Hello Darren! You’ve been touring again since the incident in Nottingham at the end of last year [Darren suffered a fractured skull being mugged after one of his gigs]. How’s it been?
Bearable. I always enjoy my time on stage, but I was a little jumpy as might be expected.
Do you still dislike touring outside of London and being away from home?
Yep, pretty much. It gets worse as I get older. I think I maybe a little agoraphobic. Nothing specifically to do with the attack although that didn’t help, obviously. It’s all starting to feel very undignified for a man my age.
Your last album Pram Town was seen as a return to form by many critics. I’ve read that you don’t read reviews – do you have a particular distain for music journalists?
No I did read the reviews for Pram Town and liked, for the most part, what people had to say. It’s nice to be liked, even by critics, and it does help the ego but it isn’t the centre of what I do.
You’ve said in the past that your forthcoming record Essex Arms is going to be a “very depressing record” and it has “a strong theme of death.” What else can you tell us about it?
I don’t know if it’s depressing or not. It’s supposed to be about beauty and love in unlikely places. It does feature a death (a car crash), its bleak certainly but there is a love story in there.
Will Essex Arms be carrying on some of the same themes from Pram Town? Can it be seen as a sister album?
Well it’s a second album in an Essex trilogy although I’m not sure what themes link them other than me thinking about location and my home county. Both are love stories I guess. Both are sort of sliding doors narratives, that is to say what I might have been if I’d stuck around in Essex.
What are your hopes for Essex Arms? Scott Walker once said he makes each record in the hope to raise enough money to make another. Do you share this approach?
I suppose. It is tough out there. I currently make less money than ever and as discussed above I am starting to withdraw from playing live which is where people usually make up what they lose on dwindling CD sales. I want it to be good. I want it to matter to at least some people. Outside of that I don’t ask for too much.
I was recently at one of your gigs and some people were laughing at some of your more witty lyrics. I find these more tragic and morose than comedic. Does that bother you?
It’s interesting how audiences act as one and how one audience will laugh at a line that others might recoil from. People do sometimes laugh at odd places but in general I don’t mind. I’m trying to use unlikely words in songs and often they jar and amuse.
Do you still enjoy playing Hefner songs or do you see it as a burden?
I don’t mind too much. There are some I never do now, but as long as I switch them around it’s ok. My main problem is that I think a lot of the popular ones aren’t very good.
You’ve pretty much released every Hefner song. Is there anything left in the archive?
There are a lot of live tapes. The BBC stuff is proving hard to license. Completely unheard Hefner songs? I can’t think of many.
Would you play again with Jack Hayter as you did when you toured Hefner songs a couple of years ago?
Jack is on a lot of Essex Arms and does sometimes appear with me. Although I have no plans to do ‘Hefner’ songs shows.
You recently played at Stroke Your Beard in London playing just the ukulele which reminded me of your bluegrass record. Will there be another Hayman, Watkins, Trout & Lee release?
It seems unlikely. I have no objection and the four of us see each other often. Dave’s commitments with The Wave Pictures would be the main barrier.
What does the rest of 2010 have in store for you?
Trying to finish this album about the Essex Witch Trials and avoiding playing live.
Finally, Morse or Lewis?
Morse of course, but Lewis does OK as a make-do.
What have you been up to since your last tour of Britain?
Well, since we were last over in December, we had some time to practice and demo a bunch of new songs, toured Japan, New Zealand and Australia and are now on a US tour with Surfer Blood and Hooray for Earth. It’s going really great – we’re excited to be on the road again, especially with two bands that we really like a lot.
Tell us more about your new single “Say No to Love”.
If you strum an E chord, then an A chord then a B chord then the A chord again, repeat that for about 3 and a half minutes you’ve got yourself a summertime jam (hopefully). Because we tour a lot, we like to make new music available to people as immediately as possible – it’s fun to have new songs to play, and people seem to appreciate that if they come see us again, we’re not just going to regurgitate the same set we did 6 months prior.
You recently made a video for “Higher Than the Stars”. How did that come about? Why did the video come so late after the release of the single?
We wanted the video to be a certain way, and then we got all caught up in touring and other stuff, so we never got to finish it in a way that felt right. In the end we’d rather have a video we feel proud of (involving furries) than one that’s not really us. Right now we’re working on a new video for “Say No to Love” and hopefully that will get done a bit closer to the actual release of the single.
You’re headlining Indietracks Festival on the Sunday night, have you been before?
It’s a festival I’ve really wanted to attend since 2007, and we’ve wanted to play it but have never been able to make it work out. It caters to the kind of passionate pop that we love, and the people who attend are a lot of our best friends we’ve met from on tour. So yeah, we’re not only looking forward to playing and seeing other bands, but just hanging out with our friends.
What bands are you looking forward to seeing over the weekend?
There are so many, so if I forget some please forgive me. The Blanche Hudson Weekend, Allo Darlin’, Shrag, Love Is All, Specific Heats, Pooh Sticks, The Primitives and lots more.
Were you surprised by the critical successes of your debut album and the Higher Than the Stars EP? It’s all happened so quickly for you.
Each thing has sort of been a gradual build up from the thing before. While it looks incredibly improbable and dramatic looking back at our start at Peggy’s birthday party, to us at least there’s never been a sense of “overnight” rags to less raggedy rags. There was the Cloudberry cd-r, our self-released s/t EP, the Atomic Beat “Kurt Cobain’s Cardigan” split 7″ w/ The Parallelograms, the “Searching for the Now split 7” w/ Summer Cats, and then the “Everything With You” 7″ on Slumberland as well as several tracks for fanzine compilations (Anorak City, A Layer of Chips, Fog of Ideas). Each of those releases seemed to find some really enthusiastic listeners in the indiepop community, which is all we ever really thought would happen. When we started, we figured we’d have like 12 fans, but they’d be really good fans and that was perfect. Aside from a little road trip to Athens Popfest in 2007 and a very brief mini tour of the UK with the help of The Manhattan Love Suicides, we didn’t really experience too many opportunities to play outside of our home town.
