On March 25th of this year, we headed down to Sacramento for the soft opening of the Witch Room, formerly Bows and Arrows, to see the Wax Idols. Tyler, from The Primitive Painters, rode along with us, as our friends, So Stressed, were also playing. Darlingchemicalia wasn’t even on my radar when we drove down, but that changed completely when they started playing. They’re difficult to classify, but their sound fits into the neo-psychedelic revolution nicely. It was hard for me to believe I hadn’t heard of them before, as they had great energy, incredible songs and were really talented musicians. The sound at the Witch Room was clean, well-mixed, and really sold the bands…we left the venue with the new ‘Spun In White’ LP and assurances we’d be able to get the band up to Grass Valley for a Seismomatic event.
Scheduling is tough, but it keeps me in contact with the band, mainly through keyboardist, Stephine Bone. A recent exchange about a possible Darlingchemicalia appearance made this interview with Ian Bone (vocals/guitar) possible:
Eldorkopunkretro: I’ve been going to shows in Sacramento for a few years now…it seems to have a fairly vibrant scene. What kind of support is there for bands in Sacramento? What’s your impression of the regional scene overall, then specifically around what Darlingchemicalia is doing…are there others working in this genre? What is this genre?
Ian Bone: Sacramento is kinda tricky as far as a scene goes. I can definitely say that there are a lot of bands and a lot of shows that happen in the area, but it’s pretty fragmented. For every scene that seems healthy and supportive like the punk scene, there’s a million small little fragmented scenes that seemingly stay pretty exclusive to themselves. At the risk of sounding negative, the problem in this area seems to be getting people to come to shows. It seems like there’s a lot of people specifically in midtown Sac that will go to DJ nights and like to go out and dance, but the only people that regularly attend live music performances are band members and close friends of the band. Don’t get me wrong, there are some very amazing people that don’t fall into those categories that support the scene and we’re also very lucky to have a freeform radio station like KDVS in the area as well, and we have been lucky enough to get some strong support from those areas. With that being said, I couldn’t even say that there is a scene for what we are doing. It seems to be the problem almost anywhere we go…we’re too pretty for the punk or metal scene, but we’re too simple/loud/rock for any of the other “weirder” scenes. There are other bands in the area that are similar to us, specifically G.Green (Andrew is the front man of this band so we don’t play with them too often because it’s tough to ask him to do double duty on any given night) and Screature. I wouldn’t say that these bands occupy a particular genre, but more that we’re on a similar level of intensity.
Eldorkopunkretro: Has everyone been in other bands? I know I’ve seen Andrew in G.Green. How and when did Darlingchemicalia come together?
Ian Bone: Yes, we’ve all been around in other bands, some more than others. As mentioned, Andrew is the front man of G.Green. Michael was also in G.Green and played guitar on their debut LP ‘Crap Culture‘. Justin has most recently been in the (now defunct) excellent band called ESS. He also currently plays in a folkier project called The Neighbors. Steph used to play drums in the punk band Cult Witness*. I was a touring member of the band BOAT from Seattle for a couple years 7 or 8 years ago, and also played in a band called Red Host. Darlingchemicalia initially came together (Justin/Steph/Ian) in January 2009 to play some acoustic songs I’d been working on and we have shifted through line-ups and gotten louder since then, not really doing anything too focused till we added Andrew in late 2011 and then Michael in late 2012. Once we solidified this line-up, we had this instant chemistry that created the songs for ‘Spun In White’.
Eldorkopunkretro: Who are the people in this band? What do they do in “the real world” -vs- what do they bring to the artistic world/the band?
Ian Bone: Andrew plays guitar, Michael plays bass, Justin plays drums, Steph plays keyboard, and I (Ian) play guitar and sing. We’re pretty fortunate in the sense that the instruments listed are the ones we play in this band currently, but everyone in the band can play multiple instruments. All of us have customer service/retail type jobs in our “normal” lives, but I think I can confidently speak for everyone when I say that nobody has a job that they are happy with or feel like defines who they are. We all put in the hours to be able to live and do what we really want which is playing music. This band is always open to ideas, so we all pretty equally bring our own styles and ideas to the process of creating and performing within the band.
Eldorkopunkretro: Having listened through the back catalog of Darlingchemicalia, I’m left with the impression that experimentation is an important aspect of creation for this band. Does experimentation account for the name if the band?
Ian Bone: Yes, I would say so. The band name is pretty much supposed to mean whatever someone wants it to mean. It’s long and awkward, but other than whatever impression that might give someone, I think that the presentation of the band is supposed to be more open to interpretation. We’re much more about feel and allowing people to draw their own conclusions, whether its the music, lyrics, or name of the band.
Eldorkopunkretro: Could you run us through your songwriting/creative process? Do song ideas generally start with lyrics or music first? Is there a person who is the driving force of the band or is writing a more collaborative effort?
