Safe to say, it is a well-known atmosphere brought to the musical forefront by Dave Harrington and Nicolas Jaar, both individually and as Darkside. There is a lingering air of sophistication with their production, a description that isn’t normally associated with words like ‘experimentation’ and ‘improv.’ A progressive relationship with music, artistic inquisitiveness and the craftsmanship to blend everything together seems to be the backbone for the rich textures of each song they’ve created.
“It’s a mix of having diverse tastes and being by nature more bent towards experimenting, whether that’s experimentalism with music we both like or whether it’s experimentalism with sounds we’re discovering, like, ‘What does this sound like when you do this to it?’ That’s just how we approach music. It plays into an improvisational approach, at any moment you can scrap what you are doing, and I think if that carries over a bit into our recording and writing, that’s just natural for us,” Harrington says.
The two met through Will Epstein (a.k.a. High Water) who recommended to Jaar that they have Dave join the live band Jaar was assembling. “When I got introduced to him and started playing in his live band, up to that point I was playing bass and keyboard in a few other bands and not really playing guitar at all. That was pretty much the beginning of what has been the beginning of the guitar,” explains Harrington.
After beginning a tour, on an off night in a Berlin hotel room, the two decided to make a song together and it was one song after another afterwards. This continued on when they arrived back in New York, where both have grown and live. Their album Psychic has been taken in by fans and embraced, a change in pace from the norm done tastefully and well is never something music fans shy away from. It’s an overall feeling of a free venture into a music realm that hasn’t had all the corners discovered, Harrington and Jarr are just trying to guide you (and themselves) there. Now, with an album release and an EP under their belt for 2013, there is no way that these two will be satisfied until they’ve taking this project as far as they see fit.
When listening to the style of music that comes from Darkside, it doesn’t seem at all surprising to hear that they both come from influential homes. Jaar, from the house of an artist (Alfredo Jaar), and Harrington, from the house of an avid & informed jazz fan “[who] had an amazing (which is now mine) record collection,” he boasts.
Playing music since a young age, Harrington had the opportunity to fine-tune and grow as a multi-instrumental artist. “I guess I’m a very tectile/tactile musician. For me, the connection of whatever I’m laying my hands on is kind of dictating. It’s a negotiation between what I’m feeling at the moment, what I’m thinking about, what an idea is that maybe I’m going for (if there is one), and navigating the ‘thing’ that I have,” he explains. “So for me, it’s kind of this self-confidence with those three elements of heart, mind and hand. Where they meet and push each other and the physical hardware of the machine or effects box or guitar, is important to me.” This is a guy who in Grade 6 or 7 had created his first 8-bar jazz song song in the vein of Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue: “I wrote a kind of attempt of a bassline as melody for my jazz trio that me and my two friends had.”
The music between these two artists is simply organic; they each do what they like to do, and somehow when they bring it all together, it becomes this third Darkside thing. The musicianship behind the album, or the record case, or the website link, is actually quite phenomenal and something to be honestly looked at and respected. There is dedication and a mutual willingness between the two to fail if a sound doesn’t work, but at least they tried; it cannot be stressed enough how much of a role experimentation and collaboration between each other’s artistic needs plays in making the music that comes out of Darkside.
“We don’t really have a process – each song comes from something else. Moment one of a song could be a sound, could be a guitar riff, could be me or Nico playing the drum and us recording or sampling and manipulating it. The songs are their own little improvised journey as we make them. We don’t go in with a demo and say, ‘OK, play this part, play this part, do this thing, put this thing under it;’ that’s just not how we work. I think we have an improvisational approach. Doesn’t mean we jam and find it, but we are loose, and we flex and follow tangents as they present themselves in the song . . . I think in making an album and approaching a gig, what we care about is if we like hearing what comes out.”
The new year is looking good, and when described by Harrington came to only one simple word – touring. “This year we put our album out, so people listening to our album is pivotal. Just knowing people are listening to it makes me very humbled and honoured to know people are taking their time to listen.” They are set to make sure you experience the goosebumps received from their music firsthand, and it should be clear that each venue is in for one hell of a night; Harrington says that a sound check isn’t finished until they have it right, and those are some sexy words to the music lover in all of us.
Don’t miss Darkside performing with special guests High Water at Fortune Sound Club in Vancouver on January 21st.
By Jamie Goyman