Part of the Tennessee-based Those Darlins, bassist Kelley Darlin and her band makes Nikki and Jessi Darlin blend rockabilly and Appalachian harmonies with a good helping of modern punk.
She took some time between laundry and other “day-off” chores to answer some questions before they pack up their new van and head to Austin for two shows at the Continental Club this week.
Q: Who are the Darlins? What should people expect when they come to the show?
People should expect to have fun. Sincerely, we’re hosting the party but unless your guests show up and are ready to party it’s a moot point. It’s like when you invite all your best friends to your house, you can only do so much and they’re the ones that make it a really fun event. It’s just as much on the audience as it is on us and we love being the host of it. It’ll be a weekend and basically people should expect it to be a weekend, not be mopey and cut loose with us.
Q: When did you come together as a band?
It was about three-and-a-half years ago. Jessi had been living in Kentucky where she had been going to high school. She graduated early and moved down to Murfreesboro because she had attended the Southern Girls Rock and Roll Camp and met a lot of the musicians here in town. She moved to town right when Nikki Darlin did so they got a house together and they invited me over to hang out and we were goofing around, it was more like slumber party than band practice. We didn’t have intentions of starting a band, it was organic.
Q: When did you start playing music, what instrument did you start with?
I’ve been playing off and on since I was twelve. I’ve always been a guitar player. I didn’t start playing bass until I started playing with Nikki and Jessi because Jessi was already playing guitar and Nikki was playing ukulele which fills in the range of a guitar and was kind of like two guitar players. We wanted a bass so I said, “Sure, I’ll give it a try.”
I didn’t even own a bass, we called around town and asked who had a bass I could borrow. It was funny because we called one person and they were like, “Oh my gosh! Jessi and Kelley and Nikki are getting together to play music, we’ve got to find them a bass!” They started calling everyone else and the rounded us up a bass. It’s a very supportive music community.
Q: Can you tell us more about the community in Murfreesboro?
Murfreesboro is laid back, kind of like Athens, Ga. it’s a straight up college town, public university there’s a really great recording program here at Middle Tennessee State.
This town attracts a lot of musicians, there’s almost a disproportionate amount of not only musicians but people who are recording savvy and have their own studios and all of that.
In that way the community is very knowledgeable and resourceful and able to support each other in a direct way and not just pat each other on the back.
Q: Besides your instruments, what are the top 5 things that you must have while on the road?
Our GPS is pretty important, it’s like another member of the band. We got a new van, it’s a Ford Econoline and it’s kind of changed our lives. It’s like moving from a shack to a real home with a front yard and stuff. It’s changed our quality of living.
We used to have mix tapes in the old van and we had accumulated quite a collection, but now we only have a CD player. So we put a call out to all of our friends on Facebook to send us mix CDs and they’ve been pouring in, it’s an awesome response and we’ve got some really good ones.
GPS, new van, mix CDs from fans, sometimes we watch movies in the van, sleeping bags because we crash on a lot of floors and potato chips.
Q: What kind of stuff is on the mix tapes you’ve been getting?
It’s been a good mix of older and newer stuff. The older stuff is great and a lot of it we already have but we don’t have it in a mix. There was a really great mix of Arkansas musicians, it was actually a mix put out by Oxford Magazine, it was a mix of specifically Arkansas musicians but not necessarily a particular genre so it covered blues, rock, country, all kinds of stuff. People send us quite a bit of rockabilly on the mixes, but we kind of have a lot of that already.
Q: Who’s the shutterbug, taking all the photos for the tour blog?
Jessi usually maintains the tour blog, the first couple entries we collaborated on but then she took it and ran with it. She got an iPhone an d stated taking pictures. That’s mostly Jessi’s perspective of the tour. Sometimes I’ll read it and be like, “That happened? No really? Where was I?” We’re all together 95% of the time but once in awhile we branch off and have our own adventures.
Q: What was the first concert you attended?
The Oak Ridge Boys with my parents at the Alabama Theater in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. But as a teenager I went and saw the Violent Femmes at the House of Blues and I saw Green Day and Veruca Salt, those were all great shows.
Q: What’s the one song you’ve always wanted to cover but never have?
Personally, yeah. Nikki and I have been talking about maybe doing a Nerds cover, not sure which song yet but that would be fun. And I love the Kinks, I love the song “Strangers” but I’m not sure it fits our band.
How did you guys pick “Let’s Talk Dirty In Hawaiian” for the new John Prine tribute record?
We wanted to pick a song that was fun, some of his songs are very whimsical but he gets to the heart of the matter. Some of his songs are very dark and he deals with it with a sense of humor. We wanted to do one of the more fun, lighthearted John Prine tunes. We listened to a lot of songs, discussed, like one of my favorite John Prine songs, “Bruised Orange,” but it doesn’t fit what we do.
Q: Is there else anything people listening to your music need to know?
In August we’ll be recording our new album, we’re all super psyched about it and we’ve been working on songs. Good things to come this fall.
Photos: Lydia Goolia