DARWIN DEEZ on music, love, spirituality

[By Monica Harris]

Darwin Deez released Songs For Imaginative People February 12 via Lucky Number Music and is currently on tour. As I learned in our thought-provoking conversation about philosophy and unrequited love, and although I admit I was shocked at his dislike for Marvin Gaye’s music (sacrilegious, I say!) there is more to Darwin Deez than fashionable curly hair and flashy synchronized dance moves.

A lot of people might not know your name isn’t Darwin Deez. It’s the name of the whole group right?

Yeah well it’s me. It’s the group. When we perform live there are 4 of us.

Can you tell us about the concept of your new album? Is there a theme?

There are a few themes but they weren’t intentional or anything. Just love and different stages of love, and existentialism is definitely a theme on there. Incarceration and freedom are both themes.

I noticed there seems to be a theme of unrequited love or heartbreak.

Yeah that’s always going on in my life, isn’t it?

Can you tell us who Alice is? And who is Chelsea? [Mentioned in lyrics.]

Well let’s see. What do you want to know? Alice is an Australian girl that I hooked up with. She has the whole story on some blog if you want to find that. And Chelsea is an old friend of mine, a musician friend of mine from New York who is very charming, unfortunately. But she doesn’t love you in the end.

WATCH “You Can’t Be My Girl”

Do you do all the songwriting alone?

Yes I do. I prefer to work alone. Alone with God, as I say.

I read that you grew up following Maher Baba. Did you live in a commune?

Nothing that extreme. Baba always said that spirituality was something that could be practiced without changing your life outwardly in any way. That you could go about your western life if that’s the life that you were used to. If you live a life of inner renunciation that you could still lead a spiritual life. So we didn’t live on a commune and we didn’t modify our lives externally in order to be spiritual. No, my parents had jobs and we lived in a suburban area and I went to public school and everything.

Growing up, who were your biggest musical influences?

Probably Green Day. I was pretty excited when Dookie came out. I was 11 years old. Greenday. Dookie. Eleven years old. What else? What else? I fell in love with a Toto tape when I was young. That was one of the first albums I ever heard was a Toto cassette that my dad had dubbed. And it’s really weird because I’ve loved that album for my entire life and there’s never been a time I didn’t really love it. My dad’s a songwriter himself. He likes to sing and writes songs too. His songs are mostly about Maher Baba our guru. He never listens to music. And it’s strange because I can’t imagine the process that happened for that tape to come into existence because it was a cassette that had “Toto 4” in my dad’s handwriting on it. I never saw my dad buy a CD or anything for himself to listen to. Maybe once when CDs were real big in like 1996 he bought one CD from a megastore. He doesn’t listen to music but ostensibly he had acquired that cassette for himself. But he never listened to it. But I always listened to it. My parents didn’t have a lot of cool records around the house. They had ELO’s record Out of the Blue. I remember trying many times to appreciate that one as a kid and it was hard. But now I’m very fond of it. Those are my early musical things that I was exposed to. And pop radio circa 1994. All the alternative rock. Marvin Gaye. I always hated Marvin Gaye’s song I Heard it Through the Grapevine. Hated that song. And I Can See Clearly Now the Rain is Gone. That was on the radio a lot and I always hated. Still do.

Why do you hate it?

Its cheesy.  [sings] “I can see clearly now the rain is gone…”

What are some of your favorite things to do when you’re not on tour?

I like to eat fast food. I like to take walks by myself for about 45 minutes. I hate to exercise but I want to take a walk just around the block with my thoughts. I like to flirt. I’m a big flirt. Been single for the past 3 years. I like to carouse. I like to write music. I have very narrow interests, Monica! I only like music and psychology, philosophy and writing. And honestly I can’t think of any other interests outside of those. I like girls. I have very narrow interests. I think I’m coming to terms with that fact, sorry to say. I don’t have any hobbies. I don’t think that’s a good thing.

Do you have a favorite song or album out right now?

I like that Haim song a lot. That was my last favorite song. Don’t Save Me.  Have you heard that? I like that song. Oh and I like the Will.I.am. song “with Britney bitch.” That’s my jam.

Final question. If you’re having a bad day and you’re scheduled to perform, how do you cheer yourself up to get into performance mode?

You know, we stopped by a farm in Portland yesterday, or the day before. This guy cooked for us and gave us a tour and he recorded us talking about stuff for a blog and he had this quote on his cabinet and it was like: “A common experience among farmers is that you find that the mood to work only strikes you after you’ve already started working,” and I find that to be true when I am not in the mood to perform. I often find some humor in the irony of living my own dream, living many people’s dream, and not wanting to do it. And then I find its funny that there I am on stage, giving a fuck less than ever before. And I also find that I get in the mood after just allowing myself to feel disinterested, allowing myself to feel frustrated or however. It’s cool. When you perform music, the way to do it right is to get in touch with whatever you’re feeling, and if you’re feeling frustrated you can use that. If things are going wrong, you can use that. And if things are going right, you can use that too. Its definitely a cool emotional alchemy to be performing and I’m happy to benefit from that. Just get started and then it gets better, basically, is the short answer.

Okay great answer.

Great question. Great answer. Can we do one more? This is fun. No, just kidding. But…the door’s open.

Okay, one more. Is there a favorite place you’re looking forward to traveling on tour this time?

I look forward to Austin. I look forward to SXSW. That’s a big party. Lots of tacos and beer and exciting bands, friends, friend-bands, bands you never heard of, famous bands. People walking around. Rockin around. Some minor celebrities doing drugs in front of you. Things like this can happen at SXSW. It’s pretty entertaining.

Darwin Deez will be performing March 8 at The Echo in Los Angeles. Check out the tour schedule here.