“Rising from the Garage: An Interview with Nicole Laurenne of The Darts”

In 2016, following the disbandment of The Love Me Nots, Nicole Laurenne and Christina Nunez embarked on a new musical journey, founding The Darts, an all-girl garage-punk band. With a vision of creating great music, exploring the world, and most importantly, having fun, they quickly gained recognition with self-produced EPs and a signing with Dirty Water Records. Since then, The Darts have toured extensively, collaborated with legendary figures like Jello Biafra, and made waves with their unique blend of spooky yet fun rock sound. Now, as they gear up for the release of their latest album “Boomerang” and embark on another global tour, Nicole shares insights into their journey, influences, and the making of their music.

The Darts at Medley Malmo 2023

What sparked the formation of The Darts in 2016, how did you all come together as an all-girl garage-rock band?

“Christina and I played together in The Love Me Nots for many years (on and off since 2006!), touring the world together and making a lot of records. When that band finally dissolved, we decided we wanted to finally start the all-girl band we had been talking about forever. We decided the goal would be to make great music that we liked listening to and see the world, and most importantly always have fun. Sounds simple, but if you don’t prioritize fun, things in this business can get intense fast. So we tapped two musicians in Los Angeles, wrote twelve songs, and self-released two 10-inch EPs in six months before we even really played in the same room together. Dirty Water Records noticed and signed us. It was magical.”

Your first year was marked by self-produced EPs and signing with Dirty Water Records. How did it feel to create your own music and get noticed so quickly?

“There really aren’t words for the glowing, hugely grateful feeling you get in your chest when you create something and someone actually likes it. I had been trying to get Dirty Water’s attention for years, and for some reason, this clicked with them. They even had me run Dirty Water Records USA for a little while out of my house. We were just completely thrilled. The songs were so easy to write together, and the band was so good right out of the gate. And most of all, we were having a total blast together”.

You’ve had the opportunity to tour with renowned artists like The Damned, The Living End and Billie Joe Armstrong’s The Longshot, how have these experiences influenced your music and performance style?

“Well, Christina has always reminded me over and over just to write what we like, do what we do, and not be influenced by what other people do or think. This is hard for me; it’s scary not just to mimic something that you know is already successful. But she is one hundred per cent right, of course. So getting to tour with some of our heroes was more validating than anything else. It was like, whoa, what we like and what we naturally do, somehow it fits with what our heroes are doing and they want us up there with them! Mind-blowing. It encouraged me to keep writing the way I write and reminded us that it’s okay to be authentic. And when you find yourself waltzing with Dave Vanian on stage and he’s pouring you a glass of port, and your band is on the other side of the stage singing “smash it up” backing vocals in front of a sold-out theatre night after night… there are no words for that kind of experience. Anything seems possible suddenly. You take more risks and reach further. It’s liberating.”

In 2018, Jello Biafra signed The Darts to his label, Alternative Tentacles. How did it feel to be signed by such a legendary figure in punk music?

“Extremely surreal. Jello was a fan of The Love Me Nots and was spinning our records while DJing at a show that the band was playing. He ended up coming on stage and singing the last chorus of one of our songs with me. I was immediately in full gratitude mode after that; I could not believe that happened. Then he was talked into coming to a Darts show a few years later (he didn’t think he would like it, apparently!) and right after the set, he was with me at merch, telling me he liked it even more than our last band! He has been very involved in pushing me to write stronger, better songs and has been instrumental in picking the songs for the records, the song order, and the vocal sound. He knows what he wants. You can’t argue with a legend; he’s earned that status for a reason. It’s a total honour and an unbelievable thing to work with him.”

You’ve performed at several festivals like Punk Rock Bowling and The Bash, and your music has been featured in top TV shows like Peaky Blinders. How do you feel your music resonates with such diverse audiences?

“I think what speaks to people is that this music is kind of spooky but always fun. Like a Halloween party. Like us in real life. It can be big and lush (like “Love U 2 Death” on Peaky) or it can be loud and raucous, or it can be a little spy or a little carnival, but it never takes itself too seriously. It creates a mood, I guess. I’m not really sure why people like it. But we do! And we absolutely love seeing people of literally all ages and music niches at our shows – it is the most glorious, rewarding thing ever to have this stuff speak to people.”

In 2023, your fourth LP, “Snake Oil”, was released with the help of fan funding. How did it feel to have such strong support from your fans?

