Darktown Strutters

Darktown Strutters Session - September 2011

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This Session
Violitionist Sessions

Session Date: May 12, 2011
Posting Date: September 12, 2011
Artist Hometown: Dallas, TX
Links: Facebook, MySpace
Recorded by: Michael Briggs

Evil Eye
Pull Up To The Bumper (Grace Jones)

ONE: You have been involved in the changes going on in the Oak Cliff area. Would you say it’s more of a revitalization or a gentrification? What do you think is next for the area?
Kara Howell: Can I say this off the record? I am so bored with Oak Cliff and everything. I want to just make it a Metroplex. I am sick of the compartmentalizing — maybe you can say that on the record. I’m sick of the compartmentalization of everything. You know, people used to drive all the way out to Denton to go to shows. People used to drive to Ft. Worth to go to shows…nobody does that anymore. I had a conversation with somebody the other day about that. Nobody really gives a fuck about…you know, if it’s not happening in your backyard, you’re not interested, because now we’re all old, and gas is expensive. So, yeah, things are happening in Oak Cliff, but I don’t necessarily have my hands as much in that as I used to anymore. Pastime is the place I’ve been booking, they’re more downtown, and it’s been kind of, you know, trying to help people out with venues all over and stuff like that.
BF: What do you think is the cause of that? Why don’t people leave their areas?
Kara: Well, there are a million reasons, but it all comes back to…I don’t want to say it’s flat-out apathy or laziness or anything, but it probably is. There’s a lot of like, “Meh, you know, we could just go down the street and see a show…” That’s why people have been staying in Denton, and that’s why people want to stay in Oak Cliff and make something – you know, it’s just easier.
Wes Darrin: You just want your own neighborhood to be better than—
Kara: You just want to be in your own habitat. You want your own section to be cool. I don’t know. I don’t know how to answer that.
TWO: Could you tell us a little bit about your latest album, and how you came to be on Klearlight Records?
Kara: This is a common question that we get asked a lot. We recorded at Klearlight – Klearlight didn’t currently have a label going or anything like that – but we recorded, like, with a gun to our heads, with this deadline that We Shot JR kind of wanted to put out a record, or put out their own label and everything, so…you know, people ask us this stuff. You can Google it and find out, you know, and it’s all boring. Ask us something good. Let’s play truth or dare.
MB: OK…I don’t know…
Kara: You don’t have any big, juicy, fat questions for me? I’m Kara Howell! You don’t have any really fucking serious…you can ask me anything, I’ll tell you.
MB: What do you want to be asked?
Kara: I can’t even think of anything now…I guess it’s pretty obvious that—
BF: One of the things I’ve noticed, from talking to you through email, is that you really like the DIY aspect of the Pastime Tavern. So, we were going to ask you, after playing in theaters and bars and houses and clubs; a large variety of venues…What kind of venues do you prefer as a band? What makes a DIY spot different than a theater or a club?
Kara: Well, I wanted to take that aspect of what we like to play and put it in a bar atmosphere. Not that Pastime…I mean, Pastime is one of the oldest bars in Dallas. I don’t know if you’ve been there before, but it’s very dive-y. So, you take – and I’m not going to call anybody out here, but every time that we’ve played live shows you’ve got to take out X amount for the door girl, and X amount for the sound guy, and then they take out all of this money and you’re left with like 20 bucks, and you know, that’s cool, I don’t want to be one of those people who are just like, “I’m just playing to make some cash,” but when you’re touring, it is kind of a big deal. So, what I wanted to do with Pastime is let bands run their own sound. I’ll work the door. The owner, you know, we have a deal worked out where I work the website and all of that. He takes care of me, so I’m fine, so I don’t take any money out of the door and I give all of the door to the bands, so that way, there is still a DIY aspect about it. We don’t really play a lot of free shows, so it’s not like, some type of Co-Op or anything, I mean, we are there to do it right, but it brings out that same audience, because it’s basically like playing in a living room.
