The Darts (US) L-R Nicole Laurenne, Rikki Styxx, Christina Nunez, Michelle Balderrama Photo: Kelly Sahr
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Published January 4th by Kevin Wierzbicki via AXS.com
For the initial batch of promotional photos for their new self-titled debut album, due January 13 on Dirty Water Records, the four members of The Darts are all dressed in black slips. The women — singer and keys player Nicole Laurenne, guitarist and singer Michelle Balderrama, bassist and singer Christina Nunez and drummer and singer Rikki Styxx — aren’t afraid of having a little fun with their image, to the extent that their chosen band description on their Facebook page reads, “Garage-psych-rock-grrls who will make your head slam and your feet shake. And then there’s the music.”
While The Darts offers a new creative outlet for the ladies, all are already seasoned musicians. Laurenne and Nunez are both veterans of the recently-disbanded Love Me Nots, Styxx has kept the beat with The Dollyrots and Balderrama is a member of the long-running Los Angeles band Brainspoon. One of the standout tracks on The Darts is “I Want Your Fun,” a hook-filled pop rocker that’s equal parts pink bubblegum and black nylon and that includes the line “Kiss me like you’re leaving town,” a lust that’s palpable throughout the record.
The Darts are about to begin a nationwide tour that’ll keep them on the road through January; after a bit of a break they’ll return to touring in March. We had a chance to chat by email with Laurenne and she told us, among other things, just exactly what the girls get up to between shows. Her commentary below is given exclusively to AXS.com.
AXS: You’ve stated that it’s long been your ambition to have an all-girl band. What circumstances had to come together to make right now the time to fulfill that goal?
Nicole Laurenne: The Love Me Nots have called it quits after a decade together, but I didn’t want to give up playing and touring with Christina. She and I have talked about an all-girl band for years. Maybe it’s some deep-seated need to prove we don’t need testosterone in a garage band to make it hum. Maybe it’s just comfy to tour with a bunch of girls, so it kind of feels like a mobile slumber party with no romantic or domestic junk getting in the way of the fun. Whatever it is, when Michelle offered to send me some of her songs last year, I jumped at the chance to work with her. I’ve been a fan of her guitar-playing, and her overall vibe, for years. Rikki happened to become a full-time professional drummer right around this same time period and was absolutely killing it with all the newfound practice time she was putting in. Plus she is one of the most on-top-of-it people I know as far as running the business of a band; it’s a huge relief for me to have backup in this area for The Darts. We all are in a place in our lives where our primary goal is to write songs we love and tour the world and have as much fun as we can. It’s an easy but monstrous and totally satisfying project so far.
AXS: The band’s self-titled debut was produced from tracks that you and Christina cut in Phoenix while Rikki and Michelle laid down their parts in Los Angeles. Tell us a little about the band’s subsequent first-ever live performance.
NL: The first show we did was in Tucson this past October. Christina and I are no strangers to having band mates far away; The Love Me Nots drummer, Jay Lien, lives on the other side of the country from us. Rikki too is involved in lots of long-distance projects. When you are working with people who rehearse the set religiously on their own, who make it a priority to know every nuance of the song before the actual rehearsals, and who truly want to absolutely lock together on stage, you don’t need much actual live rehearsal time really. The first show was so cathartic for all of us. It was like a relief to finally hear it all come together, we all kind of got chills at various times during that set.
AXS: The band got a really cool endorsement from author Stephen King, who tweeted about “Take What I Need.” Does the band or any individual member have some type of connection to King, or did this come from out of the blue?
NL: We don’t have any connection to him that we know of. It surprised us completely. Truthfully, we’re not sure if it’s even actually the author himself doing the tweeting from that account. But in any event we’re hoping he uses “My Heart Is a Graveyard” as inspiration for a future book. Just kidding. Kind of.
AXS: “Take What I Need” is also one of the songs in the 2016 “Coolest Songs in the World” fan voting contest at Little Steven’s Underground Garage. Your own material aside, what are a few of the songs, current or vintage, that pop to mind when you think of coolest songs in the world?
NL: We’re all pretty partial to “Batteries” by The Trashwomen, which has kind of become our band anthem. There might not be a cooler song.
AXS: The Darts begin a U.S. tour in mid-January and then head to Europe in May. There are probably a few fans who envision the band living a lifestyle on the road that is similar to the scenarios brought to life in your songs. Tell us what, in reality, a typical few days on the road is actually like.
NL: We spend a lot of time in the van sleeping, gossiping, griping, stopping at vintage stores, trying to find vegan and gluten-free food at roadside diners, and yes it’s true, rehearsing the set banging on steering wheels/dashboards/portable keyboards. Before and after the shows it really does kind of take on that slumber party vibe, as cliché as that might seem. All four of us are really involved in loading and unloading gear, setting up the stage, helping with the merch booth, and sound checking, but the emphasis is definitely on fun and hanging out with each other at the bar as much as possible. There is very little time spent on outfits and makeup and whatnot in this band; we all come to the stage pretty much as we are. That’s one of our mantras. Like I said, it’s cathartic.
AXS: You must have had a blast taking the Polaroids that are being given away with pre-orders of the upcoming 10” vinyl EP collectible. Give us a few details of that photo shoot.
NL: It was the best photo shoot of all time, anywhere, ever. We are really lucky to have the talents of Kelly Sahr behind us; she helps style the band’s look, search for the millions of little things we always seem to need, run our merch booth tirelessly, and serve as the constant band photographer. Basically we threw on our slips, gave Kelly the Polaroid camera, had a glass of champagne, and the whole thing was done in one take. I mean, of course it was one take because they were Polaroids and I only had enough film for the number of pre-orders. So you got what you got, no filters or editing allowed. And they turned out to be some of the best pictures we’ve ever seen of ourselves. You can’t hide fun.
THE DARTS (US) JAN 2017 TOUR DATES
JAN 14 PHOENIX Valley Bar
JAN 18 EL PASO Lowbrow Palace
JAN 19 SAN ANTONIO Limelight
JAN 20 AUSTIN The Blackheart
JAN 21 HOUSTON Notsuoh
JAN 22 NEW ORLEANS Siberia
JAN 23 AUBURN DeRailed
JAN 24 NASHVILLE Springwater
JAN 25 MEMPHIS DKDC
JAN 26 DALLAS Three Links
JAN 28 TUCSON Flycatcher
JAN 29 PHOENIX Rebel Lounge