23 October 2017
If you want your adrenalin to stream faster, if you want your senses to go bananas, if you want your limbs to move in unknown directions, I have the perfect band, right here, to do the job even better than you ever hoped for. Here are THE DARTS! An outspoken, quick-witted, full-female powerhouse. A high-voltage rock and roll turbine. The hottest gang in town. The most exciting band of 2017. Why all the confetti I hear your ask! Because their debut album Me.Ow. is a smashing cocktail of the nastiest vibes of 60s garage rock, injected with a turbulent dose of Riot grrrl fury, spiced with a solid portion of The Cramps madness and heated with sweaty Black Rebel Motorcycle Club licks & hooks. Furthermore they serve their seductive hullabaloo with the sexiest organ you ever heard. And according to flaming live reviews the ladies turn into frenzied, sharp-nailed cats on stage. So, it’s pretty awesome that the group’s founder, singer and organist NICOLE LAURENNE took time, while conquering the world, to tell 50THIRDAND3RD the exciting story of The Darts. For all you out there who have no clue
why I act ecstatically let’s start this interview with a tremendous belter of their 2016 EP 2. Here’s ‘My Heart Is A Graveyard’…
I guess we’re all in the right mood now for a cool c(h)at.
Please welcome Nicole Laurenne…
The Darts is a kind of supergroup. Who’s who and who came up with the band’s name?
“Christina and I met while playing in The Love Me Nots. I was the singer/organist and she was the bassist, and we toured all over the world together with that band, so when that project was coming to an end we decided it was time to bring our dream of a killer girl band to fruition together. So bass, keys, and vocals were pretty much covered at that point. I immediately reached out to Michelle Balderrama, who had blown me away from the first time I ever saw her blazing guitar work in the LA band Brainspoon, when they opened for The Love Me Nots years earlier. Michelle not only signed on right away but sent two songs, ‘Revolution’ and ‘Running Through Your Lies’, to me the very next day to get to work on. As for drums, I had known Rikki Styxx for years also from playing around the southwest with her other bands. When I saw her in 2016 with The Dollyrots, she sounded better than ever and I knew she was the one for this new project. So it came together really fast. None of us thought it would be more than a side project at first though. When it came time to name the band, I tried to think of something that wasn’t vulgar or inappropriate that was really specific to women. The darts are those diagonal bust seams on blouses and bras that only appear in women’s clothes, so most guys don’t even know what those kinds of darts are. I went with that.”
You’re all divorced from your former groups and you remarried to start this gang.
Will it be forever, in good and bad days?
“The Darts was never intended to be monogamous! In fact, we all deeply love collaborating in other projects and having other bands; it’s the best way to hang out with our other musician friends and keep our chops sharp and keep everything about this crazy music business in better perspective. So, although The Love Me Nots eventually ended, Michelle and Rikki are still going in their other projects and Christina is in a few others also. I sit in with other bands occasionally and do some solo stuff for licensing, but I’m always open to the next great musical idea whenever it comes around. I actually do think that this openness to other projects makes The Darts pretty stable, looking into the future. Everyone in this band is in it to have a great time together, make a lot of good noises, and see as much of the world together as we can. Anything beyond that is gravy. We don’t put pressure on each other about anything, everyone is really respectful and cool, and even impressed, about our other successes
outside this band.”
When did you know “this is how we want to sound”?
“Snarky, trashy girl bands have long been a favorite of mine and Christina’s. It would come
on the stereo and we’d both start jumping around, every time. So we knew from the beginning that this project was going to lean that way. From the start, we were thinking about Thee Tsunamis and The Trashwomen. It was a style both of us always wanted to do, just free and loud and fun. But Christina and I also have classical training so we’re both maybe a little more serious about our instruments and sounds and technical skills than some of the trash-bands out there. And then Michelle brought in a little more toughness and guitar-goddess prowess and roar, and Rikki came in with a power and stability that most girl groups honestly don’t have. I think the combination of all of that makes The Darts pretty cool.”
What’s the story behind the debut album’s title ‘Me.Ow.’?
“Obviously, it’s a little bit about that sex-kitten persona that invades our songwriting. But, more than that, all four of us are pretty deep and sensitive and anxiety-ridden and insecure, and we spend a lot more time crying on each other’s shoulders in the tour van than most people would suspect. So “Me” was perfectly followed by “Ow” for this album title. The whole idea describes this band perfectly.”
Talking about animals. If you could be one, which one would it be?
“Maybe a giraffe. As a five-foot-two vegan, I always wanted to be a tall herbivore
with long eyelashes.”
You’re on a British record label with a pretty cool name ‘Dirty Water Records’.
How did you get in touch with them?
