Just before their second ever show in Sydney, we had the chance to sit down with Darts to discuss awkward interviews, Devo covers and the making of their first record, Below Empty and Westward Bound.
Photos by: Liam Cameron
HAPPY: How are you guys ? It’s great to have you all here together in Sydney.
ANGUS: Yeah it’s been going well. Lots of touring. We just finished up three shows with Alpine, which has been really nice.
HAPPY: Do you guys know Alpine personally? I just assume that ‘cos you guys are from the same city, you somehow all know each other?
ANGUS: We actually know Phil, the drummer, but we didn’t know the rest of the band.
ALLY: We do know them now, though. They’re all really lovely people. So nice.
HAPPY: So all the shows have been going well? I’ve heard your launch in Melbourne blew the roof off.
ANGUS: Yeah, surprisingly heaps of people showed up. We played the album start to finish that night, we had a horn section involved as well and it all went really well.
HAPPY: A horn section? Can we expect that tonight, please?
ANDREW: We didn’t have the cash to fly them up.
JESSIE: I don’t think the stage is big enough.
HAPPY: They could just sit on the stairs.
ALLY: Or in the crowd.
JESSIE: Surprisingly we rarely fit on the stage in Melbourne, even though they are usually ten times the size of the one upstairs.
HAPPY: Will this [Brighton Up Bar] be the smallest stage you’ve ever played?
ANDREW: Old Bar is pretty small.
JESSIE: This is probably on par cos it’s like a weird triangle shape, and triangles are hard to work with. Really hard to work with.
HAPPY: Cos I’ve never seen you guys play before, do you like to bust out some moves or is it more the logistics of having five people on stage?
ALLY: We do sometimes.
ANGUS: Whenever I don’t have to sing I usually just go and like, walk up next to the drum kit, like away from the audience and hide.
PAIGE: I think Jessie dances.
JESSIE: Yeah but I never want to be the only one. Andrew is pretty energetic but he’s stuck behind the drum kit all the time.
HAPPY: Are you guys looking forward to tonight?
ANGUS: Yeah! It’s only our second time here. We played here in February for the Rice Is Nice summer party but this will be a nice way to end our little tour for this part of the year.
ALLY: I think Sydney have been pretty supportive, especially with radio stuff. Like FBi have been super supportive with radio play, so it’s nice to have the chance to come up to Sydney.
HAPPY: Yeah i’ve been hearing you guys heaps on FBi over the last 6 months or so. Every time I heard Westward Bound I was like ‘who the fuck is this band?! Since starting out like five or six years ago, what’s your journey been like?
ANGUS: Well, the last two years we’ve been solidly just working on the album. But before that, I guess we were just sort of collecting members. So we’ve added Jessie and Paige since playing Groovin’ The Moo [back in 2009]. We had the lineup, so the last 24 months have just been focused on writing and recording the album.
HAPPY: That’s a pretty long time to have an album gestating.
ANDREW: It felt like a long time.
ANGUS: We demoed it a lot. We actually probably did at least two or three versions of the album before we really properly started recording it. We just wanted to be happy with it when we put it out, cos you know, once it’s out you can’t really drag it back.
HAPPY: That’s interesting, we’ve talked to a few bands about that ‘wait’ to put out an album out. Did you guys have that feeling?
ALLY: We were actually kind of forced to put it out. Well not really forced, but once we got signed to Rice Is Nice, Julia was like ‘alright, let’s get this thing out there.’ We had a plan for a couple of months after it was released too which was great, we didn’t really have that ‘waiting period’.
HAPPY: How did you guys hook up with Rice Is Nice?
ALLY: We had this period of trying to get people to get excited about the album, we put of bunch of videos up and Julia [from RIN] saw one and got in contact with us and was like, ‘ I need to hear this album.’ We sent her a few songs and she said she wanted to hear more. We sent her the whole thing and she invited us up, and it all went from there.
HAPPY: What’s it been like working with Rice Is Nice? What attracted you guys to them?
ANGUS: I think it was just their enthusiasm about the record. When they invited us up to play their summer party, Julia and Charlie, who also works there, were just super nice and we could see how enthusiastic they were, not just about our music, but about all of their artists on their label. That, to us, was pretty attractive.
HAPPY: And since it been in the last few months you’ve been together.
ANGUS: It’s been great, she’s just really on board with pushing the band. And it’s gone really well so far. Andrew?
ANDREW: Oh don’t bring me into a question randomly.
ANGUS: Andrew has had this move lately when we do radio interviews. I trick him into saying ‘just come in and sit next to me while I do it’ then I just chuck a microphone in front of him so he has to do it.
ANDREW: And in my head on there I go through the conversation making out that i’m the coolest person. And then I get there and just sit in silence.
ALLY: Yeah I remember listening to that the presenter saying it was Angus and Andrew talking. But unless I had lost my mind and forgotten what you sounded like, I swear you didn’t say anything.
ANDREW: I spoke at the end!
ALLY: You’re losing your voice, that’s your excuse.
ANDREW: [Croaks] Yeah, I’ve got a sore throat.
HAPPY: Yeah drumming really affects your vocals.
ANDREW: It’s the backup vocals. Just wait, you’ll see.
ANGUS: Or won’t. It’s a fifty-fifty thing. You never know.
HAPPY: How do you guys approach how people see you outside of just the music?
ANGUS: In terms of the album artwork and our videos I guess they’re quite serious, and we want to do that to reflect the music. In real life we are all bozos [Andrew descends into a bogan accent repeating the word bozos] but I guess the way we approached visually representing the album would always have had to give justice to the tone of it.
JESSIE: So just like, Andrew nude on the cover or something?
ANDREW: That’s what I wanted. Just me nude, with a rescue dog, and call it For The Animals.
