Beautiful Simplicity | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Beautiful Simplicity

Darlingside expands as the lineup shrinks

Sometimes when I set up an interview with a band coming through town, I'm not remotely familiar with their music. Obviously, before you interview them, you research the group and listen to as much music of theirs as you have time for (or can stand). Every once and a while I'm not a fan of the music and still have to find interesting things to ask them. Every once and a while, though, I become an instant fan. That's what happened with Darlingside.

The band came together in 2009 as a five-piece indie rock band consisting of four multi-instrumentalists and a drummer. They did a national tour in 2010 and released their debut LP, "Pilot Machines," in 2012. All of this is a normal origin story for a band, but here comes the twist: the drummer, Sam Kapala, left the band in 2013. Instead of finding a new one, they stayed a four-piece.

Now the members of Darlingside crowd around one condenser mic in a more typical bluegrass setup, but they don't play a lick of bluegrass. Their music is haunting folk-pop where all four members sing and dance between banjo, mandolin, cello, violin and guitars.

Their newest LP is 2015's "Birds Say," which put them on the radar of NPR and quite a few listeners. The record is filled with their gorgeous harmonies, tight instrumentation and effective lyrics. The album feels like a sonic whole, where each song builds off of the last, but that wasn't necessarily the intention.

"We didn't go into it knowing what any of the themes were going to be in particular," says vocalist/ guitarist Don Mitchell. "We had a number of songs and some songs in our last set that we hadn't recorded, but we noticed there were some things happening. There were some songs recorded later in the process that were informed by some of the songs early on. But I wouldn't say we went into it with a plan. All four of us are writers so we went into it with our ideas and our feelings into the hat and we quickly saw that there were similar things we were interested in or concerned with. But primarily we just go where the song takes us."

The loss of their drummer freed the band up for an entirely new collaboration process. Mitchell says "By the time we started writing music for 'Birds Say,' we were in a four-piece unit and there was no drummer, so we were singing most of the music together. There was no lead singer on a lot of the songs. We have to feel more invested in the words for it to work. Because of that singing approach partly, we began letting each other in on our processes at an earlier and earlier point. Now we have a comfort level with each other that allows us to collaborate and trust each other. It's taken a long time to get to that point where it could work."

One listen to "Birds Say" is all it takes to become an instant fan. There is a seeming effortlessness to its beautiful simplicity, even knowing how complicated the arrangements sound. Darlingside is only going to get bigger, so this is a perfect time to see what all the fuss is about.


Sunday, Nov. 6, 7pm

Tower Theatre, 835 NW Wall St.


About The Author

Jared Rasic

Film critic and author of food, arts and culture stories for the Source Weekly since 2010.
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