Live Review & Interview - Darwin Deez @ The O2, Oxford
Darwin Deez don’t do on-stage insecurity. In fact, they open with a dance routine. It’s properly choreographed and completely stupid. These Napoleon Dynamite-esque interludes frequently pop up during their jangling set of self-assured indie pop. With the trend for funereal live shows in this Age of the Minimalist Synth, it’s hugely refreshing to see a band who don’t take themselves too seriously. Frontman Darwin Merwan Smith’s uncluttered song writing and trademark jaunty rhythm guitar is enhanced in the live setting. The sound is fuller and messier, in a good way, than on their records. Merwan Smith is undeniably magnetic, flavouring each track with his distinctive, chiming vocals. His exuberance tows the crowd along and squashes every reserve in the venue. The band rattle through classics like 'Radar Detector', 'Constellations', 'Up in the Clouds' and 'Bad Day', as well as tunes such as 'Time Machine' from their recently released album Double Down. I caught up with the eponymous Darwin before their show…
On touring the US vs. the UK:
'I guess the press reception is different. The British press is exceptionally sensationalist. Which actually really works for discovering and promoting new music, because they get really hyperbolic and excited about ‘the new band that nobody’s heard of’. Which is cool, I like that about it. But when it comes to gig reviews or whatever, you have to take it with a grain of salt.'
On new music:
'Whenever you’re not a new artist anymore, people are less interested. People wanna jump on the next thing, because that’s the whole industry, it's promoting, that’s how the cogs and the wheels of history make their existence relevant, by constantly moving on to new stuff. They’re like: ‘you need us to discover new stuff’.'
On his worst ever gig:
'Probably my first ever gig was my worst ever gig. It was a nightmare, I brought my desktop tower PC, and I brought a separate keyboard and my plan was to press the space bar with my foot to play samples, and didn’t practise that at all and it didn't work and I just couldn't remember how to do anything and nobody could help me. I was totally laughed at and was totally discouraged after it. My friends were all like 'it's not that bad you know, you did ok', they were supportive and stuff. But it was horrible.'
On indie pop:
'I don’t think musically the construction of what I do is that different from like, Taylor Swift. It’s more homemade obviously, but the song itself - the song itself being a sequence of notes and chords and tempo - is intellectual property in itself and is an entity in itself. To me as a songwriter, it's something that I can separate easily from gloss or whatever doctorly production values get added onto it. I can receive a song on that level, at least I think I can, and I like to think people out there can receive a song on that level. But it doesn’t matter as much that my recordings are less polished and my voice is less polished. There’s not 200 tracks of my vocal like there is on a Katy Perry production. I like to think the song will come through.'
On the future:
'I don’t know what we’re doing next year… just gonna hang around and hope people ask us out on more dates.'
You can find Darwin Deez's music on Spotify or Soundcloud, with new album Double Down out now on Lucky Number.