Darlingside reach back to their heroes for a folk-rock revelation on new EP
They say that timing is everything, and for the string-based indie folk quartet Darlingside, this has certainly proved true. The circumstances which led to the creation of their newest release, the Woodstock EP—which finds them collaborating with singer-songwriter and fellow Massachusetts native Heather Maloney—were seemingly serendipitous.
“We started around the same time five years ago, but our paths didn’t cross until a Watermelon Wednesdays show, which is a folk series put on at the West Whately Chapel [in Massachusetts],” says Auyon Mukharji, who plays mandolin and sings in the band. “We ended up sharing a stage, and it felt great and we decided to do a tour together.”
They toured in 2012, and again last year. By that time, Darlingside had downsized from a quintet to a quartet, after drummer Sam Kapala left the band, and their sound began to evolve from string rock to more of an indie folk vibe.
“Val [Haller] threw out the possibility of us doing a Joni Mitchell cover,” Mukharji says. “‘Woodstock’ was the one we decided on, since Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young had covered it, and there were some harmonies we could incorporate into it. Joni has been a huge influence on Heather, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young has had a big influence on Darlingside, so we ended up putting a video together.”
From there, things started rolling.
“Val featured the video on her blog for The New York Times—we got a lot of hits from that—and Heather’s label got excited about the possibility of doing more work together, so they suggested we put together an EP,” says Mukharji.
What resulted is an exquisite five-song EP, which features two new songs each from both Darlingside and Maloney, and a hauntingly beautiful collaboration on “Woodstock.” A more stripped-down affair than Darlingside’s self-titled EP, or their 2012 full-length debut, Pilot Machines, Woodstock possesses a spellbinding simplicity that showcases the band’s talent for four-part harmonies (the Americana- tinged “Whippoorwill” is a sterling example) and stirring melodies (as in the lush folk ballad “You Forget”). Woodstock is the latest evidence that Darlingside has been experiencing a thrilling period of artistic growth since Kapala’s exit.
“It ended up being something really wonderful that we’re all enjoying,” Mukharji says. “A lot of the rock and folk aesthetic we pull in is similar, it’s just that doing it without drums allows us to do it around a condenser mic, so everything is very transparent. We can be moving around, jostling for position around this one microphone, which is a really fun way of doing it. It’s stretching us instrumentally.”
While Mukharji won’t say whether or not the band plans to remain a quartet permanently, the move is allowing them the freedom to be more creative on the road.
“[This setup] creates a lot of room for collaboration,” says Mukharji. “So we’re excited about moving on as a quartet, but we’re equally excited about stretching our sound in different ways, not only with our own instruments, but also by bringing in friends. We’re excited about the idea of collaboration, and how different instruments and personalities can push us out in different ways.”
Darlingside will perform at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 2, Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. Tickets are $7/ advance, $10/door. For more information, call 479-1854.