Local Wire

Nicolle Laurenne of The Darts Explains Her Love Affair with The Farfisa Organ

Karl Wentzel

In Pound For The Sound, we get technical with local musicians about what gear they use to create their signature tones

Nicole Laurenne, vocalist and Farfisa-ista of the Darts, will definitely be the first to let you know she is a Farfisa-only kind of gal. She doesn't spend time messing with fancy computers, midi controllers, or keyboards of any sort. For her, the love of her garage rock sound is in the Farfisa organ. And Laurenne knows the sound well, previously fronting Phoenix-based bands the Love Me Lots and Zero Zero to international acclaim.

Nicole's playing is intense and unique, swaying the Farfisa organ like it's on a rocking chair, but never failing to hold down those critical notes and chords notes to garage rock perfection. She really makes it a work of art that immediately draws you in and engages with what is being presented.

Recently, Nicole has been touring the nation with her newest project, the Darts, an all-female garage rock four-piece band. In fact, the ladies have planned a mini west coast tour this week, capped off with a performance at Viva Phoenix 2017, as well as a trip overseas to perform at the Cosmic Trip Festival in France in May. Luckily, New Times was able to catch up with her before the shenanigans begin.

New Times: What's the secret weapon of your sound? And how did that help you find your "signature" tone?

Nicole Laurenne: The secret is the Farfisa organ model I use – the Fast 3 model. I’ve tried the Compact, the Fast 2, the Jaguar Continental, the AceTone, and a bunch more [Farfisas] over the years. But the Fast 3 is the only one I’ve found that snarls like an angry mountain lion. It’s more nasal-sounding, and obnoxious, than the others by far. The other secret is to put it through a Fender Twin Reverb amp, which gives it that glorious spring reverb and mid-range. That’s really all I have done for the past many years. It’s all I really want to hear when I’m playing garage rock.

What's your favorite piece of gear in your collection and why?

My Farfisa. I don’t really have a collection of anything. I have an old plinky upright piano that is hilariously out of tune, usually, and my Farfisa. That’s it.

Any special pieces of gear acquired over the years? Any special story, or stories, behind your collection of tools?

The Farfisa is special, to me anyway. They aren’t made anymore. Mine is from around 1968, made in Italy. Last year, we were playing a big show in France; Christina and I both laid down on it at the same time somehow and one of the legs broke, sending the organ crashing to the floor. (Of course, I continued to play it on the floor, happily.) Our tour manager was on the phone all the next morning while we drove across the French countryside to our next show, trying to find a welder in one of the tiny towns. Somehow he did, and this lovely old man showed up during our soundcheck, expertly welded the leg back on, and it’s still fine no matter what I do to it these days. I also keep two more identical Farfisas around, for parts; we don’t need them often, but when you do need a part from 1968, it’s good to have it on hand.

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Nicole Laurenne

You recently released a new video for “My Heart Is A Graveyard.” How did you go about getting all of the creepy, crawly sounds that pop in and out of the song?

We did it the same exact way we did everything on both EPs – bright vocals heavily distorted, Farfisa through a Twin, bass through a Dope Priest fuzz pedal, guitar through a snarling fuzz pedal and a Marshall, drums with as much room mic as possible, and then of course, the final, all-important piece of equipment: We send it all through Bob Hoag’s [of Flying Blanket Recording] brain. He mixes it to perfection, and then we shower him with hugs and six-packs of cider and move on to the next recordings.

Considering you have spent a considerable amount of time playing festivals and touring in France, what is your favorite place in France to get a glass of wine?

Backstage! Playing in Europe is beyond amazing. The treatment you get there as a musician is mind-blowing. When you walk into the venue for soundcheck, not only is there always a full dressing room for each band, but it's fully decked out with bottles of wine, chocolates, platters of food, sometimes even rose petals strewn around. Once they even decorated our hotel room with roses and candy and streamers before we checked in. No, I'm not exaggerating.

The Darts are playing Viva Phoenix. Who you are most excited about seeing?

Death Valley Girls and Chastity Belt – two of my most favorite, favorite favorite bands on the earth right now. They are playing literally minutes after our set on a different stage so I will be sprinting from our last song to their first song as fast as humanly possible.
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Henri Benard
Contact: Henri Benard