Written by Alana Mazurke
“As further and further the months pass the record is a just snapshot of a moment in time; it’s a picture of me and Nico working out our musical ideas together over the past two years and that’s what it is. What we get to do now is explore those ideas further and make new ones.”
Five months after the release of debut LP Psychic, Darkside are bringing their acclaimed album to Australia for the first time as the new duo. The pair consisting of Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington had toured Australia before playing at St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival early last year, though at that time were performing Jaar’s solo catalogue. In light of the new release and recently announced headline shows for both Sydney and Melbourne next month I speak to Dave about live shows, making the record, Australian music all the while trying to score free beer out of him. I succeeded.
“It took a long time to put it all together because we decided at a certain point that we almost felt like we were done with it, then we sat with. It was right before Christmas and we had a mix of an album and we were going to see family so we weren’t going to be able to work on it – I think Nico was going to Chile for family. So we had like two weeks where we couldn’t work on it together and just sat with this mix. We were going to listen to it and maybe we were done and maybe we were going to come back and when we came back we were both like, no. We’re not there yet.”
The main thing you get out of this eight tracked masterpiece is the eclecticism of both Jaar and Harrington’s ideals of performing music. It’s somewhat refreshing as it takes the commercialism away from this whole abundance of electronic music being released. That’s no dig at electronic music or any form of music rather an album where the work and production level is a cut above the rest, where an array of genres folds effortlessly together is that spark of difference that I think raises the bar when releasing avant-garde music.
“At a certain point the album stopped being songs. An album in a way isn’t just songs to us and at a certain point it wasn’t just about sequencing. It was these, you know these different pieces had started to tie themselves together so it wasn’t as if we could be like ‘oh let’s just put this song here and this song there’ you know? We did one move like that towards the very, very end of the process of making the record and what it resulted in was we needed to take another three or four days to make new music to feel like it could fit in. So we ended up having to make these whole new pieces of music to tie it together.”
In only the early stages of being a band let alone releasing an LP, Darkside have been and will continue to be touring extensively this year. “Last time I was there [Australia] it would have been laneway over year ago and yes I am very excited because when I was there I had a fucking great time. “ Harrington and Jaar have been playing live together since 2011 taking Jaar’s solo album Space Is Only Noise on tour and it was around this time their aptness for writing music together shone. Psychic is the first LP released under the name Darkside, however, the pair had released previous album Random Access Memories Memories under the pseudonym DAFTSIDE; a brilliant remix album of the Daft Punk masterpiece.
“After we did laneway we played more cities in Australia than we had done previously in the states hah. I’m not gonna pretend like I know a lot about the Australian music scene but I am a huge Tame Impala fan. They make some of the best psychedelic rock anyone’s making. At Laneway we saw Pond play and Pond are now one of my favourite bands. They’re bonkers! And so good live. I ended up with Chet faker’s band and we were all geeking out about jazz records and hanging out and I’d met one of the guys who are travelling in rat & co. I felt doing that tour I didn’t get exposed to the breadth of the scene but I got to meet a lot of people and just hang out and have beer.”
After explaining to Dave that, that was basically the whole ideals of the Australian music culture; hanging out, seeing live music, having a beer and a chat, I begged the question of how Darkside played their music live. On multiple occasions I had read that the live experience is that of a whole new level of music. In a way, I couldn’t imagine hearing the album not in full regardless of live or not yet it’s notably obvious that Darkside play with a certain tangency to it.
“Nico and I got into a deepful conversation last night after the show in a way about this – it’s just what we enjoy, you know the people who we look up to and aspire to, it’s all about taking risks and doing things where you know it’s going to be unique in the literal sense of the word. Not like oh it will be the most special thing; no. It will only be what it is that one night. And yeah were gonna play ‘Paper Trails’ but it’s not gonna be the same ‘Paper Trails’ that it was the night before; that’s what’s exciting for us going to see live music, about making music and about performing and touring and doing it every night. Some bands are great at it, it must bring them much joy to deliver their songs and play their songs every night but we don’t even really make songs that are true to do that in the first place you know? For us owning up and improvising and allowing ourselves to take risks and putting us in a position where we do things the hard way is part of the fun.”
In the sense of going into each show not necessarily playing different versions of each song but showcasing their songs to be as suchlike as they will them to be on that night, I pondered if they had ever then discovered a preference of playing any tracks in this new form.
“One night somewhere in I think it was in Europe somewhere we were playing ‘Heart’ and we had always tried figuring out what we wanted to do in the second part of the song. We’d try this and we’d try that, try to make it faster we’d try to make it ambient we’d do all these different experiments and then one night Nico just flicked one switch and added a little hi-hat in somewhere and suddenly we were in like disco jam and I was like ‘oh, ok’! This is interesting. We’d just gone from this shuffly blues thing into like disco jam and we’re like now it’s in our bag of tools you know what I mean? One night we can take it there and if we don’t want to we don’t have to but we kind of can then accumulate. Hopefully in each show there will be many things new but also hopefully there will be little moments that we’re like that thing, let’s remember that and add that to our bag of tricks. And sometimes we eventually get bored of them and we stop doing them completely or then we bring ‘em back.”
The conversation ends on the best possible note with a promise of this ‘classic Australian comradely hangs’ and beer. The realist in me understands that the likelihood of this happening is almost miniscule and yet the optimist in me is hopeful – slightly. I will leave you with one of my favourite extracts from the interview with Dave talking about blues music in his own way. Also scratch the idea that Harrington sings anything on the album regardless of what Pitchfork says, it’s a fallacy.
“Well really the weird thing at this point is that I am a guitarist when at first I wasn’t; from the time I was 11 through university I was a jazz bass player. I played in party bands and played keyboard and a little electronics but I never played guitar in a band until I played in the Nico live band. There are a lot of different things that is blues and once you pick up a guitar you’re in the gravitational force field of it. It’s a matter whether you admit that or not. Guitar players I love are deeply indebted to blues. I like the extreme approach too it’s just to play blues; that’s giving the guitar what it wants. Give it some blues, kind of fight with it a little bit and then try to make it do this other shit.”
Listen to the full album below.
Wednesday//April 2nd//The Hi-Fi
Friday//April 4th//The Palace Theatre