When discussing indie rock bands in Toronto and which ones have been waiting real hard for their dues, the name The Darcys probably comes up pretty often. For years, the band has been saying that their next album was forthcoming, but we can finally say that on October 25 that product of labour and love will be in our hands and ears and in front of our eyes. Their self-titled second album, The Darcys, will be released later this month by Canadian indie powerhouse label Arts & Crafts.
Trials and tribulations hit the band from every direction, as they found themselves deserted by their vocalist, publicist and friends. Most would stay down, but they kept at it and got back up. This is really just the beginning for the Toronto band, especially knowing that they’ve already got two more albums in the work, with the proper backing.
The Darcys is not their debut, but it’ll be the first thing that most of us will know them by, and it seems they were aware of that in the creation and recording. There’s a lot of power in this Canadian indie rock, between the beats, laced in the fast-paced, nervy guitars and in Jason Couse’s voice, which ranges in rock and soul. The Darcys has an air of familiar mystery that you want to figure out. Their sound is like a memory; nostalgia and hazy territory seem to factor in with emotion and eyes focusing between what’s right in front of them and what’s ahead.
You can pick up The Darcys on October 25. But before then, read Dork Shelf’s interview with drummer Wes Marskell about the past, present and future.
Dork Shelf: How and when did you start The Darcys?
Wes Marskell: The way I see it, The Darcys started on stage at CMW 2010. That mindset and line-up is everything our band stands for now. I remember playing the first song of that set and thinking: this is how it always should have been. It was the first time I felt we were worth listening to.
DS: Can you describe how The Darcys are different now from when you started?
WM: The only similarity is our name. This next set of releases will be more defining than the past five years could have ever been.
DS: Getting your next release out has been a tumultuous experience for you, and now you’re here, signed to Canada’s largest indie label with a deal for three albums. Can you explain how you got to this point and some things that happened along the way?
WM: For a long time people told us to quit. The record was broken, maybe irreparable, and we had lost a band member. For most people this combination of factors marked the end of the band. In retrospect, this was a very realistic point of view as the next few months were extremely hard on us. The record went through a number of failed mixes and masters and at times I had no idea how or if we would ever see the other side of the storm.
It sounds a bit cliché, but we learned who our friends were very quickly when we were at our lowest. Everyone dropped off and we found ourselves looking for management, publicity, an agent and more. All we could do was keep our heads down and push through. When we rebuilt the band, we also focused on the team of people around us, and it was those people who were instrumental in the signing to Arts & Crafts and to any future success this band may see.
Arts & Crafts has blown some new wind into our sails, but the record has yet to come out and I have no handle on how it might be received. To me, signing this deal means we have to start working twice as hard and everything we do has to be that much better.
DS: What’s it like for you now, after going through so much for the band? Did you ever think about giving it up?
WM: We never talked about giving up. Looking back on all of this, it seems the only thing we talked about was new ideas to move forward with. We had very little time to reconfigure the set before CMW and most of our focus turned towards getting the live show ready. In the back of my mind, I thought we would figure it out after CMW, and then it was after the next show and then the show after that. The feeling inside our camp was more productive and creative than it had been in a very long time. When we were a five piece, the band always felt like it was on the verge of slipping away from us and the new line-up made us feel like we had a real chance to make this work.
Also, the pressure of having to prove something only fueled our momentum forward. There were weak moments when we talked about renaming the band and starting over, but we wanted to release this record when the time was right and tour these songs. There were people who had stuck with us for a long time and we wanted to give them this record. We didn’t have it in us to quit.
DS: You’ve been talking about the next release coming out for quite some time, but you announced all this big news mere weeks before it will happen. Did it happen that quickly?
WM: In a sense it happened very quickly. However, everything happened as part of a greater process of this record and project. After the first two mixes the record still wasn’t ready for release and every attempt to push the record forward was met with resistance, which in turn started to feel like warning. I think for a long time we were hearing the album as we wanted to hear it instead of how it actually sounded.
The spring of 2011 is when everything fell into place. The real catalyst was the new mix by Dave Schiffman. Though the record had sounded good at times, he brought the right energy to the recordings and we could hear it the moment we pressed play. From final master to our release date will be about 6 months, but in actuality this record has been trying to come out for four years.
DS: What was it like recording these new releases?
WM: I am not sure we are quite ready to open up about the releases beyond the self-titled just yet, but I can tell you there has been a major shift in our process. Recording The Darcys was about agenda. We walked into the studio with songs that were 95 per cent of what they have become recorded. The studio was less of a creative site and more of an apparatus to achieve the sonic space we were after. What we really wanted to create were noise layers that simulated emotions or places that we had experienced in the time leading up to recording. At times it became arduous because the act of writing songs had long passed and we were instead focused on a delay setting on the second pedal in a chain of four. Stress levels ran high when certain sounds wouldn’t translate properly. We really wanted something specific.
DS: Tell us about the October 25th release of The Darcys. What is it about?
WM: It is about moving forward. I stand by this release, but it is merely our jumping off point for us. This record marks our entrance but what follows will be paramount. A lot of people left us for dead and the 25th will be our way of proving that we are still alive and kicking.
DS: What will you do differently in the future? Where else will The Darcys go?
WM: We have been listing to a lot of soul records and trying to clean out our sound so that not every song is 60 tracks of noise. We have rigged up some drum machines and are toying with really heavy bass tones. For a while we talked about eliminating guitar entirely and working with this interlocked and battling keyboard sound pared with a really fat kick drum. We are being pulled in a few directions and I am interested to see how we work out the new records.
DS: What’s it like to be a musician in Toronto? How do you draw from the scene?
WM: This city never lacks a good show and the amount of talent coming out of Toronto is almost discouraging. Trying to set your band apart from the others seems impossible and the moment you feel like you have gotten somewhere it feels like someone else is doing it better than you. Play a bad show and people move on. It doesn’t feel like people are waiting and willing to give you two or three chances to turn it around. That said, I would rather be in a competitive place with an abundance of talent because I think it sharpens your focus.
DS: What venues or areas do you like to play in and why?
WM: Toronto is home and there is nothing better than playing a packed show to your home crowd.
DS: What are some of The Darcys favourite books, movies and music right now?
WM: Musically, I know Jason has been eating up a lot of the records the Soulquarians collective have put out. For me, I have read most of Cormac McCarthy’s published works and that has had quite an impact on the lyrics and overall tone of the new recordings.
DS: Is there anything else we should know?
WM: There is so much the next few months to tell you. We have been working on a lot of ideas and projects over the past year and many of them are going to see the light of day very shortly.
The Darcys perform on Late Night in the Bedroom