Arts Desk

Takin’ It Easy With Those Darlins

Nashville spitfires Those Darlins don't always sound pretty, but they're not supposed to. The group blends the '60s girl-group sound with some CBGB sizzle, washing it down with shots of Tennessee's finest. So it was a bit strange that in a recent phone interview, frontwoman Jessi Darlin had the distinctive air of being between naps. "I just got back from South by at 5:30 this morning and I have to leave tomorrow. I guess you're witnessing my rest right now," she says.

In its third year at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, the band took it a little easy. "Every other year we did the whole play-a-million-shows, slam-everything-in thing, all that," Jessi says. "This year was the first time we just did two shows. We drove down on Wednesday, played on Thursday and then everybody went back except me—I stayed and hung out and checked out some bands. It was cool to actually hang out and not be running around and doing all the usual crazy stuff."

Those Darlins have run their whole operation themselves (with help from manager John Turner) since forming four years ago—everything from their own Oh Wow Dang label to booking to promotion. "We put our first album out ourselves and we're putting this one out ourselves. In terms of that side of things, the business, side too, it's all so much easier because we have that first experience under our belt," Jessi says.

For new LP Screws Get Loose, the band re-enlisted producer Jeff Curtin (Small Black). "The main difference between this album and the first is that the first album took about four months over the span of a year to record and this album we recorded the whole thing, with the exception of one song, in 10 days," Jessi says. "The first album we were kinda feeling it out and the second one we felt, you know, like you learn from experience and we knew what we wanted a lot more and we just went in and did it."

Which isn't to say there weren't a few hitches. "[Bassist] Nikki [Darlin] had a broken arm all summer, and she really had a tough time. It was her left arm and she couldn't really play at all. By the time we got to the studio, she had on a brace, not a cast anymore, so she played bass on one song. Mostly it was a lot of vocals. It was kind of a weird thing we had to work through, but we tried to do it with good spirits."

Even with one Darlin down, the group more than makes up for it on record. Jessi took up most of the songwriting this time around, along with drummer Linwood Regensburg, offering some tomboyish charm on tracks like "Be Your Bro," "Let U Down," and "Boy," each ringing with the rusty chime of the dirty South. "Mostly I like songs about everyday stuff like hamburgers," Nikki says.

Those Darlins performs with with Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears at 8 p.m. tonight at the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. Sold out.

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