Last Thursday, the members of the feel-good indie folk band Darlingside returned to the College to perform. The Record chatted with the warm, funny and nattily dressed four-piece (Don Mitchell ’06, Auyon Mukharji ’07, Harris Paseltiner ’09 and Dave Senft ’07) in upper Goodrich before the concert. Outing Club Director Scott Lewis makes a brief appearance as well.
“Clay and Cast Iron” is pretty rich in texture and details, and reminds me of how Harris described those cookies you all get at the Levain Bakery in New York in the New Yorker piece (“Eating Levain Cookies with Darlingside,” Nov. 9, 2015). Is Harris the “texture guy” for lyrics?
HP: We’re all sort of texture guys –
DM: Harris is more into the texture specifically of describing foods that he’s recently consumed. But that song was largely inspired by Auyon’s growing up in an immigrant Indian family in Kansas City.
AM: It was the first time I’ve tried taking very specific bits of my childhood and making it into a song. I think it’d be weird if you introduced it to just an average guy and said, “Hey, you’re going to sing this song about Indian stuff, and it’ll be from your perspective.” We stretch each other in different ways, and I feel lucky to be in a group where we can write from four different directions.
Harris and Auyon, being classically trained, did you ever think indie folk was something you were going to venture into?
HP: I didn’t think that, especially coming into Williams. It was sort of accidental that we’ve ended up here playing music, but a very happy accident.
AM: No. I was a really shitty Suzuki student. I would do shit like tape myself practicing, and play that while reading Calvin and Hobbes in my room. Harris was serious. I just did it because I wasn’t good at sports, and my mom was like, “You need something to get into college.”
What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to Darlingside during a live performance?
DS: Patty Griffin and her band hazed us once. Basically, one of her band members dressed up in a full bear suit and played the Yogi Bear role of sitting down for a picnic while we were playing a song.
HP: Unannounced, on the stage, right in front of us.
DS: We thought that was the end of it, and then later, Patty and the rest of her crew came back out, and they threw glitter all over us. But we had done a 22-show tour with them, and it was sort of an honor because it’s a sign they liked you, not that we knew that at the time…
HP: Yeah, didn’t know if it was good or bad.
Yikes. What was your go-to snack bar order?
DS: Mine was the black bean burger, with avocado. I think that’s what it was.
HP: Wow, you were early on the avocado fad there.
DS: Either that or I’m totally making it up, because it sounds so good now.
Yeah, we don’t have that …
HP: I would do the Bagel Supreme with bacon and a vanilla shake.
DS: Yeah, I don’t think they had avocado. I think I’m making that up. That’s what I want now.
You know what’s weird now is they split the snack bar stations. They have a breakfast place, a place to get fried food and a pizza place. You can only use your swipe once.
DS: Say what now?
HP: You can’t mix and match!
DM: We’re fans, too, of the place with the cheap beer, downstairs. The ’82 Grill. Is that still open?
Yeah, but they stopped serving alcohol this year.
DM: They didn’t have that when we were here; it’s just since we came back, we were like “What! Two dollar beers!”
DS: That’s something we’re mad is gone, and we didn’t even have it.
So, you guys used Barbara Takenaga’s art for Birds Say and a lot of past singles and then commissioned Andrew Benincasa for the “God of Loss” music video. Was there something that interested the band about original visual art, as opposed to just music videos of you guys performing?
HP: We’re much more focused on the art itself rather than ourselves making art. We’re more interested in seeing how music and visual art line up, rather than glorifying the act of having made the art.
DM: And, it’s nice to incentivize people out there, who hear the music online, to then have to go to a live show to see our faces. You know, it keeps that as a live-only draw.
If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?
DS: Harrison Ford.
What role would he play?
DS: Just sit there on stage, and be his sweet self.
AM: Diplo and Skrillex. They did some great shit with Bieber. That’d be really fun, to see what the fuck is going on there. Not Bieber, necessarily, but Diplo and Skrillex. I love beats and stuff like that. It’d be awesome.
A little unrelated, but where are your guys’ shirts from? They don’t seem like your regular button-downs.
Harris is wearing a black cotton dobby shirt with a subtle white pattern woven in; Don has on a textured blue button down with tiny, stitched white crosses. Dave’s wearing a worn-in chambray shirt, with a ripped elbow, and Auyon has on an interestingly patterned shirt with vertical squiggly lines.
HP: Oh, thank you. It’s from Life After Denim. I like a shirt that’s thickly textured and robust in its fabric and has a nice visible stitch, but is not so thick to be rough and stiff. And I want it to be relatively fitted, but when I raise my arms, I don’t want it to show any midriff. Basically, it takes me a while to find a shirt I enjoy, and when I do, I buy two copies of the exact same thing.
DM: This is from Saturdays NYC. I think we all got our shirts on the same shopping trip, but at different places.
DS: This was actually Harris’s. He bought it and didn’t think it looked good on him, so I convinced him to sell it to me. I’ve worn it to every show – I’m a big fan of the Canadian Tux.
AM: This is from Fabindia, which is actually a company based in India.
At this moment Scott Lewis comes in and there is a heartwarming reunion. He points to Paseltiner and says “Look at that hair, man!” and squeezes Senft’s bicep.
If you guys could do Williams again, would you do it exactly the same, or would there be something you would change?
DS: I would’ve worn long underwear my entire college career.
SL: Silk. The best. This silk? You wear it 365 days. It’s perfect. He pulls up pant leg to show us all.
SL: You guys fondly remember the Outing Club trips, and if you could’ve done a few more Outing Club trips that would’ve made your college career.
DM: Oh yeah, Auyon specifically wants to give a shoutout to the [Williams Outdoor Orientation for Living as First Years] WOOLF leader selection committee, who didn’t allow him to be a WOOLF leader.
SL: But he was on staff.
DM: I’d mention that even though it was intended to be put toward fiction writing, the stuff I learned from the Shepards [Senior Lecturer in English Karen Shepard and J. Leland Miller Professor of American History, Literature and Eloquence Jim Shepard] is stuff we still use with the band, as far as ways to talk about the craft of editing songs and of generating new work together.
Awesome. Thanks so much for doing this interview, guys.
HP: For sure, thanks for hanging out, we appreciate it.