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Spunk and Sass

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WINOCAFEST HAS BEEN CANCELED
DUE TO HURRICANE IRENE!

 

GUY AND GALS: Those Darlins comprise Tennessean sweethearts Kelly, Nikki and Jessi Darlin, and Linwood Regensburg. Photo by Veta&Theo

Turn on the tv, kia commercial comes on and, immediately, the foot starts tapping. It’s inevitable. That spunky sing-along, “I got a red-light love/open everyday…go, go away/go, go away,” is one to make any listener’s ears perk up. Melded with punk rhythms, sassy Southern drawls and a rockabilly flair, Those Darlins live up to their name. They’re breaking boundaries with marketable panache and powerful appeal.

“When Kia offered us the spot in the ad, there wasn’t much decision-making,” Jessi Darlin, guitar, vox and (sometimes) bass player, says. “It was an obvious yes to getting paid and having our song reach millions of people who may not have heard us otherwise.”

Not fazed by the reproach some feel emblazoned by when hearing music as a soundtrack to commercials, Jessi is quite clear that the band’s forthright concern is making it as a successful band. “When a musician gets paid for the use of their music, they are not selling out,” she says. “That’s the way business works.”

In fact, with labels folding and not offering as much funding to back its players, the musicians are being called upon to control their own livelihood. Tennessee’s Those Darlins included.

“We own our own label,” Jessi says of their flagship, Oh Wow Dang! “There’s no magic success button to pus; we have worked very hard to attain the level of success that we have.”

encore interviewed Jessi about Those Darlins’ sound, in its infant four-year and two-album stage. It amplifies brassy rock which will elevate Battleship Park come Saturday when the group takes over WinocaFest.

encore: How did Those Darlins begin and peg that Americana rock sound?
Jessi Darlin: We were inspired by each other [after meeting at a Southern Rock ‘n’ Roll camp, where the band began as an all-female trio before adding one lone fella to the mix]; we all loved playing music and the fun that surrounded it. … Together, we gave each other the support to actually go out and do it. It was a silly mess.
I would call [our sound] American rock ‘n’ roll, and we put it together by hanging out and sharing influences and trying to figure out what the hell ‘we’ sounded like. We just tried to take the things we liked about music and ourselves and mix it all into one band.

e: Your latest release, “Screws Get Loose,” has a heavier rock swagger, with the underbelly of punk rhythms scratching through.. Tell me why you went harder on this release?

JD: It wasn’t something we set out to do from the beginning, but we also purposely never set any boundaries on the type of music we were going to put forth. We just were inspired to rock harder and play louder after playing a ton of shows. It’s not that the rock and punk part of us wasn’t there from the beginning, we were just focused in a different place at that time. I’m sure our sound will continue to grow and hopefully continue to pleasantly surprise people.

e:Are there any memories that stand out most sacred while making this record?
JD: Making “Screws” was great. Going down to Atlanta and recording at the living room with Ed Rawls was just great! I had no idea how well it would go between everyone, considering we hadn’t all met before, but between us, Ed, and our producer, Jeff Curtin, things flowed so smoothly.

One of my favorite memories was when we went to record the song “$.” I had written it almost two years before, but it was much more of a country/rockabilly sound. I really wanted to change it but had no idea what to do with it. … So, Linwood got on bass, I got on guitar, and our producer, Jeff, got on drums, and we ran my guitar through some crazy effects and just went for it. I remember I just beat out a bass line for a while and hesitantly did a few E chords over top, when Jeff joined in with that crazy drum beat—it just sounded so weird and cool that we kept going.

We finished, and the crew back in the sound booth all gave affirmation that it was definitely a step in the right direction, so we did a few more takes to perfect it. Kelley added some crazy feedback guitar overdubs, then we started on vocals. I think it was Jeff’s idea to try out the “cult”-like harmonies. Once we started adding them, it just all came together so well.

I love when songs completely transform and ideas flow so smoothly. That’s what you get when you have a badass team.

e: Tell me about the Kia commercial—were you suspecting the “sell-out” stigma to stick?
JD: I wasn’t sure if people would lash back when they saw the ad, but so far people have been very supportive. It’s another level of success, and the money received is going straight back into our business, bettering us for a long-term future, allowing us to bring more music to our fans. And people are happy to see that.

e: What country/Americana/rockabilly musicians inspired you as youngsters? And how has that evolved as you’ve matured?
JD: I don’t think my influences have changed, I’ve just added to them. In terms of country/rockabilly, we’re big fans of Ernest Tubb, Chuck Berry, Hank Sr., Loretta, Dolly, Tammy, Wanda, The Outlaws, Elvis, Johnny Burnette. You know, the good stuff. I think you get what I’m throwing out.

e: How has touring gone thus far and what are you learning from the extended road trip?
JD: Touring is great. It can be the worst thing in the world sometimes, but it can be the best thing in the world. It’s a toss-up. That’s why it’s interesting. I’ve learned quite a lot of lessons. I’ve learned my limits. That’s a tough lesson to learn.

e: What’s next?

JD: More touring, writing a new record, Europe, Australia take two, new seven-inch coming out, new video coming out, recording new album—just conquering the world.

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