ANGUS: That’s the next album cover.
[The conversation becomes a scrambled bunch of laughter with Darts taking the piss out of each other, somehow we got to talking about how Andrew sung Devo’s Whip It one time]
PAIGE: We did a residency at The Tote in Melbourne, but for one of the nights we just decided to mostly do covers.
ANDREW: I think it was all covers.
HAPPY: Please, do Whip It tonight.
ANDREW: [Sings] Whip it!
PAIGE: Didn’t you also sing on the Jay Reatard cover?
ANDREW: Whilst drumming, yeah. That was pretty impressive.
HAPPY: Just channelling some Kram?
ANDREW: Yeah Kram. Onya Kram.
ANGUS: We actually got interviewed by Kram one time, Andrew and I, back when we started the band as a two-piece. I can’t remember what it was for, but it was in some pub in Bendigo. That was Andrew’s first awkward interview answer.
ANDREW: I was like 16. It was really bad.
HAPPY: What did he ask?
ANDREW: He asked something about-
ANGUS: Your music tastes or something?
ANDREW: Yeah and I just kept going on about how ‘oh everything comes from Angus, Angus started the band, Angus writes it all.’ It was bad.
ANGUS: And as soon as he finished the interview his face just fell, cos he knew he’d dropped the ball.
HAPPY: Well in that case i’m going to ask you every question from now on.
ANDREW: Well it was true. Angus did write the songs and I just like, put some drums to it. Anyway, we never saw the interview so….
ALLY: Yeah it never made it out into the world.
JESSIE: But look how far you’ve come.
HAPPY: You’ve given me three good answers!
ANDREW: Yeah, have fun editing this.
HAPPY: Oh I won’t be editing, these are going out raw.
ANGUS: It’s just going to be verbatim.
HAPPY: Something else I wanted to talk about before we got on to the topic of Kram was your clip for Dead. I had the pleasure of writing an article about it, and ended up watching it a lot of times. It’s great, so slashy, and that guy was psychotic.
ALLY: He’s a good actor.
ANGUS: I don’t think that was all acting, though. He was out there all day, it was freezing, like 5 degrees, he had no shoes on, just pants and a shirt. So i think by the end of the shoot he was just a crazy person.
HAPPY: Was he just a guy you found in the wilderness?
ANDREW: He looks it.
JESSIE: I think he’d actually done some acting as a bush ranger or something. But no, he’d just done some work with the guts before. But yeah he was great. I remember him practicing in the garage before the bloody shots, and he was just like screaming. It was the middle of the night in the suburbs. We were like ‘people are probably calling the cops right now’.
HAPPY: I feel like that clip really elevated your music. It’s a really intense clip, but it’s also very intimate, it’s kind of beautiful in a way. That’s how I feel about the album too. I’m curious, from like a personal perspective how do you project that on stage, doing such an intense thing?
ALLY: It’s actually quite therapeutic. We all try and be really nice people, we don’t want to be dickheads, but I guess playing music is that sort of outlet that we don’t have in every day life.
ANGUS: And I think that isolation, and depression are sort of ongoing things you experience, and playing constantly just alleviates that build up of all that junk. Like screaming at an audience can really help. After a gig i’m the most chilled person there is. If people don’t know me, if the only place they’d seen me is on stage they’d probably think i’m heaps loud and extroverted, but i’m sort of soft-spoken. Actually if you see me tonight, my stage banter is pretty awkward, then i’ll start screaming again once the song kicks in. Which I guess is pretty odd.
HAPPY: I think a lot of people are like that, some of the nicest dudes and dudettes are wailers on stage, and it’s very confronting, but it’s cool. So, do you guys have any tours planned, or have you done any more writing?
ANDREW: We’ve got some stuff coming up that hasn’t been announced yet.
ANGUS: There’s some stuff coming up at the back end of the year, and also we are planning on starting to write for our next record. So there’s just a few bits and pieces at the moment.
HAPPY: No hints as to what’s going down?
ANGUS: Ahh no so far there’s just a bit of an atmospheric thing going on.
ANDREW: [Sarcastically] It’s an exclusive.
HAPPY: Jules will be fine, we’re all friends.
ANGUS: Sometimes, and i’m sure Ally is the same, i’ll find myself at two in the morning trying to get to sleep because I have work the next day and i’ll have a tune come into my head that i’ll hum into my phone, so I have all these recordings of me saying ok this will be a fast guitar part then [humming] – so yeah, I have lots of embarrassing little recordings on my phone.
HAPPY: Did a lot of the songs on the album start like that?
ANGUS: Yeah lots of them.
JESSIE: I even write bass lines like that sometimes. The worst is when you are showing someone a recording and you accidentally put one on. Me trying to sing a bass line is not good.
HAPPY: Ok so we’re almost out of time. The last question I wanted to ask is, what makes you guys Happy?
ANDREW: David Attenborough documentaries, forever. What’s yours Angus, is it actually me?
ANGUS: Na. Well, me and Andrew, we’re brothers, and we have this Grandma, we call her White Gran, cos she has white hair. Driving out to Bendigo and hearing White Gran tell us the same stories over and over again, that makes me happy.
ANDREW: Oh that’s better than mine.
ALLY: I’m just gonna go with the most obvious one, family.
ANDREW: Darts are deep.
PAIGE: I was gonna say something really shallow, like staying at home and illustrating and drinking whisky, maybe not alone though, I don’t drink alone, I swear.
JESSIE: I don’t know.
ANGUS: You’ve got a pretty good housemate.
JESSIE: I live with Angus, he takes the bins out sometimes. That makes me happy. Or eating, and dancing, the simple things.
ANDREW: Or playing in Darts.
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