the band first formed in 2009, what do you think is the secret to keeping a long-lasting creative spark between the group?

Taking the time to understand what it is you (as an individual) need to stay happy and fulfilled, and then taking the time to share and exchange those needs and desires with your bandmates before coming up with a plan to move forward together. Repeat annually, at a minimum.

What are your earliest memories related to music? When and how did you all discover your passion for the art form?

I grew up playing the violin, but it wasn’t ever a passion of mine. My fluency with music landed me in all sorts of groups (youth symphonies and choirs, mostly) as a kid, but it wasn’t until I took a college songwriting class that I got hooked. Writing bad poetry and setting it to music as a pubescent 19-year old was one of the most powerful highs I’ve ever experienced.

Let’s talk about your USA tour dates, how are you all hoping to develop the Darlingside live experience for the shows?

We’re psyched to bring some friends along with us for our upcoming US dates! Our favorite drummer Ben Burns will be accompanying us behind a kit, and southern songstress Molly Parden will be singing and playing bass. We’ll also hopefully convince the inimitable Deni Hlavinka to squeeze into the van to join us on keyboards. 

We’ve been experimenting with an expanded lineup since this past fall, and can’t wait to bring the party on the road for the release tour.

Finally, what’s next for Darlingside?

Europe and the UK in 2024, with any luck! Hope to see you all across the pond soon. Thanks again!

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