But after the record came out, we started getting more opportunities to tour and people started discovering us, which was both completely surprising and wonderful feeling. So many of the bands from which we drew inspiration never got the chance to do half of the things we have in our time together, and while it would be easy to get bogged down and feel unworthy, I think the most respectful thing to do is just try to appreciate the opportunities you have, make the most of them and continue to work hard. We try to be as upfront about the bands we admire that have influenced our music as possible, so that hopefully through people learning about us, they can also get into Close Lobsters, The Pastels, The Manhattan Love Suicides, Black Tambourine, Rocketship and Exploding Hearts.
I hear you’re working on your new LP at the moment. What can we expect from it?
Well, we won’t start recording it until we get back to New York, but we’re totally excited by the songs. I think a lot can be made of production and all the weird details of making a record, but if you’re not excited about the songs, then all the fancy production in the world won’t fix that.
Who’ll be releasing it in the US and Europe?
We’ve enjoyed and are grateful to both Mike from Slumberland and Sean from Fortuna Pop! and hope to continue to work with them on the next record. Hopefully they’ll want to too… I have to say here that I firmly believe that not every indie is run by great people, nor every major populated by music haters. But both Mike Schulman and Sean Price are two of the most virtuous, hardworking, aesthetically discerning and kind people in music. The fact that Sean lets us stay on his floor, eat his olives and granola when we’re in London, and Mike fly’s halfway around the world to see us play, despite having a full time job, a lovely wife and a 2 year old baby, never ceases to amaze us.
How’s your recent tour of the US with Surfer Blood going? Have you got a favourite gig so far?
Ha, we’ve only played three so far, but we really like both Surfer Blood and Hooray for Earth. It’s really fun to tour with bands that are both really good and fun to hang out with. To be honest, even bands you sometimes think are super serious usually turn out to be nice guys/gals when you meet them. Like, today Hooray for Earth “Iced” us during soundcheck. For those that don’t know what icing is, it’s when you’re presented with a Smirnoff Ice (alternative beverage) and you have to take a knee and chug it to prove your worth. This is a tradition among more fraternity types in the US (“lad culture,” I believe you call it), but we are happy to appropriate it for our own perverse pleasure.
Do you enjoy touring or do you get homesick?
I really like touring more than anything. Life at home is cool because I have some really wonderful friends that I like to see, but the chance to travel to new places and meet new people that I’d never get to go to or meet – that’s such a once in a lifetime opportunity, that it feels like I’ve won sort of “life” lottery where I get to do something I love more than anything. I try to just appreciate it 100 percent and do it the best I can.
What bands are exciting you at the moment?
Too many to name here. Some albums that have come out this year that I’ve really liked are (and in no particular order):
Allo Darlin’ – Allo Darlin’
Gemini – Wild Nothing,
Revenger – Knight School,
The Monitor – Titus Andronicus,
Spirit Youth – Depreciation Guild,
Chronosynclastic – The Prids,
Momo EP – Hooray for Earth,
Astro Coast – Surfer Blood and
The World that Never Was – The Secret History
Other bands I’m psyched on a lot, but maybe haven’t released an album yet:
Yuck, Zaza, Best Coast, Light Asylum, German Measles, The Blanche Hudson Weekend, Dream Diary, Gold Bears.
What are your plans for the rest of 2010?
Well, we’re going to record our album this summer, so that’s going to be a lot of fun. Also, we’re going to be touring a lot – pretty psyched about everything, especially the chance to finally play Indietracks.
If you missed out on our new mixtape last night you can download it below. It features the Darren Hayman’s duet with Emmy the Great, up-and-comers Tracey’s Love, an exploration in surf pop with The Specific Heats and Best Coast, and a dreamy finale from The Radio Dept.
1. Darren Hayman & the Secondary Modern – Calling Out Your Name Again
2. Math and Physics Club – Jimmy Had a Polaroid
3. Red Shoe Diaries – Underage Disco
4. Tracey’s Love – The Girl with Amsterdam Eyes
5. Shrag – Ghosts Before Breakfast
6. The Specific Heats – Baby, I’m an Existentialist
7. Best Coast – Boyfriend
8. The Humms – Leave That Boy Alone
9. The Depreciation Guild – Dream About Me
10. The Radio Dept. – You Stopped Making Sense
It clocks in at just over 30 mins so check it out and feel free to get in touch with your thoughts. Click here to download. Enjoy!
We’re thrilled that we’ll be doing a Camera Obscura Special at King’s Cross Social Club on Saturday 20th April!
They’re one of the bands who made us want to start the club night in the first place and one of the most popular with our regulars so it should be quite a night.
We’ll be welcoming Helen King and Bob Brown from Shrag as our guest DJs. They played a fantastic set at Indietracks last month so be sure to pick up a copy of their new album Life! Death! Prizes! which we’ll have on sale on the door.
Due to the popularity of the first mixtape which we put out in February, we’ll be giving out free copies of our second mixtape to the first 25 people through the door. We’ll also have brand new Scared To Dance badges.
Doors open at 9pm to 2am. It’s free to get in before 10pm and only £3 after. Please email in your requests or alternatively post them on the Facebook event.
We’re thrilled to announce that we’ll be taking Scared To Dance to Bergen, Norway on Saturday 28th August. We’ll be doing the club at Landmark where Love Dance will be on first and then it’s the club night from 11.45pm ’til 3am. Full details below.
If you’re coming to the night please email in your song requests. See you in Norway!