By Gurman Sahota, June 15, 2017 —
The Darcys are bringing their nostalgic ‘80s pop tunes to Calgary’s HiFi Club on June 16. The duo, consisting of Wes Marskell and Jason Couse, is touring across Canada and latching onto the club atmosphere to experiment with their new album, Centerfold. The Gauntlet spoke to the Torontonians about their summer tour, their new album and how the band has evolved from making indie rock jams to anthemic summer bangers.
The Gauntlet: For people who are unfamiliar with the band, how would you describe your sound?
Wes Marskell: It’s kind of a bridge between pop music and indie rock. So it’s kind of like this modern pop sound but still structured and with a connection to our indie pop roots.
G: The band has been around for quite some time. How has your sound changed since you started?
Marskell: It’s changed insanely. We started out with a very well-supplied sounding, post-Broken Social Scene, indie rock band. From there, we did a cover record, then a proper studio record, then an instrumental record and now Centerfold, which is a very glossy pop record. I don’t know if we can come any further from where we started.
G: Why the sudden genre-jumps?
Marskell: I get pretty bored in doing the same thing over and over again and I’ve never really loved bands that have had success with a record and sort of made the ‘part two’ version. So it’s kind of always been fun to grow and learn some new things and put that into practice. It’s also a huge risk. It’s terrifying to put a new song out there for the first time that is so different than anything you have ever done before and just watch as half the internet is into it and half the internet is disastrously furious with you forever.
G: How has the role of the internet helped shape the band?
Marskell: Even now, it really gives you a lot of freedom to control your narrative. When you do something like we did with this last record — by changing the image of the band — you can really control the style of the band and how it comes across to people. I think the album we released is a very clear decision to create a certain style and to present us in a certain way and you can really control that, which is really cool.
Beyond that, it gives you the freedom to get music out faster to more ears with things like Spotify and Apple Music. Platforms like that have been great in broadening our audience and helping us by putting us on playlists. So it’s been a great thing. You often get lost in the internet, but it’s super beneficial especially to a band like us.
G: How has growing up in and around Toronto affected your music?
Marskell: I think being a city kid is pretty wonderful. We never really have the clout that New York or Los Angeles did, but more and more, Toronto has become a really cool city. And I think we have a lot of really good artists. If you take a look at the Top 40, you can see people from here just dominating the charts. If I had grown up outside of Calgary, I would have had a very different perspective or a really different interest in music or what I consumed growing up. Maybe I would have a very different band.
I was lucky growing up to be able to see so many bands that would come through Toronto that don’t come to a lot of the other Canadian cities. I got to see a lot of live shows that wouldn’t dare to go to other places. I was pretty spoiled in that sense and I think it really brought up my musical horizons and made me think that I could shift genre to genre for every record — for better or for worse.
G: Why did you decide to tour Canada so heavily this summer?
Marskell: I think that our music is pretty fun and summery, so I think it makes sense. We’re also playing in a bunch of festivals throughout Canada, so a lot of these shows like in Calgary are really great opportunities to get to a city where we’re not playing a festival when we’re already in that sort of area. Canada is a massive country and when you start driving it, especially without going to the United States, you realize how long it would really take to get somewhere like Calgary, Edmonton or even Winnipeg. We thought we could expand the tour to get to these cities that we don’t always get to go to.
G: The last time the Darcys played in Calgary was at XFest. Now you’re playing at the HiFi Club. How do you transition from playing festivals to smaller venues?
Marskell: The thing that has been frustrating about this tour is that it’s hard to get an all-ages show for a band like us, because a lot of venues rely heavily on liquor sales for shows. But when we went out to XFest, I felt that there’s a real connection with a lot of younger fans, and XFest — rest in peace — was a great venue for younger people to get out and see bands that they maybe couldn’t see in other venues.
Playing in clubs, we’ve changed the show a little bit. We’ve been working really hard at the stage set up and the lights and things like that that don’t really get the focus when you’re on an outdoor stage. We’re really trying to shape the show into a club show where we can really utilize all the cool stuff. You see some bands and you realize they work well in a more intimate setting because of how their music works.
G: How do you find that this album specifically translates over to live performances — do you find that it works better in a festival setting or something smaller like a club?
Marskell: I think it works in both settings, because there are these sort of big, airy, anthemic songs that work in a festival setting and we really learned that by playing at XFest and other festivals last year. We just sort of sharpen it and rely on keeping the beat going for the club sets. So I think it’s pretty adaptable in that way.
A good song is a good song. If you like the song, it doesn’t really matter the venue in which you hear it. We’re just trying to play and explore the surroundings that we have in the clubs and hopefully make it a pretty exciting show.
G: What’s next for the band?
Marskell: We’ve been doing a lot of production work, we’ve been doing a lot of writing. I think we’ll be doing more shows in the fall, but we have a bunch of other things always on the go. I’m excited to slowly get them all out.
G: What do you hope Calgary audiences take away from the show?
Marskell: We’re trying to create a really good time. I grew up listening to a lot of dark, broody music and playing a lot of records and being in a band that sort of had this intensity — I just want to create a fun atmosphere during this time in the world. I think we’re trying to carve out a bit of escape in every city we come to, just for an hour or so, and I hope that people can engage with that and enjoy it.
Edited for clarity and brevity.