Interviews

darby chats her debut album and which classics got her through this year

Inner-west local, creative, and self-proclaimed introvert darby chats her debut album and what it’s like to be a member of a 30-person artist collective.

Following the release of Suburbia, her wildly nostalgic and sentient first album, Bec O’Brien (a.k.a. darby) took us back to the beginning.

From camping trips in New Zealand to the record’s origins between Berlin and Newtown, darby has drawn inspiration from many facets of life. Her ability to wield melancholia with a serene sense of confident musicianship is mesmerising. If you haven’t yet delved into the world of darby, do not pass go, do not collect two hundred.

darby
Photo: Van Bartel

HAPPY: Hey Bec, how are you? What do you find yourself doing right this moment?

BEC: Howdy! I’m well, thank you. For the past week, I’ve been writing and recording an eclectic EP with friends. I’m hoping to release something alternative that people can purchase digitally, in order to sponsor the production of the physicals for my studio record.

HAPPY: A huge congratulations on the release of your debut album Suburbia. It’s been an absolute favourite in our office. Was this brought to light amidst the freeing up of creative time this year? Or was it a long time coming?

BEC: That’s kind of you to say, thank you. This record started in 2017 in Berlin, Germany. I took many journals of my solo travels whilst in Europe. Lots of poems and detailed writing of my experiences and observations of the cultures. I’d say about half of the record was hiding in those anecdotes and, when I got home, I spent about three months writing the music and attempting to capture the essence of each story in an interesting way. I was writing on an electric guitar for the first time, so I spent a lot of time figuring out how I wanted to use the instrument in a way that could capture more melody. Suburbia was the last song I wrote about two years later in Newtown. It carries and captures a completely different tone and time for me.

HAPPY: The video for the title track is steeped in nostalgia. Can you tell us about the footage you’ve used for Suburbia?

BEC: The footage was taken by my mum. When I was young we moved to the North Island (Palmerston North) for a few years, I remember mum was always filming our camping trips and documenting our lives there to send to our grandparents. There’s a part in the video where younger me is filming mum: it’s a very personal moment and the nostalgia you pointed out, with the imagery of the New Zealand coast, suited the vulnerability of the song perfectly. I grew up by the sea so there’s always been something deeply grounding about having the ocean close by for me. When I moved to the city, that tone of longing has been seeping through my music ever since.

HAPPY: From one Newtowner to another, this overwhelming sense of familiarity on your record hits home. What is it about the inner-west in Sydney that inspires you?

BEC: Having only lived in the inner west for two years, I think it actually took me about a year and a half to really feel like it was my home. There were a lot of lonely moments for me when I shifted into this lifestyle and when I started to really give my music everything I had. I think that’s when I found my crew in various pockets of the scene, when you’re passionate and somewhat obsessive about what you do it attracts the right people. I try to capture detail in my storytelling and, just like the cities I was visiting overseas, Newtown has a great deal of character. I love the creature that is the inner-west: at times it can be isolating and overwhelming for me but I think that’s something we can all relate to, whether you’ve grown up here or not.

HAPPY: What is it like living with 30-odd others in an artist co-operative?

BEC: Well, it’s definitely very dynamic. I’ve had the best years of my life at Alpha House. I’ve met some life-long friends and am grateful to be surrounded by a group of people with a shared vision and passion. Albeit, sometimes it can be a challenge as an introvert to not have many moments in real solitude, but I wouldn’t trade this chapter in my life for anything. It’s been an integral part of me finding my confidence and value as an artist and musician and feeling accepted by my community.

HAPPY: And does the project name darby have a specific origin?

BEC: Darby is my grandmother’s maiden name. It was also the password on Mum’s computer for ages. I wanted a family name but also a, sort of, new identify I could shape and play with more artistically.

HAPPY: You recently played a gig at the Vanguard. How was the sit-down gig experience for you?

BEC: It was lovely, I was very nervous and excited. I think the introspective tone of my music suits the sit-down vibe anyway, so it was perfect for premiering an album as people were really able to listen to the lyrics and absorb the music with a greater sense of focus. I wasn’t expecting the turn out to be so wonderfully supportive, so I’m deeply grateful that, with all the loss of shows recently, there has blossomed a newfound appreciation for live music and the arts.

 

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Thank you so much to everyone who bought a ticket for last nights shows. That was my first time filling a room, twice! Which is a huge achievement for me. I’m sorry I forgot to plug the album and tell you where to get it in the first set… I was literally shaking in my boots. Thanks to @eveningrecordsco who have helped me a great deal over the last few weeks to get the show together. To @vanguardnewtown for hosting us To @abdilehani for your amazing performance To @blaincunneen @fromsaturn___ @nickcasssey to Luke on the desk. You can buy Suburbia the album for 10 bucks via my bio link on bandcamp. From 5pm 100% of sales go to the artist. Thank you again. 🙃🙃🙃🙃💙💜💙💜💙💜

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HAPPY: When things open up, what stage do you have your eye on for a potential show?

BEC: I’d love to play the Lansdowne again soon. The new Waywards stage above the Bank (Hotel) I hear is back on, so beam me up!

HAPPY: What’s one album that’s gotten you through 2020?

BEC: I’ve never been good at choosing so Beginners from Christian Lee Hutson was a great album. Mutable Set from Blake Mills, RAM by Paul McCartney and Bowie forever.

HAPPY: What’s next for darby?

BEC: Well, in art land, I’m participating in my first group exhibition for painting in November with my pal Presley Joy Paget, and I’ll be releasing the next self-produced collaborate EP darby at the Beach in hopes of raising enough to get vinyl pressed for Suburbia. Next show is 27th October at The Vanguard, supporting A Star Pilot From Saturn. He’s an absolute gun of a songwriter.

HAPPY: Thanks for your time Bec. Cheers for the chat!

BEC: Thank you.

Enjoy darby’s debut album Suburbia below: