It’s been a while since we heard something new from the Darcys. Since their last full-length album release, Warring—the Juno nominated album that launched the band to the forefront of the indie scene back in 2013—Jason Couse and Wes Marskell, founders of the Toronto rock outfit, have been flying low. They went on tour, released a couple of post-Warring singles a year after the record launched, went back to being a two-piece (Dave Hurlow and Michael le Riche parted ways with the duo late in 2014) and then punched out for a break.
Wonder what they were doing during that chunk of time? “For two years, write is all we did,” shares Marskell, during an interview with FILLER. “From 9 AM to 3 AM, we were in the studio working out lyrics and trying to shift away from our previously tagged “art-rock” [sound] and into a more pop space.”
And so was born “Miracle,” the band’s latest single. Something of a ‘80s throwback, the song sees Couse retune his velvet whispers—so hauntingly melancholy in the past—to better square with the track’s smooth synth rhythms. With Couse’s vocals vamped up to Don Juan grade, “Miracle” lulls the listener in with expert pop seduction. “It’s not easy reinventing your sound, but it was a really rewarding experience. It was a lot of trial and error,” explains Marskell. And by “a lot,” he means roughly eight records worth of songs.
Despite the stock pile of material, Couse and Marskell will only be focusing on their top ten tracks with no solid plans of a new record release just quite yet. “We haven’t talked about it much, but there is a new record coming… eventually,” Marskell confirms. “Right now we’re pushing a few focus tracks and worrying about the record later in the year.” As for the tracks they’ll be moving ahead with, like we heard with “Miracle, there will be what Marskell describes as “a ‘80s neon hue” to all of the songs. Fitting, considering what he states to be the band’s end creative goal: “the dream was to make a record that you’d want to blast out the speakers of a Testarossa, when burning down a desert highway.” In other words, think Miami Vice.
Below, we continue our discussion with Marskell about the Darcys new sound, on to why “Miracle” is the perfect seasonal anthem, before segueing into a chat about all things summer-related.
Back in May, you guys took some of your new songs and had your first live Toronto show in two years. You must have been itching to get back up on stage, no?
You don’t know the half of it. We’ve been inching to play for two years. I’m not a patient person and I really had to learn not to rush this record out. There’s no room for error with an aesthetic change as global as ours was, and that’s something we were very aware of. When we finally took the stage, it was only after we knew the songs and the show…including Jason’s tassel jackets…were ready.
Were you happy with the response you got from the audience?
The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and it felt good to finally breathe some life into the recordings. Now that the first one is over, I just want to make the next one better. We’re looking to find some inflatable palm trees, if you know a guy.
We’ll have a look through our contacts and get back to you. For now, can you tell us a bit about the story behind your recent single, “Miracle?” What’s the inspiration behind its lyrics?
We wanted to write a song that had that late night sea breeze in its core. It’s a simple idea about taking that one last chance to make it happen. We all have those big dreams, whatever they may be. I don’t want to look back and say I never took that final shot. Sometimes you just gotta roll the dice.
Words to live by. You worked with a great team on this track, including Shawn Everett, Matty Green and Emily Lazar. How did collaborating with those individuals change your sound? Did you find yourself exploring outside of your comfort zone?
I can’t believe we were lucky enough to assemble a team as strong as we did. Shawn is an assassin, who can do anything you ask of him. That said, no one in my entire music career has pushed me as far out of my comfort zone as Shawn did. I remember getting rough mixes back and having a breakdown. I was standing in a swimming pool in Auckland saying, “what have we done?!” But, there’s a reason Shawn wins Grammys: he’s always right. I can’t say enough good things about Matty or Emily. Matty took the pieces we built with Shawn and turned it into a beautiful mosaic, and Emily did a phenomenal job with the master. They really are a dream team.
We love “Miracle” as a summer anthem, why do you personally think it makes a great summer anthem?
I think a summer anthem needs to be light and fun. There’s never any Radiohead on a summer playlist and for good reason. For me, music has always been about escape and the ability to transport you to a place. When it comes to a summer anthem, the true test is if you can blast it in the car or on the boat. If it works there, you’re onto something. It also helps to get you hands on a marimba…
Noted. In the spirit of the season, we thought we might dive into some summer-inspired questions. To begin with, what’s your favorite summer activity?
Golf! Golf is the only summer sport. A few beers and a few birdies, there’s nothing more I could ever want. If you ever see me on a golf course, I’ll show you how to take the governor off your cart so you can get that mother cooking. It’s fun when those things rip around. I’m also quite fond of both badminton and jai alai, but golf is my business.
And your typical summer “uniform,” what’s that look like?
White denim on white denim, sunglasses and suede Pumas. Also, I’m really getting into visors…
What’s the best pool party track of all time?
I recently had a long and very heated conversation about this, but the greatest summer track of all time is Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaritaville.” That third verse about blowin’ out flip-flops and booze in the blender is the quintessential sunburn soundtrack. It’s hard to write a song that sounds as immediately fun as that one.
It’s sort of tough to deny the truth in that, even if you want to. How do the guidelines for creating the ultimate backyard mix and a beach mix differ, if at all?
I think both mixes are trying to set a tone for the party at hand. For me, a BBQ mix would be more rock centric, Def Leppard, Guns N’ Roses, Journey, Sam Roberts and anything else that would make sense while hoisting a Budweiser and sitting on a chair. A beach mix, on the other hand, needs to be a little lighter and a little more fun. Van Morrison, Paul Simon, The Eagles, Toto and of course Jimmy Buffet and his magic flutes. The beach mix has to make sense when drinking something out of a pineapple with a tiny umbrella in it.
So, there’s definitely a difference between the two mixes then, you think?
Though the BBQ vs. Beach mix vary slightly in tone, I think there are a lot of crossover jams that could work for either occasion no matter the liquid you’re raising.
This one is coming a bit late since the occasion has already passed, but what track says Canada Day to you?
Anything by the Hip. “Silver Jet” and “Grace, Too” are my Hip jams, but “Bobcaygeon” is probably the song that will live on Canada Day playlists for the rest of time.
Agreed! Last question, what’s your favourite memory from a summer music festival?
There’s been so many. Meeting Interpol backstage at Field Trip was big for me. Hanging with Nigel Godrich during SXSW in Lance Armstrong’s bike shop, while Arcade Fire were DJing and John C. Reilly was boogying down in full gunfighter regalia, was a night I’ll never forget. That said, we’re playing the Artwalk at WAYHOME this year and we’re putting together a very special performance. Something tells me, it’s going to be the kind of moment that will live in Darcys lore for a long time.