Indie kids and the wider industry went jangly-guitar mad for Darwin Deez’s self-titled debut album, particularly the single ‘Radar Detector’.
There was dancing and terrible singing in falsetto and all-around-love for the North Carolina/New York band fronted (and personified) by Darwin Deez the man (Darwin Smith). As everybody rubbed their hands together like a greedy super villain awaiting the follow-up album, it appeared that no one considered Smith and co. might actually change their sound. They’ve evolved if you will (yep, there it is) and while Songs For Imaginative People is a thoroughly enjoyable and much less saccharine album than the first, it seems to be copping a bit of a battering in reviews.
Smith is finding the experience of being reviewed and deconstructed in the media a humourous one. He’s out on the town when we chat (and sounds rather, um, festive) and he admits that the very notion of a review of his band’s music and him as a person confuses and frustrates him. “I always feel a sense of non-belief whenever I see people dissecting us and I try to never expose myself to it whenever possible,” Smith begins.
“I was really excited and felt satisfied about having a teenage milestone fulfilled with Pitchfork acknowledging our existence as a band, but I didn’t read the review and will never read it because I heard it was snarky. I can’t stand being in that situation where someone is talking shit about you and you have no appropriate way to respond. There’s never really an appropriate way to respond but especially not through the internet. Then you just look petty.”
The latest album was recorded in North Carolina as Smith says he needed a break from the city, and he’s brutally frank when asked about the influence the recording space had on the album. “None really,” he says. “Music is about the unconscious, you know? I don’t think being there influenced the sound of the album at all. I guess I don’t know though, I’m no expert on my own subconscious. I’m just standing near the gate of Darwin Deez, I see some stuff but I don’t know what the fuck is going on in there.”
So why the choice? “North Carolina seemed like the most relaxing and cheap option. I’d been on the road for a year and a half, I wanted to go home and breathe the air in North Carolina.”
It seems that it was his approach to writing, and not recording, that was the catalyst for the band’s new sound. He agrees that you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t with album number two. Repeat your pattern and you’re accused of being formulaic, change the sound (and identity) of your band too much and you’re accused of some sort of creative betrayal. What can you do but write for yourself in a world where people seem to be more focused on what music they hate than what they like?
“The writing was different because I wrote the lyrics first,” Smith says. “I’ve never done that in all of my years of writing. They ended up shaping the songs in a way that changed the whole sound. It’s one thing to compose a melody and then find the lyrics – you repeat that melody three or four times and then you go to the chorus and that’s that – but it’s another thing to write a melody dictated by the lyrics. I know these songs are harder for people to respond to but I’m stubborn on that because that’s what I wanted.”
BY KRISSI WEISS