Out of the ashes of The LOVE ME NOTS comes a new all girl garage-psych-rock band: The DARTS (US)! The quartet is featuring Nicole Laurenne: Vocals/organ; Michelle Balderrama: Vocals/guitar; Christina Nunez: Vocals/bass and Rikki Styxx: Vocals/drums.
Their two E.P.'s are so brilliant yours truly had no other option than to have a chat with Nicole who told us everything: how the girls met, the release of the two E.P.'s; the deal with London based label DIRTY WATER and the forthcoming Eurotour.
1) Nicole, you are no newcomer to the Arizona Rock'n'roll scene. We would like you to tell the viewers of this blog your full story. And first, does your presence in the Darts mean the end of the Love Me Nots or are the Darts a side-project of yours.We want to hear it all from you!
You want to hear it all, huh? Be careful what you wish for…I started playing classical piano as a kid, eventually traveling and competing pretty seriously throughout my school years. In college, I accompanied opera students with their voice lessons and dabbled a little with pop bands in Michigan. Eventually as I got busier as a law student in Arizona, my classical chops began to fade a little, so I started a jazz trio that performed regularly for a few years at the resorts in Tucson. My first experience playing keys in a busy gigging rock band was a hilarious cover band called Sidebar, made up of judges and lawyers in Phoenix, that would somehow pack every show they played. That led to my first ‘real’ rock band, called Blue Fur, which did original new-wave-tinged stuff and put out a couple of records on our own. Michael Johnny Walker, guitarist for The Sonic Thrills at the time, saw Blue Fur and we eventually started up The Love Me Nots together - which is how I met Christina, the bassist for that group. Michael and I got married a few years later and The Love Me Nots signed with a label in Paris, so we got to tour Europe and all over the US many times, in addition to putting out 5 albums and a bunch of other amazing opportunities. We started our own record label, Atomic A Go Go, and also put out other records as Zero Zero (electro-fuzz-pop) and Motobunny (garage-pop) over the years., along with an album by Le Zets (rock).
The minute I saw Michelle play, I told her I wanted to be in a band with her; that was years ago at a show in San Diego actually. In late 2015, Michelle was at a Love Me Nots show in LA and I finally point-blank told her to send me a song or two that we could work up together. She sent “Running Through Your Lies” and “Revolution” and I was immediately hooked on her songwriting talent. By mid-2016 we had recruited Christina and Rikki, who were as excited as we were to finally put together an all-girl awesome garage project, and the first EP was written and recorded across two states without all four of us ever being in the same room at the same time. Bob Hoag mixed all the tracks together and we all fell in love with it. We did the second EP the same way a couple of months later.
During all of this, The Love Me Nots had been touring Europe and working on a new record, but Michael and I ran into hard times on a personal level and separated in the summer of 2016. As sad as it is to admit, The Love Me Nots are presumably over at this point. Thankfully, I have never felt more fulfilled and excited about things musically and personally as I do right now. Maybe that’s naive, but it’s true. I just love this new band and my bandmates so completely.
2) Although the musical styles of both bands are very different, Are you girls not afraid that the name of the group might cause some confusion with the UK rock'n'roll revival band of the end of the 70's?
We were a little concerned until we realized they aren’t doing much currently, and we added the “(US)” to our name for official purposes to avoid any legal confusion. So far it hasn’t been an issue. We just loved the fact that ‘darts’ on a shirt are what separates women’s from men’s shirts. Men don’t have darts. It’s a girl thing, without being necessarily girly.
3) About the 2 Ten inch records E.P.1 and E.P.2. I can hear a great unity of sound there, as if all the songs were recorded during the same session and then slip on two different records. Is this the case? And if so, are they gonna be reunited in the future on one CD?
We recorded the two EPs the same way but at different times. But that’s surely why they sound similar - same songwriters, same recording, mixing, and mastering processes exactly. When we signed with Dirty Water Records (London) in December 2016, they decided to re-release the EPs as one full digital album simply called “The Darts”, which is available on all digital outlets now. We decided not to release CDs at this point; the market doesn’t seem to be demanding them so much anymore now that streaming is so popular. The vinyls are selling well though!
4) To what kind of music did you listen to as a teenage girl and does it still influence your today work? What was your favorite band as a teenage girl? Name 3 bands that you consider still have a influence on your own work today.
I was pretty oblivious to pop music growing up, since I was working so hard on classical piano at the time. But I remember the first pop tune I ever really loved was “Rich Girl” by Hall and Oates. Later I fell in love with the piano parts in Journey songs (hey, it was the 80s). But, even though I was no aficionado, I also remember really liking certain tracks by Prince, the Kinks, Sinead O’Connor, and a few other artists that were in the mainstream then. I honestly didn’t discover garage rock until years and years later when I first heard The Animals, The Seeds, The White Stripes…maybe it was just the right time in my musical life, but they struck a serious chord in me and sort of launched me into my own world of trying to find garage rock that spoke to me. The Darts’ sound grew out of my huge love for Thee Tsunamis, Death Valley Girls, and Ty Segall. You can hear all three influences pretty clearly once you know that.
5) Are you the main composer in the band or is everybody involved in one way or another?
Michelle and I have done all the writing so far, although Christina wrote one that is coming out on the next album later this summer. I’m hoping we all have more of a hand in writing as time goes on. Michelle and I both have a ton of songs we’ve written - that were never released by our other bands - which we are having massive amounts of fun doing with The Darts.
6) Do you have a video on youtube featuring a track from the 2 e.p's?
We have two official videos out so far, “You Got Me” and “My Heart Is A Graveyard”, which I threw together myself using footage shot by the band, our stylist Kelly Sahr and our tour manager Justin McGrath. A third one, for “Evil Wayz,” will be out next month, shot and produced by Ryan Kohlman, who did my favorite Zero Zero video a few years ago.
7) What can concert goers expect at a DARTS gig? Are you playing any famous cover songs?
We play one cover song right now, which has kind of become our anthem: “Batteries” by the Trashwomen. It has long been one of Christina’s favorite songs but when we heard them play it at Burger Boogaloo last summer in Oakland, we instantly knew it was perfect for The Darts to finish every set with. So we do. Darts shows are sweaty, super loud, punk rock events, with all of us wearing vintage slips and going mostly barefoot. Sometimes there’s a dog pile on stage. Sometimes Rikki will spontaneously jump onto the crowd. We don’t really know what’s going to happen. We just try not to break too many things. Not too many. Our goal as a band is literally just to have a blast and travel as much as we can; it’s like a long insane slumber party with your craziest, most fearless best friends.
8) When you perform with the DARTS, does it happen that you play an impromptu version of a song from the Love Me nots?
Nope! It might be awhile before Christina and I feel like doing that. We’re having way too much fun putting that behind us and starting fresh right now.
9) What are the plans for 2017 as far as the DARTS are concerned? Are you girls coming to Europe soon?
We will be in Europe starting May 25, for performances in England, France, and Italy, including a Dirty Water Club show and the awesome Cosmic Trip Festival in Bourges. We are also already in the process of recording another full-length record, for release at the end of this summer hopefully, and have US tour dates lined up with The Jackets (Switzerland) and Weird Omen (France). This band absolutely loves to do things, to be in constant motion, so there will be much much more I’m sure.
10) Anything you would like to say to the viewers of this blog?
Come see our shows and say hello! Nothing makes us happier than to hang out with fun people! www.thedarts.us
Purchase it here: http://thedartsus.storenvy.com/