“We could not believe it. It was the pandemic, people were struggling, we were struggling ourselves without tours, and it was just incredible to see people reach deep into their pockets and help us out. I felt like crying as I saw the GoFundMe balance keep growing. People all over the world helped us, and we know a lot of them personally now, and we know it was a huge sacrifice for many of them. We didn’t take that lightly. We did pour our souls into that record on so many levels.”

Do you think the music industry is making progress in terms of gender equality and representation, or do you believe there’s still significant work to be done?

“I think the music industry is honestly just a reflection of society in general. My mom moved to the US as a teenager to study physics and ended up working at very high levels for many decades in corporations and government industries; she broke every glass ceiling possible. Women are clearly stepping up into stronger, more powerful roles in every aspect of life, honing their talents and putting themselves out there. There are too many role models to even name. But there is still this very male-driven filter on everything that sees women only for their sexual identities and their caregiving abilities. Those are very unique aspects of femininity that we should never discount, but it is an absolute blast to walk on stage each night and be great at making music. And to share that with all the other women and female-identifying people in the room, who totally get it. Things are coming around slowly, but always, always, there is work to do, of course. It is still stupidly hard to find a female sound person, music producer, drummer, record label owner, venue owner… and there is entirely no reason for this state of affairs.”

Nicole, How does your music reflect your personal life experiences? Can you share a specific example?

“My songs are almost completely based on my own world. Mostly I tend to write about what makes me miserable: bad love, bad people, and tough times. They say the best art comes from suffering, right? Our upcoming record, Boomerang, is a little different though. I did a lot of self-improvement during the pandemic and afterwards. I changed a lot of things about my life, got away from a lot of toxic things and people, and did a kind of reset. So a lot of the songs on this record actually stem from the concept of letting go of bad things. ‘Your Show’ is about realizing that your musician-lover’s success makes you feel awful sometimes and coming to terms with that. ‘Pour Another’ is a list of all the reasons I used to drink alcohol, as a reminder to myself not to do it anymore. ‘Slither’ and ‘You Disappoint Me’ are kind of goodbyes to bad romances. ‘Hang Around’ is about trying to lose toxic people who won’t leave you alone. ‘Night’ and ‘Welcome To My Doldrums’ are celebrations of learning to be happy and peaceful alone in the world. All true stories.”

Your fifth full-length record, “Boomerang”, has been described as raw and filled with garage-psych-rock elements. How do you maintain your distinct sound while also evolving and growing as a band?

“I think the distinct ‘Darts’ sound comes from our instrumentation, which never really changes: Farfisa, fuzz-guitar, fuzz-bass, big drums. With those sounds, you already start writing songs from a certain place sonically. But I can change up the chords, I can find new chromatic runs (I love chromatics), and I can write different counterpoint melodies for all three instruments to play against each other. And I can mess with tempo and major versus minor moods. I’m always writing, like constantly, in the van, on the street, in the kitchen; it never ends. Inspiration hits at the strangest times, and I just run with it, no matter what it sounds like or what style it is, and then I let it grow into whatever it wants to be. I guess that’s a natural kind of evolution.”

With “Boomerang” set to be released by Alternative Tentacles Records worldwide in 2024, what can fans expect from this album and the upcoming tour?

“The morning we started recording Snake Oil, we got a phone call from Jello asking if we would consider adding three more songs – songs we and he had all originally rejected – to the album because he had fallen in love with them. We couldn’t make it work with the studio time we had booked, so we promised to get back into the studio as soon as possible to get those three songs out. Hence the quick boomerang spin back into the studio, before we even started touring Snake Oil. This album is different for us because, unlike our past records, which were all done with Bob Hoag in Phoenix, this one was done by Mark Rains at Station House Studio in Los Angeles. I have been a fan of Mark’s work for many years, and when we finally got the chance to record with him, we jumped at it. It was insanely easy to make this record – we knew what we wanted, we limited all outside influences, we just played like we played and made it sound as real and raw as possible. So it’s a departure from the big production of Snake Oil, and more garage probably this time around. But you can hear the peace of mind, the ease, and the fun we had making this record, and the really good place I was in when I was writing these songs. It makes me happy to listen to it. I hope it does for you too.”

As The Darts prepare to launch their highly anticipated album “Boomerang” and hit the road once again, it’s evident that their raw, garage-psych-rock sound continues to captivate audiences worldwide. With Nicole’s introspective songwriting and the band’s unwavering commitment to authenticity, “Boomerang” promises to be a testament to their evolution while staying true to their distinct sound. We extend our heartfelt thanks to Nicole for sharing her thoughts and experiences with us, and we eagerly await the next chapter in The Darts’ musical adventure

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