Dominating the charts in the early 2000’s, the unashamedly outlandish classic rock-juggernauts in The Darkness endured all the highs and lows of the rock n’ roll narrative prior to their initial breakup in 2006. Exploding back onto the scene in 2012, the wild-boys from Suffolk have been relentless in pumping out album after album since their return, set to release their currently untitled fifth effort this October on the cusp of a planned feature documentary.
Once again gracing our shores as part of Groovin’ The Moo’s mammoth lineup, D*Scribe caught up with bassist Frankie Poullain to discuss the music industry, cricket, and everything in between.
Hey there Frankie! How are we going today?
I’m very good! I’m just in the studio with the guys at the moment actually. We’re just putting the finishing touches on our new album.
Fantastic! That’s a very good day!
Oh very good day indeed!
Well first things first. What words best sum up who The Darkness are for anyone who might not be familiar with you guys?
The words I would use are the following; magnificent, absurd, and probably magnificent. Also noble. Have I said magnificent? And one last word – perplexing.
Those are definitely the words I would go with to describe you guys myself. Now you guys have been teasing a feature length documentary set for release very soon. Can you tell us anything about this project at all, or is everything a little hush hush right now? Possibly coinciding the release of this documentary with the new album at all?
Well I think at this stage the documentary will be coming out next year, and our new album is set for release this October. I feel that patience is the most important thing when it comes to crafting documentaries as the best documentaries have taken the longest time to produce. The film crews have been compiling their footage for the last ten years. They’re always there watching us.
So at this stage, is the documentary going to basically span your group’s journey thus far?
Not just our careers, but our personal lives as well, because we’ve all grown as individuals over the last 17-18 years. A lot of this project is going to be incredibly fanciful and rely heavily on dreamscapes. I suppose the best way of describing this project is that this is going to be quite an anarchistic documentary really.
That’s going to be very interesting to witness, I’m quite excited. So as you’ve just mentioned, the group has been together for around 17 years now.
Yes actually, very correct! Now we’re all almost old enough to start drinking, how exciting!
Oh wow, I can’t wait until I get to that point myself. In saying that though, you guys shot to a level of super-stardom very quickly early on, with the release of your debut Permission to Land in 2003. Was that a big shock at all having reached success particularly quickly? Do you think you really ignited the imagination of a worldwide audience almost instaneously?
Actually no, it was all a part of our process! Even in the beginning we always maintained that our only choice was to be successful, and that any other outcome would have really left us feeling quite defeated. We knew that we wouldn’t be able to take that sense of defeat, so we went in with the intention of giving it everything we had. We had an objective of taking control of our destinies.
Your music has always been what I can best describe as straight up no-holds barred rock n’ roll. In today’s music climate, the charts are consistently dominated by the pop realm. But the appeal for your brand of rock is still just so huge, so in your words what do you think really draws people in?
It’s really that sense of wonder combined with a lack of cynicism actually. I think what people find appealing about us is that sense of joy which we’re always trying to embody within our work. It’s what I can best describe as a sense of communal euphoria that it conjures.
In saying that. How do you feel the music industry has changed since the group’s inception? I’ve read a recent interview with Justin (Hawkins – lead singer) where he did not have the kindest words to describe the current state of the industry as a whole. Do you share his sentiments?
Well when you think about it, the industry is really just a reflection of the society in which we live and how people have become as well. It’s a business at the end of the day, and the larger corporations do control everything. Just like in reality, the big corporations control everything, and all the politicians are puppets who just manipulate the law of the land. They pick on the underdogs every step of the apparatus. And the music corporation’s means – I’m talking Spotify, iTunes, YouTube – none of them really care about what you achieve, but they make up the rules. There’s gangsters running the world. Or as Justin puts it, it’s the ‘rise of the arse-clowns’.
That’s a fair way of putting it. But despite these feelings, do you guys believe that in your time you’ve certainly garnered a legacy of sorts? I mean even today, there are still advertisements for Apple Music with Taylor Swift dancing to I Believe In A Thing Called Love.
Well despite the sentiments, we’re just really here to focus on the music. We don’t think about the politics too much in all honesty! We’re just glad to be doing what we love to do, and to share in the writing, recording and performing of our music. We have a great time doing it, we all share a deep friendship with one another and we all live a great lifestyle. Perhaps we don’t make as much money as we used to, but that doesn’t really matter in the end; we have enough. Maybe that’s good for us, if we struggle sometimes, because struggle creates good art. If our legacy is as a band that was plentiful and existed the way we wanted it, then I couldn’t think of a better legacy.
You touch upon a great point there; struggle has always created the best art.
Oh absolutely, but it doesn’t always stay that way. I mean if you look at the heavy metal of the 80’s or the rise of hip-hop back in the 90’s, you’ll always find that each style has been slowly corrupted by decadence, becoming a part of the machine themselves. I’m thankful that we’ve avoided that transition. We’ve delved into metal ourselves, but we’ve certainly made an effort to never play by the rules when it comes to that musical form. We’re influenced by all kinds of musical styles all the way from the 60’s to the 90’s really. People like to perceive us as a glam-rock band, where in Britain glam-rock is defined by bands like Mud, Sweet and T-Rex, whom are completely different to what we’re all about. We are quite misunderstood as a band.
Well I guess in not playing by the rules, this segues into my next question. Your forthcoming release has been set to be released on vinyl, but I’ve read that you also plan to release it on cassette tape? Is this true?
Yes actually that’s the plan! We felt it fair that if the listener gets sick of listening to us they could easily just record something over us. Record some songs off of Spotify onto the cassette, play it in whichever order they’d like to (laughs).
That’s the best marketing plan I’ve heard in a very long time. But now, with your upcoming tour, you’re set to be playing Groovin’ the Moo. They’re boasting a pretty big line-up. Are there any artists that you’ve checked out at all that you’re a fan of? Any home-grown artists from here in Australia at all?
Well that’s not a fair question, there’s too many to choose from. It’s just too hard to make a decision! I’m sure I’ll come out of it a fan of many more acts.
It’s a huge lineup, but we’ve now all heard word about a promised cricket match set to happen. The local boys in Violent Soho and The Smith Street Band have challenged yourselves and your fellow Brits in Architects to a fabled match set to happen. Are there any words you’d like to share with them? Do you accept the challenge?
Oh of course, of course. My step-brother was actually a wicket keeper for the Scottish national team many years ago, so it’s in my blood – kind of. My step-brother is now a stand-up comedian, his name is Phil Kaye. He’s an interesting fellow, sometimes he performs naked, and he improvises a lot. He’s the John the Baptist of comedy. I’m getting side-tracked. Anyway, Australian boys, make sure to bring a box of tissues, because you’re all going to be in tears when we’re done here.
Check out The Darkness at their headline shows posted below, along with dates and venues for Groovin’ the Moo 2017.
The Darkness Australian tour 2017
Thursday April 27 – Eatons Hill, Brisbane QLD
Tuesday May 2 – Max Watts, Melbourne VIC
Friday May 5 – 170 Russell, Melbourne VIC
Wednesday May 10 – Enmore Theatre, Sydney NSW
Friday May 12 – Metro City, Perth WA