Wes: Yeah, I think sometimes you crave playing to an audience that’s totally alien to you at the same time. I guess it depends on what mood you’re in, but it is exciting sometimes to play in a weird place that is out of your element. Whether or not they are going to like it, you might freak some people out that have never heard that kind of thing before, whereas I think somewhere like Pastime is kind of safe. I mean, it’s great, it’s fun, it’s really accessible and cool, but you kind of know who’s going to be there a lot of times, and what the crowd is going to be like.
Kara: No, not necessarily.
Wes: I mean, not always, but—
Kara: I don’t ever-there’s a really varied crowd there. I very rarely see the same people at the same shows.
BF: Does Darktown have any aspiration to play larger theaters?
Kara: No. I would really rather play a small venue with a lot of people than a big one with a weaker audience. Of course…it’s the big fish/little pond thing.
BF: What’s next for Darktown Strutters? Do you have plans to go back into the studio anytime soon?
Kara: Yeah, we’re planning on going into the studio…
Wes: We don’t know exactly when.
MB: Is that going to be with Klearlight again?
Kara: Yeah.
Wes: What’s good is that we’ve got enough stuff to do at least two more EPs. We like the EP, the shorter format, because it’s just easier to do in small chunks like that.
Kara: We have our album cover all ready and everything.
Wes: A full-length can be a little too daunting at times. It’s easier to push smaller, because we want to do just strictly vinyl too, so—
Kara: Well, that’s kind of how it turned out, because we wouldn’t be opposed to doing CDs.
Wes: I wouldn’t even bother nowadays. I wouldn’t even pay for it.
Kara: You know, all the time people are giving me these other formats of music, and I never get around to listening. I’m just…Ok, everyone that’s ever given me a CD or a Tape, I am admitting right now that I have not listened to it, just because I don’t have a CD player and I don’t have a tape player anymore that works.
Wes: I hate the idea of paying for a product that you know is just not going to be appreciated. Like, there’s still that element, when you take vinyl out of the sleeve, you feel good about it, you’re like, “Oh, wow, this is nice.”
Kara: Yeah, it’s so real. You feel good about your purchase, and you can put it in your collection…
Wes: You can get that heavy 180 gram or whatever.
Kara: It’s a total geek thing.
Wes: I hate the idea of having these boxes of CDs that people just open and maybe burn on their computer, and then they throw the disc away, or they get scratched within three days.
Kara: Yeah, people tend to take care of records more often. They have this cherished, prized collection, or all my dork friends do, and so do I.
Wes: Then you get the big artwork, too.
Kara: And you get the big artwork. And you can do vinyl artwork and stuff. Anything else? I don’t think we answered any questions directly.
Wes: I will say…I wanted to mention…I actually like big audiences. I know that you don’t, but—
Kara: Oh yeah? Well, cool.
Wes: I had to throw that out there.
Kara: Yeah, do it.
MB: Why is that?
Wes: I don’t know…there’s something weird—
Kara: When the hell have we played a big audience?
BF: I saw you at Hailey’s once with Florene. I think it was two years ago. There seemed to be a lot of people there…
Wes: The biggest venue we’ve done was Granada, and it was really weird, but I like that. I like uncomfortable shows, I’m kind of weird like that. I like—
Kara: That’s because you’re not fronting.
Wes: That’s true, I’m not a front man.
Kara: They’re fine, it’s fine, it’s just that we’re not for everybody. We’re not very palatable, we’re not radio-friendly, and it’s really hard for people to be like, [in a mock-country accent] “Well, I really like this!” because they’re not ready for it. They see us, and there’s a girl singer, and she’s got a keyboard, and she’s got a little drummer, and people think that we’re going to sound like Beach House, you know, and we don’t, at all. We sound like crazy wicked weird compared to that hippy-dippy shit — not to bum out Beach House, you know, I’m sure.
Wes: But, I get more nervous in front of like five of my closest friends that I do in front—
Kara: Ok, well, yeah. If you’re playing for a very small audience, or a very large audience, they’re going to have the same reaction. Although, well…
Wes: I’m kind of more comfortable with bigger—
Kara: Yeah, I could see that. As long as the crowd is faceless, I could play easier, but when some dude is standing right up at you sucking on a beer bottle like, two feet away from your face, you’re going to play like crap.
Wes: I like stages. I don’t like that floor. I don’t always like that floor thing, like, I like using the stage as a performance—
Kara: I’m more paranoid. I have this thing about messes being made, and I’m terrified of beer being splashed on my equipment.
Wes: Right.

THREE: If you could pick a fantasy lineup of bands to play your ‘perfect show,’ who would you choose?
Kara: Oh my god. See, now you know the type of questions to ask me, because I love this kind of, like a hypothetical…how many?
BF: Just a typical lineup, four bands.
Kara: OK. From any era? Let me get another beer. You go first.
Wes: Gosh, well. I’ll go ahead and go with stuff that is still playing, since it actually could happen. Maybe Nite Jewel would be pretty awesome. I really appreciate what they do. Ariel Pink. And an ELO show would be pretty amazing. Black Sabbath—
Kara: OK, you pick your four, and I’ll pick mine.
Wes: Yeah, Black Sabbath, ELO, and the other stuff that I said, too. Those just popped into my head.
Kara: Ok, I’ve got four…Oh, it’s hard. Hang on, let me think. The very first thing that I thought of was Arthur Brown, but I don’t want to follow him. No way, he’d steal the show. I’d probably pick four bands way shittier than us. [Laughs] No, but I would really love to play with…let’s see, I would pick Grace Jones, I would play with…Oh, I can’t think of anything. Everything sounds too cliché.
BF: What about local?
Kara: I love playing with Nervous Curtains. They’re great. Can I say Great Tyrant?
Wes: I’d also love to play with HTRK, but I don’t know where they’re at right now, because one of their members passed away last year.
Kara: Who is that? HTRK?
Wes: Hate Rock?
Kara: I’ve never heard of that.
Wes: They were one of my favorite things for a while, now that that stuff came out. Their last album came out, I guess it’s been like two years now, but I still…it never gets old. That’s something current that I think is really good.
Kara: Another band I would pick would be Aphrodite’s Child.
Wes: Yeah.
Kara: That album 666 is really good.
Wes: Some psychedelic, something really—
Kara: Something really psychedelic, like 60’s psychedelic weirdo freak-out shit. Todd Tamanend fucking Clark! Ok, Todd Tamanend Clark, Aphrodite’s Child, the Pointer Sisters, and Darktown Strutters. That’s mine. Fuck yeah, man, I’d love to play with the Pointer Sisters. Do you know how fun that would be? They would get you so high!
BF: In a DIY space, of course. [Laughs]
Kara: But some house shows, some are good and some are bad. It’s just like everything else. I don’t want to be a total bummer. I mean, going to the bathroom at a house show, I mean, I’d rather just drink a bucket of rat piss than have to do that.
BF: And moving gear in and out…
Kara: Yeah, for sure, and people fuck with your stuff when you turn your back.
Wes: I’ve got these spikes on my bass drum. That always scares me if I’m drunk, and I’m trying to move this thing through a room. I just know one of these days I’m going to nail somebody.
Kara: We played in New Orleans once, and it was just such a fucked-up neighborhood that the owner had to stand out with a gun loaded and held up so that we could load in and out without having to be hassled. But, when we’re in bad neighborhoods, I’ll take these spiky things and I’ll just…like if we’re in Expo Park, you know, the whole homeless thing…people are really out of control over there. I’ll just walk around with those like some drunk ninja.[Laughs]
Wes: Killing five people every show.
Kara: You just have to clear a path.