It's very easy to be seduced by the Nashville-based country/garage-rock quartet Those Darlins. Like a classic issue of Playboy, you pick it up because you love the cover, but you keep reading because the articles are good.
The cover of their latest album, titled Blur The Line, displays the four naked torsos of band members Jessi Zazu, Nikki Kvarnes, Linwood Regensburg, and Adrain Barrera. It stirred up some controversy when it was displayed on a banner in front of a record store in Nashville. Then there's the video for their single "Optimist," a three-minute barrage of the female form twisting and shimmying all around seductively. Their follow-up video, "In The Wilderness," shows Zazu wearing pasties over her breasts as scenes from what appears to be a swingers party are shown. Stanley Kubrick might have even blushed if he were alive to see.
Does Nashville need to loosen up?
"I think America has some work to do," exclaims Kvarnes. "It was an interesting little test to see how evolved we all are. There were just as many people who were saying that it was art and they like it. It was a cool social experiment.
"It's not about overlooking [the content] but expressing ourselves through the visual aspect of it. I'm happy with what we chose to express what we are doing. I think it was really honest and we wanted to be raw with it, but it's like mayonnaise. It's easy to put that before the bread."
Now that they have your attention, they now want to show you their sensitive side. The band started clearly in the alt-country category when their 2009 self-titled debut was released and in the years since they have dramatically shifted to a garage rock sensibility, putting Nashville on the map as a diverse music scene in the process. Blue The Line does have songs that seduce, including such obvious titles as "She Blows," but it's songs like "Oh God" and "Ain't Afraid" that will disarm you. The latter track opens with the line "There's a tumor growing on my body / I don't know what lies in store." It's frank stuff that could be overlooked if you're not paying attention.
"There's always this fear of death," Kyarnes explains, "I think everyone has it. There's a difference between being a hypochondriac and an alarmist. If anything does wrong is it OK to ask, 'OK, is this the end? Right now?' As scary as it is, there is something really liberating about that, and that's what the song is. The world is in a crazy place now and I need to step up and say, 'I'm not afraid anymore.' It's OK to be vulnerable."
In addition to their sensitive and their sexy sides, Those Darlins have a wild sense of humor that can be beguiling. The music and live show seduce everyone with the one thing you don't expect from a musician: confidence. Most songwriters are inspired by their insecurities about love and relationships. Those Darlins take their cues from not giving a rat's ass what anyone else thinks. The result is a bluesy seductive sound that wins over anyone who's listening.
"We are who we are so we're going to continue to make music that sounds like us," declares Kyarnes. "I think we have a very distinguished voice. All of us really like playing with words. There's puns and jokes and whether they're really dry or obvious they are there.
"The songs come from a confident place but they also come from a very vulnerable place. I can let down my guard and I'm OK with that."
Those Darlins are scheduled to play Yucca Tap Room in Tempe on Tuesday, August 12.
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