Interview: The Darts’ Nicole Laurenne Discusses New LP ‘Me. Ow.’

Interview: The Darts’ Nicole Laurenne Discusses New LP ‘Me. Ow.’

The Darts play fierce but fun punk rock on their killer new LP Me. Ow., out now on Dirty Water Records. The ladies harken back to classic ’60s style girl bands with shout-along harmonies and fuzzed-out organ leads, but they update the sound with brash guitar and heavy low-end. Sultry and empowering all-at-once, Me. Ow. comes dressed in leather with plenty of bratty attitude and whip-smart game to boot. The band features veterans of both the Phoenix and Los Angeles punk scenes, and it includes organist/vocalist Nicole Laurenne, guitarist/vocalist Michelle Balderrama, bassist/vocalist Christina Nunez, and drummer/vocalist Rikki Styxx. This week Live Eye Tv caught up with Nicole Laurenne to chat about how the band came together as well as the new record. Check out our interview below…

LETV: Hi Nicole, thanks for taking some time to answer questions about the band, and congratulations on the release of your debut LP, Me. Ow. (Dirty Water Records). Before we delve into the recording of the new album, let’s talk about how everyone met. How did the Phoenix half of the group meet the Los Angeles half, and what prompted you to launch the project?

NL: Christina and I played in The Love Me Nots together for years and shared stages with Rikki’s and Michelle’s bands many many times. Whenever I saw Michelle play (with Brainspoon out of Los Angeles), I told myself I would be in a band with her someday. So when The Love Me Nots broke up in 2016, she was the first person I reached out to, to get some new tracks written together. She sent me “Revolution” and “Running Through Your Lies” demos like the next day! Rikki quit her day job a few years ago to be a pro drummer and when we saw her perform with The Dollyrots in LA that year, she totally killed it. Plus Rikki is one of the most put-together, nicest people you will ever meet. So I asked her to jump on board with this thing, which at the time was meant to be a one-off kind of side-project recording. Everyone was signed on and had their parts recorded so fast, the whole band was off and running before we really even knew what to make of it.

LETV: Looks like you guys also recorded the new album in both Arizona and California at Flying Blanket Recording and Kitten Robot Studio, respectively. Was the album tracked with members living in separate states or did you just record together in two locations? How did you handle the production and mixdown with Bob Hoog? Was that a group process?

NL: All of our recordings so far have basically been done the same way. I put a demo together from Phoenix and send it to Rikki in Los Angeles. She records drums to the demo at Kitten Robot there. She sends her tracks back to me and I update the demo with the real drum tracks. I send the updated demo to Michelle in Los Angeles. Michelle records her guitars and vocals from there and sends her tracks back to me. I update the demos again. Then Christina and I take everything into Flying Blanket, where I record all of the remaining tracks. I then pile all of the real tracks onto Bob Hoag at Flying Blanket and he somehow mixes them into magic. The only difference on Me.Ow. was that Michelle came out to Phoenix to have Bob record her guitars here. We’ve never yet recorded (or even rehearsed before recording) a new song in the same room together to date, amazingly. We have a pretty clear vision of what we want to sound like and Bob is great about making that into reality. He’s kind of the fifth band member at this point.

LETV: Can you tell us a little about the band’s creative process when it comes to actually writing tracks? Is there a song on Me. Ow. that you might take us thru to show how things go down?

NL:The Cat’s Meow” is pretty indicative of how we usually write together. I wrote the song myself using Garageband on my Mac, with all the drum, bass, keys, and vocal parts pretty well figured out. When I sent the demo to Rikki, she tweaked the drum parts to fit her own style and vision. When Michelle then got the demos with the real drums, she came up with the various layers of guitar sounds she wanted and worked the parts over a little once she had the sounds down. When Christina recorded the bass part, she basically followed what was on the demo but added her little Christina slides and growls, which are obviously her signature. She did the backing vocals with me and we slithered around the studio trying to make them sound a little girl-group snotty but still smooth and sexy, changing up the parts as needed to make them flow well compared to all the new sounds on the real tracks. So everyone adds personality and their signature sound to the parts, as well as making little writing changes here and there to fit what they want to hear. The same basic process works for the many songs written by Michelle (“Gonna Make You Love,” “Ramblin’ Stone,” “Lies,”, “Revolution,” “Evil Wayz“, “Caught In The Devil’s Game“) and the one so far by Christina (“Not My Baby“).

LETV: How did the band hook up with Dirty Water Records in the UK? Had you signed with the label before doing the record or was it already complete?

NL: I had been kind of stalking DWR for years and years when I was in The Love Me Nots, trying to get them to sign the band. They paid no attention to me. Literally a month or two after we started up The Darts, just after I self-released the first EP, I got a message out of the blue from Matt Hunter, a member of the label, who was living in Phoenix temporarily and wanted to talk about The Darts and the little DIY label Atomic A Go Go Records, which I was running at the time out of my house. I was stunned, to say the least, and immediately met with him. We discovered we knew a lot of the same people and bands and had pretty similar musical tastes, not surprisingly, and he got The Darts signed to the label pretty much right away. Matt also bounced the idea of a US-based sister label off me at that first meeting, which I was totally down with. As of Summer 2017, the sister label is up and running, independent of the London label but associated with it, and we have signed our first few artists already with many more in the pipeline for 2018. Dirty Water Records USA is hopping already.

LETV: The Farfisa Fast 3 organ has such a great sound and it really colors the record with an awesome retro vibe. Is that your instrument of choice or something the band sought out for its’ particular sound?

NL: I had been playing the Farfisa Fast 3 for years and years in The Love Me Nots. It is really the only combo organ I have found that is obnoxious enough to cut through the mix when you have a blistering guitar player standing next to you on stage. Plus it travels well and seems to like the abuse I give it.

LETV: How about the album’s disarming four letter title, Me. Ow. Anything you can share about naming the record?

NL: The idea I had was to find a title that hinted at a retro Ann-Margaret-sex-kitten vibe, but also to make sure it captured the band’s kind of tongue-in-cheek, slightly self-deprecating lyrical style. Despite the bravado these women all have on stage, we all spend a lot of time in a van together being insecure and crying and trying to make sense out of our messed-up personal struggles. So “Me” and “Ow” kind of made the perfect statement.

Interview: The Darts’ Nicole Laurenne Discusses New LP ‘Me. Ow.’

LETV: With the new album out and a recent tour under your belt, what’s next for the band? Can we look forward to more live dates or another video? Thoughts about another record or more recording?

NL: We are debuting a new video on Friday, December 1, and are planning to release two more videos over the winter. We are also heading back into the studio – or studios in this case – to start recording four new songs that will be released as split-singles on 7″ records with other artists we love. We will head to Europe in the Spring and Summer several times for some awesome festivals and club dates. And in the Fall we will put out our next full-length LP if the muses smile upon us. We are all completely beside ourselves at how much fun this band is for all of us, we have amazing crew and support from those close to us, and we are ready to as much as we can humanly do together in 2018.

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