The article was originally published in The Linc (print).
Since reforming in 2011, The Darkness have had a jam packed couple of years. Their third album, Hot Cakes, was released following a summer long tour supporting pop sensation Lady Gaga in 2012. And now, they’re in a better place than ever before – that’s according to bassist Frankie Poullain. He caught up with The Linc about writing on the road, plans for the next album, and misconceptions.
It was almost ten years ago, way back in 2004, when The Darkness first appeared on the music scene. Their first album, Permission to Land, is arguably what led to the band’s popularity; it went platinum, after all. Frankie feels this was down to persistence: “If you just keep pushing and nothing happens, then there’s a build-up, so that by the time you can move, the momentum is very heavy. When you move something that’s very heavy it gets out of control and it rolls over everything in its path. So that’s what happened with us, we kept pushing until we levelled everything.”
But Frankie doesn’t feel that having so much success early on in a career has been hard to live up to or added pressure to their recent music. “It’s amazing how well we get on now and hard to believe that we had any problems with each other back in the day,” he says.
2013 is the first time the band has been on a headline tour in almost two years, but Frankie says the band is in a better place than ever at the moment.
“It’s the best show we’ve ever done. We’ve really freshened up. The set has all these odds and sods; songs we’ve played before, a brand new song and some little stage manoeuvres which hopefully will impress people. The vibe is really good. We’re enjoying it the most and we’re probably better than we’ve ever been.”
According to Poullain, the only Lincoln they’ve ever gigged at before is in Nebraska, which is quite a trek away from this one. Their Nebraskan gig wasn’t a student venue though. But what are their thoughts on playing student crowds? “We don’t do student venues very often; we find sometimes students are very shy. They watch you, they enjoy the gig, but they’re very watchy. I think they’re too used to seeing these indie bands. They’re not used to rock and roll bands.”
Hot Cakes, their newest album, has received mainly rave reviews from critics. Poullain, too, is pleased with its reception: “It’s been good, yeah, and overseas it went down pretty well, too. It’s something to build on, though. Next year we’ll release another album and hopefully capitalise on that.”
Personality and truth are both important aspects in their LPs, and Frankie agrees with critics who say Hot Cakes is their most personal yet. But he says their fourth studio album, set for release in 2014, is even more so: “A lot of the songs [on Hot Cakes] are about fears of the heart. The next one will be a lot more personal, there’s a lot of self-referencing; a lot of songs about us as people. It’s almost like a musical.”
Lyrics are a very important part of The Darkness’s music, but Frankie feels that sometimes, this is overlooked because of how visual the band is.
“The lyrics are very clever and satirical. People often miss Justin’s sense of humour and cleverness. We’re quite misunderstood, because we operate on different levels,” he says.
It was during their latest tour that they began to pen their new album. Frankie believes making music whilst also on the road is the best way to do so. “It’s cool, we just hang out and when the mood’s good and everyone’s full of the joys of spring, then we just pick up an acoustic and just work on it when the vibe is good.”
But whilst this is their latest headline tour, they did spend the summer of 2012 touring with international superstar Lady Gaga. Speaking about this, Poullain says:
“The Gaga thing is probably the only mainstream pop we could have done because we like what she represents; freedom and foolishness. She’s always liked classical rock and lycra and spandex and things, so I suppose it made sense.
“It was fun, but for me it was too long between gigs. Just doing a couple of gigs a week was not really enough. But it was a good experience and we widened our fan base in countries like France and South Africa. We played to a hell of a lot of people in 5 months; that was just mind-blowing.”
But despite the good experience, he thinks that supporting someone with a fan base different from their own just before releasing Hot Cakes might have been a slight hindrance on its success.
“It probably handicapped the album because we were not playing in front of our own fans. We did gain some fans, but I think loyalty to your own fans is more important.”
As for what these fans can expect from the new album, its sound might apparently come as a surprise. Frankie concludes:
“We’re really excited about it. It’s a lot edgier and a lot sexier and hopefully it’s going to surprise people. We’re working on influences a bit; it’s not just classic rock. It’s still quite rocky, but some of it is drawing on more modern influences and even pre 1970s, so we’re edging closer to the 60s as well.”