Tuesday, March 22, 2011

INTERVIEW WITH DARWIN DEEZ

An exclusive Q&A with indie rock's new "it" boy.
By Alex Nagorsk
(Darwin Deez' official music video for "Constellations")

ALEX: Your music fascinates me because it seems to be such an amalgamation of classic rock and contemporary folk/electronica. The result is often incredibly catchy pop music that’s a lot smarter than a lot of other stuff out there. By drawing from such different genres, what have you found to be the greatest challenge in creating your sound?
DARWIN: Thank you! Well, the challenge in creative pursuits is always quality.  Making something different is easy by comparison. There's some old advice that I've always regarded with respect: the more different kinds of music you listen to, the more original your music will be.  I don't really love jazz or African drumming other world music or classical music though.  I mostly just study the shit out of some pop music.  All kinds.  And I've spent a lot of time on bad/mediocre pop music.  So I wouldn't recommend that, but I guess it's worked for me.

You met your band members while working with them at a New York restaurant as a waiter and then proceeded to record your entire album on your home computer. When you found our your record was going to be commercially released, were there any types of changes that had to be made to the tracks? Or did they remain untouched from when you recorded them yourself?
Very minimal changes. I added a barely noticeable ride cymbal to the chorus of the bomb song. That might have been it. The label suggested strings on that song. They were open to re-doing the whole thing but in the end we both recognized the charm of the homemade recordings. Plus the takes were there and they were good and I had already slaved hours over comping them (compiling the final part from multiple takes).

How different is the music you play today than the music you and your band played together during your first rehearsal? What types of evolutions happened with your sound?
The songs we play now are the same songs we started on almost 3 years ago. The set has become more seamless and arguably more entertaining, but the songs haven't changed much except for improvised intros and jams – and the addition of one rap track.

Cover Art You’ve already made quite a name for yourself in the UK, hitting #5 on the indie album charts and gracing the cover of NME when you were named #10 on the magazine’s annual “cool list.” With your album now being released stateside, what excites you most about bringing your music to the U.S.?

There are some cool music lovers (and regular people) in the US. It's nice not to have to spend $2400 flying the band out of the country and another chunk of change on backline rental before we even make a cent. So I like that prospect of US popularity. If I daresay popularity. That's a very business-y answer but I guess fans are fans to me. People who love the music are people who love the music. This shit is for everyone, you know?

What have you found to be the biggest differences so far between playing shows in the UK and in America?
American crowds are much more excitable than British ones. At least they show it more. I'd theorize that they were just drunker but the Brits drink way more on average. They're just enjoying it inwardly I guess, trying not to be annoying to fellow show-goers I guess. Also the American crowds are much smaller at this point.

When you’re on tour, what are your favorite songs to play?
I like to play "The City" because I like the rhythm and the groove of it. And I like to play "Up In The Clouds” because it affords me lots of freedom vocally.

In addition to your music, you’ve also become known for your eclectic dancing. What is it about your moves that you think has made them stand out so much?
I think people can tell that we are dancing from the heart up there. And they respond to any performance that is from the heart.  Some nights I'm feeling happy and get more into the dancing and some nights I feel sad and I get more into singing the songs, so it's nice.

You cite Nietzsche as one of your biggest influences. What type of impact have his writings had on your songwriting?
I'd say none. He has a great style but I haven't figured out how to translate it into songwriting nor have I ever consciously tried. I think the only influence he ever had was that reading him made me want to kill myself, and that's why I wrote "The Suicide Song."

You recently created a full-length rap mix-tape created entirely from samples from the 1971 movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. What inspired this project and why did you choose that film in particular to work with?
Well, I did the whole thing for fun, to get my creative juices flowing again after a long period of just touring and not writing. The challenge of making it a concept album appealed to me and motivated me to finish it. Also I knew the concept would make it more likely to be talked about and therefore more likely to be listened to. I was really inspired to rap by Das Racist. And I loved some of the melodies from the movie soundtrack and I knew they'd make great hip-hop choruses when sped up. And I also knew I could do some fun twisting of mood by through sampling, such as on "Catastrophe" – a dark, moody track made from samples of the most ridiculously joyous song in the movie.

A lot of your music is filled with metaphors about outer space – stars, constellations, the stratosphere, satellites, etc. What does this imagery signify to you? Or are you just trying to subtly tell us that you’re an alien?
I don't know what it signifies to me. I think it's just more exciting than earth. I'm not an alien, though.  You're thinking of Weezy Wii.

In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly about what music was on his iPod, Glee star Darren Criss listed you as one of his five artists he’s currently really into. “He’s really big in the U.K. He played some shows with my brother. He’s tough to describe. He sounds like a lot of U.K. weird stuff. I don’t know how to explain him,” Darren said of you. How would you describe your music to someone who had never heard it before?
I just call it homemade indie pop/rock with guitars and drum machines. By the way, thanks for the shout out, Darren!

So what is currently on your iPod? Any music by Darren, the other Glee kids, or Freelance Whales (Darren’s brother’s band)?
Currently on my figurative iPod is Das Racist, Nine Inch Nails, Ke$ha, Friends, more Das Racist, lots of Rage [Against the Machine], Childish Gambino, the new 'Ye joint, and Bell and Wakey!Wakey! bootlegs.

Any final words?
We are driving through treacherous, lecherous snow-covered Alabama. This is my first – no – second trip to Alabama, and I am typing this on my laptop in the front seat of our Honda Odyssey minivan while Miles, our drummer, drives.  We played for a few people in Nashville last night and drove by Music Row this afternoon after crashing with Andrew's [bass/guitar] aunt's house.  Miles is bumping some mild electronica.  I think we are going to make it to our show in Birmingham tonight, but just barely.  This is real shit kids!  We love you.

Darwin Deez’ eponymous debut album is out now via Lucky Number Music Limited.
Originally published on Crazytown Blog

No comments: