When singer Nicole Laurenne (the Love Me Nots, Motobunny, Zero Zero) and guitarist Michelle Balderrama (Brainspoon) started turning up at each other’s live shows, they admired each other’s musical talents and befriended each other. Then after a while they realized, why not start writing music together? Six songs in, they realized they had something special going on and recruited drummer Rikki Styxx (the Two Tens, the Dollyrots, Thee Outta Sites) and bassist Christina Nunez (the Love Me Nots, Casual Encounters, the Madcaps), and an all-girl indie “supergroup” was formed.
“I knew it was special before it even was the beginning,” Nicole Laurenne said of her new band. “These three women are musicians I have performed with for years and years, watching them and wanting to do this kind of project with them. When Michelle and I finally talked about writing some songs together for real in 2015, it was almost like a fully-formed idea in my head. And it has been so easy to make it all come to fruition, like nothing I’ve ever done before. Even just getting in a van with these people is special. They’re just fun, supportive, hilarious, goofy, and no one takes herself too seriously, which is a pretty hard quality to find in good musicians, if you ask me.”
The four girls christened the band the Darts and mashed up influences of garage/psych-rock and punk for a sound raging with guitar riffs, girl-group harmonies, fuzzy bass lines, a vintage 1960s organ, badass drum fills, and lo-fi ethos. The girls took the six songs, and Balderrama and Styxx recorded their parts in Los Angeles while Laurenne and Nunez laid down their parts in Phoenix. Not long after, the Darts released those songs on a pair of 10-inch vinyl EPs, respectively earning praises from the Underground Garage and horror master himself Stephen King. “Take What I Need” was selected by Sirius/XM’s Underground Garage channel as “The Coolest Song in the World 2016.”
“It’s always a surprise to get nice comments from such revered sources. But we don’t really need praise to keep moving,” Laurenne said. “We are all in this to have fun, travel, and make music we all like listening to. The rest is delicious gravy. But it’s only gravy. We’ve all been at this long enough to know that interest waxes and wanes in new projects, so you kind of take it all with a big grain of salt. Wow, I talked about salt and gravy in the same answer.”
With the salt and gravy a.k.a. critical praise on their side, the Darts took the stage for their first live show in October of last year and wound up signing to the London-based record label Dirty Water Records.
“I’ve had my eye on Dirty Water Records for years. I just always liked the stuff they put out, and I loved the way their PR always made me want to buy it, see it, find it. They pretty much ignored me all those years though. Last summer we meet Archie and the Bunkers at a festival in France. I happened to be in Cleveland a couple months later, and we ended up hanging out. When I found out they were signed to Dirty Water, well that just made sense to me. Then Matt Hunter from Dirty Water, who signed them, found himself in Phoenix for a while and looked me up. Out of the blue, after all those years, I get a Facebook message saying, “Let’s meet for a drink and talk business.
“After two sips of that drink, we both realized we knew a lot of the same people and had pretty much the same taste in music. Matt threw his support behind the Darts and brought us to the label. The band is really into having an overseas presence; our other bands have all greatly benefitted from that experience. We’re more interested in being on a label for the exposure and presence they can offer; otherwise, we could do it DIY, of course. So, we’re not looking for labels, in the US or anywhere else. We’re just looking to get on a plane and play somewhere interesting for cool people. And drink local wines. And maybe zipline occasionally.”
With a tour of the southern United States with Oakland’s all-girl rock duo Steel Cranes under their belts, the Darts are gearing up to take their music overseas for a European tour this May. Everyone in the band has extensive touring experience, but as a new band, they have to pay their dues and in the process, maybe have some zipline fun in their down time.
“We’ve all learned to keep our expectations nice and low. About anything we do. Obviously, we do everything in a way that we’re proud of, but expecting anything in return is just bad juju. We’ve all been over there many times (except Michelle, who is going to go crazy over how great it is), and we know just being there is literally the payoff. Walking up to a castle, having dinner with the promoter’s family, driving through tiny cobblestone towns, trying to sell merch in different languages and currencies (which can get truly hilarious), and doing it with three other girls who you love hanging around with…well, we’re basically just expecting a killer two-week slumber party. If anyone comes to the shows or buys a record or dances with us, we’ll party even harder.”
There are no doubts individually the members of the Darts have experience in spades and they bring it to the new outfit, but they also have other commitments with their other bands. It makes a fan wonder how they find the times for this project, and will it be a one-off release?
“Rikki is the only one in the band with a demanding schedule of other bands. Of course, that could change with any of us at any moment. We’re all really into being in multiple projects and collaborating outside of the Darts. It keeps you fresh. And we all learn something useful from everything we do, which is pretty important in a music business that offers really no training other than experience-by-fire. Rikki is fortunate enough to be able to work as a pro drummer right now, so she is in charge of her own schedule and makes time for what she wants to make time for. But of course, we all make time for what we love to do. Our second EP just came out, and then we will begin work on a full-length album for Dirty Water, hopefully ready by this summer.”
Feb 24 The Flycatcher Tucson, AZ
Feb 25 Trunk Space Phoenix, AZ
Mar 03 The Bunkhouse Las Vegas, NV
Mar 04 Winter’s Tavern Pacifica, CA
Mar 05 Lot 1 Huntington Beach, CA
Mar 06 Tower Bar San Diego, CA
Mar 07 Rebel Lounge Phoenix, AZ
Mar 10 The Flycatcher Tucson, AZ