Artist Interviews

Q&A: Darwin Deez

By | Published on Tuesday 13 April 2010

Darwin Deez

Darwin Deez, aka Darwin Smith (yep, it’s his real name), is a purveyor of infectious indie-pop. Having left Wesleyan University five years ago to start a band in New York, he’s built up quite a following with a live set featuring his original songs, harsh electronic noise and bouts of synchronized dancing with his band (think of a slightly cooler version of the Napoleon Dynamite dance routines). Darwin Deez releases his eponymous debut album this week via Lucky Number, and will be in the UK for the next few months for the NME Radar Tour and various festival dates. We caught up with Smith to ask deez Same Six Questions.

Q1 How did you start out making music?
It was a lot like the way Bastian starts to read the ‘Neverending Story’, only substitute the dusty hardback for a Stratocaster. And instead of Auryn, I had an akai S2000 rackmount digital sampler (equally awesome for what it was). And instead of Falkor, I had Jeff Yankauer’s PowerTracks Pro, a software MIDI sequencer for Windows 3.1.

Q2 What inspired your latest album?
Two local NYC artists: Bell and WAKEY!WAKEY! Strong songwriters, both. They both woke me up to the possibilities of lyrics. And my personal relationships, of course. But where does my inspiration come from beyond that? I don’t know.. this is a hard one. I think it often comes from feeling bad. Negative emotions. It feels good to hit the guitar strings and push high notes out of my throat when I’m upset. It’s cathartic. But I guess that goes without saying. More on this later (see Q4).

Q3 What process do you go through in creating a track?
First, I get my feelings hurt. Then, I get the guitar, and… no, just kidding. But let’s see… for most of the tracks on this album, I started with a topic or concept for the song, and then I established the rhythm guitar part and the lyrics and melody. More than once, I started with the first line of the first verse, and in those cases, the first line then determined the shape of the verse melody, and then I wrote a chorus to contrast it. I added all the other instrumentation during the recording process.

Q4 Which artists influence your work?
You mean who do I steal from? Can’t tell you because it would ruin the magic, but my answer to Q2 has a clue or two in it… no, I’ll tell you: the dismemberment plan is a big one. Travis Morrison’s whole approach to lyric writing is so fresh and authentic and effective. I’ve learned a lot from his stuff. Musically, it amazes me how consistently the ‘Thriller’ singles will kickstart any dance party, and I’ve paid close attention to the rhythm tracks on that album. Ben Gibbard also paints a scene very well. Influence? You decide. Oh, and the fact that I make up-tempo guitar-based music probably does have to do with the success of The Strokes. Their success was influential – hugely. Their music also influenced me, I’m sure. Although I think my sound is completely different. If The Hives were still around, I don’t think people would be stamping me with The Strokes label so much.

Q5 What would you say to someone experiencing your music for the first time?
Shut up and dance!

Q6 What are your ambitions for your latest album, and for the future?

My ambition for this album is to quit my day job as a waiter. My ambition for the next album is to write and record a timeless, honest piece of music that is also commercially successful.