“I was a long-time fan of the label, having tried to get them to notice The Love Me Nots for years and years, to no avail. Every time I would get one of their email newsletters, I swear I tried to contact them again. They just seemed to get the same musical vibe that I have. When one of their partners moved to Phoenix, he got in touch with me out of the blue to talk about The Darts, which blew my mind, and then we started imagining a US arm of Dirty Water, which blew my mind even more. Within a couple of months, The Darts were signed to the label and within a few more months, Dirty Water Records USA was born, with me somehow at the helm. It has been a very surreal year.”
‘Get Messy’ is one of my fav tracks on the album. Hefty, electrifying and daring. When I hear the line ‘get messy with me’ I wonder what the song is actually about?
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed it, but I see a lot of sort of OCD, compulsively-worried, stressed out people in the world every day. I just kind of want to scream “RELAX IT’S GOING TO BE OK” and smear cake on their faces. Hopefully, they would smile and not have me arrested. But that’s kind of what inspired the song. Let your hair down, jump on the table, and let things be messy – it’s really okay.”
As a male feminist I think it’s about time that women take over after more than 2000 years of male macho domination. Do you agree?
“Women are just as messed up as men, individually and as a unit. Some women are great mothers, some aren’t. Some are great musicians, some aren’t. Some are great surgeons, some aren’t. I really don’t care about anyone’s outer shell honestly, as long as they are genuine and honest about who they are, and do their best to bring about peace and happiness around themselves. Wow, that was really… overgeneralized. But it was a general question, I guess (note JL: yes it was).”
How does it feel right now to be a woman in America with a sexist President in charge?
Who of you will kneel/not kneel for the ‘Stars and Stripes’ flag?
“In The Darts, there is never any kneeling OR standing still, only crowd surfing and Farfisa wrestling.”
Any rituals before going on stage?
“Our tour manager, Justin McGrath, puts on the band’s favorite tour-van album, by Oakland trio SPRAY TAN (yes it is in all caps). When Blag from The Dwarves is around, he goes up and introduces us. Other than that, the only ritual is making sure all the bruises on our legs from last night’s show antics are covered up with thigh highs and makeup.”
Who got the most wedding proposals so far?
“Probably Rikki. She tours the most considering all the bands she plays in. But we’ve all had a few. For the record, the answer is “no offense, but no way.”
Who’s your number one artist/band to go on a world tour with?
“Well, for this band, touring is more than big crowds or big money. We’re perfectly happy playing to five people in El Paso, as long as we can blow all five of their minds. The bigger question for us is, who are we going to have fun with on tour? Touring is hard, physically and mentally, and you need a lot of patience with each other and a relentless sense of humor to get through all the weirdness. But, yeah, we wouldn’t object to a big crowd once in a while. For me personally, I think it would be cool to out on the road with Ty Segall or L.A.Witch or Death Vally Girls or Holy Wave.”
What movie would you pick to visualize your music on a big screen when playing?
“Anything directed by Quentin Tarantino. Or anything starring Ann Margaret circa 1962.”
Vinyl, cassette or compact disc?
Social media: a blessing or a pain in the ass?
If you could travel in time what artist would you choose to jam with?
“Bill Evans. As a pianist, I don’t think I could jam with him actually, I would just sit there and learn and learn and learn. Also, James Jamerson from the Motown backing band. I have a huge affinity for the bass, and I am consistently mesmerized by watching the great bass players make their magic.”
Best album/track you heard so far this year?
“A demo that Michelle sent me last week. It doesn’t have a title or vocals yet, but it’s my favorite thing of the year at this point.”
Is playing in a band actually the best job one can imagine?
“For me, it is. But it is a relentless, full-time, completely consuming existence. More than any day job you could ever imagine. People will scoff at that sentence, but it is really true from my perspective; the riffs cloud your head constantly, the promotion is always happening day and night, bandmates and tour managers and venues are trying to reach you at all hours every single day, and then when you are lost in the music…well, you’re just lost to the world. I really don’t want it any other way.”
The Runaways or Ramones?
What’s The Darts’ ultimate ambition?
“We want to tour Japan. We want to play on an aircraft carrier. We want to laugh so hard together that we all throw up. We want to write a song that makes people weep from the
sheer fun of it. We’re not happy until everyone is on stage in a dogpile with us at the end
of the show.”
The band’s wishes for 2018?
“We already have several tours of Europe planned already, and a tour of Japan in the works, along with a new LP and a split 7”, plus we have ideas for two more videos for Me.Ow. and we are going to switch up our stage outfits. So our wish is that we get all that done while having the best time ever and not totally embarrassing ourselves along the way. Oh, and world peace, I guess.”
Many thanks to Nicole for this interview. May the road rise with THE DARTS…
No better way to end an interview with some electrical dynamite.
Here’s THE DARTS‘ debut Me.Ow. in full…