Ian Bone: The songwriting/creative process is pretty open in this band. For the most part, the music will come first. There are some exceptions to that, most prominently ‘House of Violence’, which did come out of the vocal/lyric part of the verse and the rest of the song was written around that. But mostly, in each songs infancy there is the music first, then the vocal melody, and last the lyrics. We played most of the songs from ‘Spun in White’ live for almost a year before they were recorded, and although the vocal melodies were mostly the same, none of the lyrics were actually written until right before recording. There is not really one person who is the driving force behind the writing. The songs are worked on and take shape with all of us together in our practice space. Certain songs like ‘Final Girl’, ‘FHS’, ‘Flowers From the Church’, and ‘PJ Soles’ were partially worked out by me at home before bringing them to the band, but once the band gets the songs, we add parts, change arrangements/progressions, and generally re-write it to a degree that if you were to hear the original demos of those songs you would not even recognize them. On the other end of that, there are songs entirely created all together…songs like ‘Insex’, ‘MJ’, and ‘Felt Goods’ were worked out entirely in the moment. ‘Young Blood’ was also a song written by Andrew by himself and brought to the band…we slightly changed the arrangement and vocal melody. So the general idea is anyone who has an idea brings one, and we also spend a lot of time just playing till we hear something we like and then we’ll work on it from there.
Eldorkopunkretro: What themes does the band explore…is there something you’re trying to tell us?
Ian Bone: As far as themes go, those vary from album to album. Most recently on ‘Spun in White’, I was kinda trying to make our teenage record, mixed with the fact that I have a strong liking for horror movies, specifically the 70s-80s slasher genre. I don’t know how successfully it was pulled off, but I really tried to combine the sexual tension of both of those things mixed with the feeling of hopelessness or the feeling of not really being in control of your own life. That’s for that record, as far as the next one, we’ll have to see…
Eldorkopunkretro: I hadn’t heard of Darlingchemicalia before the soft opening of The Witch Room, which you played with Wax Idols, so ‘Spun In White’ took me by surprise…it’s a very complex statement. How did this record come together with such intricate songwriting structure, layering and recording? What factors spurred the extreme evolution of the band from your first releases through this current?
Ian Bone: ‘Spun In White’ is the first record that we have had the benefit of having a full five person line up which was performing the songs for a long time before recording them. So the songs definitely had time to evolve over time into what they are on the record. As far as layering goes, I’ve always been a fan of just putting layers and layers of instruments on a song in the recording. So we did spend a lot of time layering guitars and vocals specifically, which is a benefit of recording the album ourselves. Justin took on a huge role in recording the record, and that gave us the luxury of time. Instead of only having a few days in a studio to bash out a record, we were able to spend a few months recording it. We were also lucky enough to have Rachel (who is a member of Justin’s other band The Neighbors) come and record some violin on a couple songs as well. All these layers ending up kicking our ass in the mixing process (which took 4 months), but that’s a whole other story to tell, and it ended up working out well in the end. As far as the extreme evolution goes, now the band is made up of these 5 parts, from this point on, it’s safe to assume that we will continue on the same quality intricate/layered path of songwriting.
Eldorkopunkretro: Are you working on new material? If so, how does it compare to ‘Spun in White’? Is the growth still coming in leaps or is it more subtle?
Ian Bone: We are working on new material. We’ve got four new songs that we are playing live at the moment, and we’ve got another three that are almost ready to be played in front of an audience. I’ve also demoed out another 10 or so at home, so we’re almost to a point where we can start considering the next record. As of right now, we’ve got a goal to start recording again late this year, or very early next year. I’d say the new material is a logical progression from the ‘Spun in White’ stuff. The new songs are both more brutal, yet more technical at the same time. I think from this point on, the growth will be more subtle yet there will always be an attempt to try new things. I’m really excited about the new songs we’ve got.
Eldorkopunkretro: What is the philosophy of the band behind live performance, recorded releases and social media engagement? How do you present yourselves to the world through the variety of analog and digital means?
Ian Bone: We’ve never really been a band that has been about a particular image, at least in the way that we ourselves are presented. As far as recorded releases, I’m really into minimalism in the artwork and packaging. I believe that a record and it’s artwork should allow the listener to create their own impression of the band/record. I think if there are too many colors/distracting elements to artwork that the artist is providing too much of how the audience should react to it. The packaging should compliment the music without distracting from it. As far as social media goes, I’m personally terrible at it, as are most members of the band, so we do not have a very strong internet presence. We do have a facebook/tumblr/twitter etc., but they are not updated nearly as much as they should be to be really useful. The only thing that I have spent a lot of time on as far as a digital presence is concerned for this record is music videos. We’ve never had any before, and as of right now, I’ve made four videos for ‘Spun In White’. Mostly because it’s fun to have another medium to create art for this album. Our live performances have continued to improve over the years to the degree that I think we’re pretty consistently good now. Every once in a while we will still have a show that we are just terrible, but for the most part we’ve got it down. We don’t really have a gimmick or anything with our show, we’re just 4 boys and a girl that try to put on as much of a show as we can by just playing with some conviction.
Physical copies of the LP are available through Bandcamp:
* (Cult Witness) sadly, nothing online exists from this band. Ian said there was one real recording and some live recordings, but they seem to be gone. ~ Eldorkopunkretro