INTERVIEW: Jessi Darlin of Those Darlins

Little Advances is happy to bring you our first ever interview.  I spoke with Jessi Darlin of Those Darlins earlier this afternoon about their upcoming new album, Bill Clinton, their live versus recorded sound, and Funstix, Jessi’s side project with Darlins drummer Linwood.  If you’re in Atlanta, you can catch them tonight and tomorrow night at The Earl.  Their new 7″ (a split with Funstix) comes out Tuesday, September 14th.

You guys started the current tour last night right? How did that go?

Yes. Awesome, we played in Birmingham and it was a good show. Went well for a first night.

I checked Twitter right before I called you and saw you had a Bill Clinton sighting earlier today.

Yeah, we just saw him. We were eating down in Birmingham, and we actually walked into this Thai place from our van, and we saw they had the street all blocked off. They were telling cars to turn around. There were these big black SUVS, and one of us said, “Gosh, what is this, the president or something?,” and everyone just laughed, just like, “Yeah, right.” And then we all went into the restaurant and Kelly went in to get coffee, and then when she came back after getting coffee, she said, “I just saw Bill Clinton in Starbucks!”

I saw that Nikki broke her arm a few months ago. Is that healed up?

Yeah, last night was her first show playing without the cast.

She’s back full-time on the ukulele and everything?

No, she’s still not playing full-time, but she plays most of the show. She just got it off last week so we only had 4 days. She hasn’t played in 4 months, and we’re playing all new songs, so it was too much to make her learn 10 new songs at once.

So you’re playing a lot of new stuff on this tour?

Yeah, we just recorded our second album about a month ago and we’re playing all the songs from that album on this tour.

Any new covers in the set?

No, we’re doing two of the old Carter family covers off the first album, and we’re doing “Lonesome Cowboy Bill” still, but we haven’t added any because we’ve added so many other songs.

Do you all still live in Murfreesboro?

Actually, only Kelley lives in Murfressboro now, the rest of us all moved to Nashville.

I’m actually from Nashville, that’s why I asked.

Are you?

Yeah. Do you guys feel like your a part of the Nashville music scene?

Yeah, I like it pretty well.

Any bands from the area you’re particularly fond of?

I love Heavy Cream, Natural Child, and Pujol.

Your first album plays up the country side a bit more, but live you’re a little louder, the punk side comes through a little bit more. Is that a conscious decision on your part, or does it just kind of naturally happen?

Well, it naturally, gradually happened, but then once it naturally happened we discussed it and said, “Is this the direction we want to go?” and everybody was pretty much like “Yeah. We want to make a rock and roll album.” So it wasn’t like we woke up all of a sudden and we sounded different, but I would say it happened more naturally than us just saying, “Ok, let’s change.”

Is that reflected on the new album?

Yeah, definitely. It’s very different than before. By far everyone seems, at least who’s heard it, which is only like 3 people besides the people that worked on it, so far the reviews have been that it’s totally different, but it’s a more like transition. You can see how it got there.

I imagine if someone has seen you live before it wouldn’t be that big of a transition then.

Yeah, exactly. Everyone keeps asking me if the new 7” is a good representation of the album, and the song, “Nightjogger,” is going to be on the album, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that the song embodies it, or can even sum up the album. But it’s definitely a good representation of our live show, which is a little bit more…if you’ve seen it, then maybe you get it, but I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily what the album’s like.

This looks like a pretty cool tour, you’ve got some cool cities and venues lined up. Is there anywhere in particular you’re looking forward to playing?

Well, there’s a lot of cool shows. So many of my favorite cities are on this tour, so I can’t really pick one over another, but I definitely can’t wait to get back to New York because we haven’t been there in forever and we’re doing 2 shows there. DC is going to be insane and incredible. Chicago’s going to be really fun. But I love everything in between too. That’s a hard question.

When you’ve got 3 singers in one band, how do you divide up the lead parts when you’re approaching an album? Do you have a rough idea of how many each of you are going to sing, or do you just kind of collaborate and pick the best ones?

