2013 was a very busy year for Dublin's pop-rock duo Darling (Gary Harding and James McGuire), and it looks like 2014 is set to be an even more productive year for the pair.
'Echoes', their debut single, was well received by the music press. It is an infectiously powerful track, with the confidently charged lyrics, a great cinematic sound and a potent guitar presence throughout, and Darling’s new single 'Sail Away' offers more of the same but mellower -- think 1980s New Wave band Tears for Fears meets The Killers with an early Muse detour en route.
Renowned pop producer Stephen Lipson -- who has worked with pop giants such as Grace Jones, The Pet Shop Boys and Frankie Goes to Hollywood -- caught wind of their sound and Darling were promptly ushered to London where some musical magic was made.
Darling will perform in The Academy 2 on Friday 7 February and the event is sure to be an opportunity to catch a band that is very hotly tipped for 2014.
I caught up with Gary Harding ahead of Darling's gig next month.
Miriam Doona: So 2013 was a huge year for Darling. I know that you were in a band previously. Can you go through the mechanics of the year and the coming into existence of Darling?
Gary Harding: It was more at the end of 2013 that things started happening for us. We released our first EP in October, we were burrowing away behind the scenes getting it ready before that, and from October on things have been deadly. It has been really cool to get feedback, positive feedback, and hear our song on the radio. We signed our record deal over the summer.
Previous to that myself and James (McGuire) had been in a band called The Kinetiks from 2006 to 2009/10 and that just came to its natural conclusion, really -- one of the guys left and the band fell apart.
James and myself decided we wanted to really go ahead with a new band and we took over the spare room in my parents’ house. We did it full-time and kept office hours in the room. It was a tiny room so it could be a little intense at times but we had good fun and we moved around a bit during the year as well.
James’ parents have a house in Wexford overlooking the beach so when we got a bit fed up in the room we brought some stuff down there. We also went to Belfast for a week to a studio and a cottage in Leitrim for about two weeks. We tried to amass as much music as we possibly could and that was our foundation of what we have now. The last step of the process was actually when we went to London last year.
MD: Yes, I was going to ask you next about the London connection -- how did Stephen Lipton get involved with Darling?
GH: We basically had a wish list of guys we wanted to work with and we gave it to our manager. We spent about two months contacting these guys. Stephen actually wasn’t on the wish list, but he was with the same management company as one of the guys on the list, who passed on it. [That guy's] manager then brought it to Stephen and he told us to come over. We spent about five weeks in London with him. He wanted a big cinematic sound and he’s the guy to go to.
He was really cool too. We were panicking a bit before we went over because previously we would have performed as a full band. We were wondering how it was going to work with no drummer. He was the final piece of the preparation puzzle, I suppose. He gave us the confidence to go ahead too as the demos did not change drastically, so we figured we must know what we are doing here, it was the final sprinkling of dust on it. So by September we were just fighting over the final details, the artwork and emailing back and forth, the final administration of the process, I guess.
MD: You put in so much ground work last year and now we are into 2014. You are playing a gig in the Academy 2 on February 7. What are your plans after this for the rest of the year?
GH: 'Sail Away' off our EP is going to [sent to] radio [stations] this week. So we are hoping that is going to pick up some play. Dermott and Dave from 98FM tweeted us and said they loved 'Sail Away' are that they are making us their homegrown heroes next week. Echoes did really well so we are hoping this song will too. We have the next EP on the way
MD: That’s great, you are really ahead of the game.
GH: Yeah, you really have to be. We hope to have it out in March, a video is still to come, we have a live video and we have a few gigs to play and we hope to release three EPs this year, that’s the plan and obviously we want to pick up and keep going and building momentum the whole time.
MD: Speaking of building momentum, festivals are a great way to increase a band’s fan base. Will you be aiming for festival performances this summer, are they in the plan?
GH: Yes. We have gotten ourselves out there and people are starting to know who we are, so we want to get it from people knowing who we are to actually buying a ticket to come to our gig and buying our EP. Festivals are a natural progression in that stage and the next step for us too.
MD: The name Darling, what is the history behind or significance of the name?
GH: Naming a band is such a difficult thing to do and no name ever seems good enough. We wanted something soft and the name Darling kept coming back to us -- it just sounds nice even if it didn’t really mean anything. We dismissed it initially and we went back to it and we typed it up on the computer and blew it up and we sat back and said "Yeah…. we can see that on a drum kit or behind the stage." It all became more real once we had the name and as people and relations kept asking us it was great to be able to say Darling. The music came first, then the name.
MD: And musically, who does what in the band and what are your musical inspirations?
GH: Myself and James write together. James is a fantastic musician: he is a guitarist and that is what he doe. I am the music fan. When I was starting off, I would have to say The Strokes and all those acts that came out around that time. As I got older my taste evolved, I guess, and I went back to bands like The Who and The Kinks. The long and short of it is I love music. I love songs. I love anything from Katy Perry songs Burt Bacharach songs. I am a total fan of music. I would consider Paul McCartney to be a musical hero of mine.Darling play the Academy 2 on February 7. To be in with a chance of winning two tickets to the gig, enter our competition here.
Follow Miriam on Twitter: @miriamdoona.