2015 has been a good year for the Melbourne rockers DARTS: their debut album Below Empty and Westward Bound was released in May and saw the band being compared to Dinosaur Jr, The Breeders and Modest Mouse; June saw them on tour with Alpine and obviously, a few months on, they’re pegged as a must-see band at Thursday night’s BIGSOUND showcase.

It’s Wednesday morning and, like many others who flew in to Brisbane on Tuesday, I was feeling a bit worse for wear. I’m outside enjoying the morning sun and sitting across from me are Angus, Paige, Jessie, Ally and Andrew: better known collectively as DARTS.  I’ve organised to sit down with the band and have a chat with them, not just for What Sound, but also for our pals at Banshee. I’m outnumbered, and a little intimidated, but after a few minutes chatting (while I try really hard to remember who is who) we’re ready to get to business.

So DARTS started out as a two piece, just Angus and Andrew, why did you feel the need to expand the lineup?

Angus: Well we knew Ally played guitar so we invited her to join and then over the years we’ve bumped into people we’ve become friends with and they play instruments and we’ve asked them to join. Also, we wanted to expand our sound. We’ve always seen ourselves as a bigger sounding band, rather than just a guitar and drum kind of setup.

And do you think you’ve reached capacity with 5 members? Is there room for expansion? A horn section maybe?

[laughs]

Angus: Now and then we have a horn section on stage with us.

Jessie: For our album launch we had a couple of guys.

Ally: I think with five though we’ve hit the sweet spot. It works perfectly. Then we’ll just get a backing orchestra or a choir.

[laughs]

Paige: There’s only so many people you can fit in a rehearsal room. 

You guys recently toured with Alpine, we saw a lot of photos on Rolling Stone but what was it like to be part of that tour?

Jessie: It was awesome.

Paige: They’re just the nicest crew of people.

Ally: So welcoming and friendly. I remember being kind of nervous when we first met them in the green room, thinking they were going to be like ‘urgh, get out of our green room’ but they weren’t, they were just super lovely and by the end of the tour we just didn’t want to leave. Just so comfortable.

Paige: And they are an amazing band live, so it’s so different to just playing show in Melbourne. Watching them perform is next level, in terms of showmanship and how they perform on stage. And a lot of gear. So much gear they have.

Did that push you guys to step it up every night?

Angus: I actually think we got more relaxed as we went on. It’s odd, we were the opening band but they really didn’t treat us like that. It felt like we were just part of the show, they were very much into it. It was really good.

Paige: And Olympia who was also opening for them was also really lovely, and talented.

Ally: Super sweet. They shared their fruit platter with us. Being super accommodating.

That’s not a bad thing to have on the list of ‘why to be friends with people,’ will share fruit platter.

Ally: Friends for life.

Do you guys get to make requests on the rider for shows like that?

Angus: I think the most specific thing is a can of Coke. For some reason Coke from a can is best…

Ally: Coke from a glass bottle is better.

Angus: I like the can.

Paige: I don’t drink beer or wine, I really love my whiskey and most places don’t put whiskey on the rider…

Ally: She’ll only have the fanciest Scotch.

Paige: No I’ll have Jameson sometimes, but it’s so hard that I end up just having to pay for it.

Ally: We haven’t really had the chance to utilise our rider, we have it on paper but we’ve haven’t actually seen it.

So your LP Below Empty and Westward Bound deals with a lot of themes of isolation, frustration and hopelessness. Why is it that you’re drawn to being so introspective in your music?

Angus: I guess our music is a way to exorcise all your personal frustrations, and personally I’m drawn to music that is driven by themes like that: more personal, introspective kind of vibes. I guess its just naturally what I seem to write lyrically.

Ally: It’s sort of that expression that you can’t express in everyday life, it’s not the sort of thing that you just blurt out to people so exorcising those demons through music is that perfect release. It’s a therapeutic outlet, I suppose.

Do you ever get doubts about sharing such personal things and, if you do, how do you push through it?

Angus: I think some of the stuff we sing about I definitely would not bring up in conversation, but if you’ve got a loud band behind you and you’re just screaming at a bunch of people it feels a bit more anonymous, a bit safer. Whilst at the same time being an outlet to get those thoughts out.

In Kim Gordon’s book ‘Girl In A Band’ she says that ‘unlike say a writer or a painter when you’re on stage you can’t hide from other people, or from yourself.’ You’ve just kind of said the opposite, in that you’ve got anonymity, but do think there’s any truth to that? That you’ve got nowhere to hide on stage?

Angus: Yeah, I think so. I think it’s also you’re not alone on stage because you’ve got the band with you, you sort of feel like you’re in a unit together…

Ally: And we just crank everything up really loudly…

Angus: But at the same time you are putting yourself out there. Even when we put our album out I was nervous because all of a sudden people are going to hear the lyrics for the first time so there was a kind of hesitation, I guess.

Ally: Sometimes you can be halfway through a song and you have that realisation that you’re singing about those things that you usually suppress in everyday life. Like, sitting here now, you suppress all of those crappy feelings and you just want to have a good time. When you’re on stage and singing about these things it’s, occasionally, I’m really singing about a deep part of myself that’s personal. She’s right in that sense.

So do you think playing on stage gives you the opportunity to be something new? To show a different side of your personality?

Paige: I guess we’re not super-extroverted as a bunch of individuals and we’re not super-outgoing so I guess that’s a different side of us being on stage, performing for people?

Ally: The other side of the coin of being an introvert is you do have issues with expressing yourself in that way. You look at extroverts and you’re kind of like ‘why can’t I just be like that? Why can’t I just be happy and laugh and smile and be genuine.’

Wes Fahey

READ PART TWO OF OUR CHAT WITH DARTS ON BANSHEE

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