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[INTERVIEW] THE DARKNESS

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“No. Nothing could be further from the truth,” quipped Frankie Poullian, bass player for Suffolk’s The Darkness when asked if the upcoming fifth album from the Brit darlings would be your typical Darkness album. “It’s certainly not going to be typical. That’s the one thing… if anybody ever told us it was typical I would be depressed. That’s the problem with music now is that too much of it is typical. I think bands owe it to themselves because rock music is slowly dying. I think bands themselves should try really hard to create something fresh and different. I think the problem is there’s too much traditional rock music around and not enough… you almost have a responsibility to bring something fresh to the table each time you release an album.”

One obviously fresh component of the album is new drummer Rufus Tiger Taylor, who Poullian believes will be a revitalising spark.

“It’s our first album with Rufus and he has set the bar a lot higher for us now. It’s a real challenge. He’s such a good drummer it’s almost intimidating hearing him play. We’re actually doing the backing tracks live. Dan, Rufus and myself are recording the guitar, bass and drums all together in the studio which is actually an old converted chapel. It’s special because we’re really feeding off Rufus’ youth, ability and golden energy.”

In trying to capture that defining moment, Poullian says the band are looking at something a little different for their as yet untitled album.

“We’re trying to create something beautiful and astonishing,” he soothed. “Something that feels like a dream. We wanna make music that makes people feel like they just dreamt it. You know that feeling when you wake up and you feel like you wish you could go back into the dream you were just having because there was something magical about it? Personally, I’d like this album to sound like that.”

“I think there is going to be surprises on there,” he continued. “We’re really pushing each other like never before. It feels like… the thing with The Darkness is we’re very hard on each other because to have fun with it, you have to first be hard on each other because if you just create music with a sense of casual fun then it means what you are doing isn’t really vital and hasn’t got that vitality. It has to come from sacrifice. Even though there’s a misconception that because we’re a band with a sense of fun and a sense of joyfulness on stage people think it’s just us pissing around but nothing could be further from the truth.”

After tasting early success with their debut album Permission to Land selling over one million units, The Darkness also swept music awards in 2004, winning Best British Group, Best British Rock Act and Best British album at the Brit Awards, as well as Best Live Act and Best British Band at the Kerrang awards. The pressure was on them to deliver a follow up that exceeded the popularity of the first but unfortunately for the band the external pressures were already starting to crack their armoury.

“The pressure of expectation was huge,” agreed Poullian. “We never had the right group around us from the record company level all the way downwards from there. It was a mess. Just like anyone, if you party too much it’s not a good thing so we probably came into temptation a bit too much in those days and our relationships started to fall apart and then it went soft. It started off sweet and became very sour so we had to fight hard to get back together and to create that harmony again. It took us a couple of years to get back that harmony and brotherhood and now we feel like we’ve got the strength and freshness in the band and probably things have never been better. You can’t afford to carry any passengers. Everything has got to be primed and strengthened these days. There’s no comfort zone in rock music any more. With the whole nature of the music industry now everything has to be one hundred percent.”

The pressure got so great that after Poullian left the band in 2005, vocalist Justin Hawkins also departed the following year after problems associated with alcohol and cocaine abuse.

With members trying their hand at other projects, the future looked bleak for The Darkness before the band announced reunion shows in 2011 – with Poullian and Hawkins back on deck – at Download Festival and the Isle of Wight Festival but Poullian argues that during their time apart the bands members had taken stock of their lives and what was important to them.

“I think we all looked within ourselves and through that reflection and realising what our priorities were in life we came back as better people and musicians,” he said. “It was also important to re-establish our legacy. We didn’t want our legacy to be that of a band who had a great start and then fucked it all up so to have that second chance made us all feel very fortunate. It feels like a responsibility now to pay that faith back and I really feel like we are on the right track.”

“Things are definitely more composed and controlled now and I think there’s more depth to it. There’s more warmth, power and depth to the music and probably to the sentiment in songs as well. Justin’s lyrics have a bit more substance to them but they are also very witty at the same time.”
As well as a new album before the end of the year, The Darkness are also working on a documentary – albeit one which defies the normal trend of band documentaries.

“We’ve got 400 hours in the can,” he offered, “and it will hopefully come out sometime next year or maybe the year after. It’s a proper feature length documentary with the cameras with us all the time. It’s not a vanity project and will probably be excruciating for us to watch but the point of it is to hopefully shine a light on the human condition, as the best documentaries do. The music will be there but I don’t think it’s going to be the main purpose of it. The main purpose is going to be relationships between people and how people react and I guess it will be about music more in general than it will specifically The Darkness music.”

In the meantime Australian fans can see The Darkness on their upcoming headlining tour starting in Brisbane on April 27, but also featuring dates at the Groovin The Moo festival which takes in regional towns including Townsville, Bendigo and Bunbury, with Poullian saying the band are excited to be taking their show to venues and towns that are not usually included on the touring circuit.

“It’s hugely important for us to get to these places,” he beamed. “Hugely. Dan and Justin come from Surrey which is at the most Easterly point of the United Kingdom so that’s very much where our music was born in that regional geographical space so we take our show to out of the way places whenever we can. We’re very excited.”

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