Usually whoever wrote the song just sings it. Sometimes, if you wrote the song, it’ll still be mainly yours, but there are a few songs on the first album, like “Wild One” and “Snaggle Tooth Mama,” where we co-wrote it and then just said, “It would be better if you sang that.”

I had a couple of questions about Funstix if that’s cool.


Is the Funstix side of the 7” the first official release?

Yes, it is, it’s the first recording we’ve done that we’ve released.

Any future plans for the band?

Yeah, we’ve been a band for several years. It’s really just me and Lin’s recording project. I don’t mean recording professionally, but we just sit at home coming up with songs and recording them onto a crappy 8-track. So really that’s how it is, and we have this huge collection of songs, and we want to put out an album. But before we do that we’re probably going to put out a follow up 7” except it’ll be both A and B Funstix, then after that we’ll decide when and where to release the album. We don’t have any songs planned for that, but we do have probably enough songs for two albums.

But you don’t have any shows lined up?

We don’t have any shows yet. We played this summer the most we’ve ever played live. We played 5 or 6 times. We might play one show before the end of the year. We’re the kind of band where we don’t book shows purposefully, because we just are always doing Darlins stuff, but we’re the band that people call saying, “We really need someone to do this show.” At least for right now.

Do you write specifically for Funstix, or at a certain point do you realize it’s not a Darlins song, it’s a Funstix song?

It’s gotten more to the point where it’s like that. It’s all kind of arbitrary right now, though. It’s usually just when me and Lin write together. We cowrite all the Funstix songs together, so that’s usually what makes it a Funstix song. But he cowrote a lot of the songs on the new Those Darlins album, too.

You guys have toured pretty heavily for the last few years. How has that affected how you write?

I don’t know if it’s the touring, really, but just the experience – writing, playing, seeing so many other people and, you know, experiences, travel, meeting people. But definitely, the new album is much more mature in the songwriting, and…just…I think it’s better. [laughs] I’ll say it. If we hadn’t played that many shows in the last few years and been all over I don’t think we would have made such a leap in songwriting.

You guys have played a fair amount of festivals. How’s that compared to rock shows? Which do you prefer?

We definitely prefer the rock shows. Festivals are fine, but it’s kind of weird. This summer we didn’t tour, we just did festivals. There would be maybe one show a weekend, or maybe two shows, and it’s fun, but it’s harder. You have to play earlier, and the logistics – you don’t get a sound check, and it’s usually outdoors, and it’s a shorter time slot. It’s better to be at the venue and have all the time to prepare, have somewhere to put your stuff and get changed. It’s a little bit less mindboggling when you get to go the venue and have your set routine. Also, we’re so glad to be on a tour that has shows for a month, actually two months, because it keeps going. We can’t stand to just go out for one show then come back home for a week, then go back out and come back home, because you just lose your focus. And now that we all live in different places it’s like we’re not connected.

It’s got to be hard to get momentum going just for one night.

Yeah, because when you go on tour it takes about a week before it settles in and you’re use to being in the motion of being in a new place everyday.

You’ve got some great support on this tour, from Strange Boys and Gentleman Jesse, who’s definitely a favorite around Atlanta.

Love those guys.

Did you know them before the tour?

Yeah, we’ve been trying to get shows with the Strange Boys for forever. We met them year before last at SXSW through a friend of mine, this guy that we know from Israel. We didn’t know him, but our friend from Memphis said he knew this guy who was traveling across the country and needed a place to stay. So we let him stay at our house for like 2 weeks and he was awesome. He had just been in Austin staying with Strange Boys for like a month, so we wrote them and asked them if they wanted to hang out at SXSW. Then Philip asked us to play this showcase at the record store he works at so thats how we met them. We’ve hung out with them several times since then.

Jesse, we met when we played with Gaye Blades in Athens, and he played with Jared in that band and we all partied that night and became friends.


Those Darlins play The Earl in Atlanta tonight (9/9/2010) and tomorrow (9/10/10).  The Strange Boys and Gentleman Jesse open both shows.

  1. December 6th, 2010

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