“It’s pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it?” said bassist Frankie Poullain of the British band The Darkness as he discussed their current Tour de Prance, which includes shows in Sayreville, Brooklyn and Philadelphia. “We like to prance around and we’re on tour so it fell into place very easily.
“The simple idea is the best, the most economical simple idea that actually captures every aspect of what we’re doing … It just captures exactly what we’re doing … because there’s something very English about a bunch of men prancing around in tights, isn’t there? (laughs).”
Formed in 2000 in Lowestoft, England, The Darkness have had tremendous success over the years, first with their debut album Permission to Land going quadruple platinum and shortly thereafter winning three Brit Awards for Best British Group, Best British Rock Act and Best British Album in 2004. The irony in this success is that the band name is somewhat brooding, yet their sound is far from it.
“In some ways, it was an ironic reflection of where rock was at that time, just lots of guys in black T-shirts and jeans in an emo-esque style,” said Poullain. “In some ways it was that, but there was also the idea that from the darkness comes light and that in a sense we’re all kind of cast adrift into the darkness; that’s where creativity all comes from, really. Contradictions … we are also quite contrary in the way we approach rock ‘n’ roll, that’s where we are coming from, really. For example, we’re mistaken as a joke band but really, most of our songs are actually very heartfelt but they’re just presented in a … they’re garnished or wrapped in a fun kind of way. We enjoy just presenting it like that but really, the songs are actually heartfelt.”
The band’s writing process sounds more like a standoff or perhaps a meeting of rival minds rather than a collaboration, but they seem to revel in the experience.
“We go away for songwriting sessions; we go away for these week-long trips just the four of us, usually on the coast,” said Poullain. “A place with no distractions, and then we write all together. We used to have the ‘Table of Truth’ … we’d all sit around it and bring our ideas into there. Now we sometimes have a microphone in the middle of the room and we circle around it almost like beasts of prey.”
When told that it sounds comparable to lions at a kill; Poullain chuckled and said, “Funny you said ‘kill,’ because the Kill is actually the idea, the thing that kind of inspires the song, that original idea or original vibe. We are always butting heads; the bands that butt heads are the ones that keep going and keep coming up with the strong material. You have to do that, you have to break eggs to make an omelet. If we all agreed with each other and we were just robots, that wouldn’t really work, you know? It’s the combination that makes it special and, of course, the most important element is Justin (vocalist/guitarist Hawkins) and his vibe and his sense of humor and his energy, which is kind of quite high-powered and spontaneous and exciting.”
With a sound that’s anything but dark, the band has launched a tour of the United States and beyond that comes to the Trocadero Theatre in Philadelphia, April 18; Brooklyn Steel, April 20; and the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, April 21. Poullain said the tour had just kicked off but was going well. “We’re just a couple of gigs in. The first night was a festival, it was L.A. at the Henry Fonda Theatre, which is always tough after a long flight. Then we really got into the swing of things at the next show in Las Vegas. We did a great show in Vegas and I think now we are all ready and feeling good. It’s a continuation of the Tour de Prance that we had in Europe and the U.K. at the end of last year, so we’re picking up where we left off.”
The image of rock musicians prancing brings to mind another rock act from the U.K., one with an immensely talented frontman who plays the flute.
“Ian Anderson, Jethro Tull … that harkens back to Robin Hood, doesn’t it? Men in tights and that’s a pretty English thing, isn’t it? Actually, back at home in my living room I have a Jethro Tull print upon my wall. Also, Ian played flute on a track of ours called, ‘Cannonball’; it was a bonus track that we put on our album, Hot Cakes. You can find it on Spotify or iTunes and it’s got a minute-and-a-half flute solo and it’s a beautiful piece of music. We didn’t actually meet him, we sent him the track and he put so many different moods in the solo. He takes it right down, he starts off jaunty and he’s rockin’ out and then he takes it right down and goes into a pastoral flight of fancy. He really is a brilliant musician.”
After this leg of the journey is done, the band will start logging frequent flyer miles as they continue to hit the road in support of their recent release, Pinewood Smile. “The tour finishes off with a festival in Mexico after the last United States gig; we’re playing a metal festival in Mexico City and that’s going to be pretty intense. Then we are back to the U.K. and then we’re supporting the Hollywood Vampires for about 11 gigs across Europe and then we’re in all of the festivals across Europe and the U.K. until the end of September. We are also doing a couple of gigs with Queen, as well.”
Darkness shows are considered high energy and Poullain says that will be the case once again.
“Expect rock ‘n’ roll delivered with tons of euphoria, spontaneity and reverence, but that’s just words, ya know? Reality is far more exciting than words, that’s why music exists. Expect a very English … quintessentially an English take on hard rock.”
For more about The Darkness and their tour, visit thedarknesslive.com.
That’s it for this week! Please continue to support live and original music and until next week … ROCK ON!