Psych out

The depunking of Darker My Love
By BARRY THOMPSON  |  November 24, 2008

POWER TRIP: “There’s music that’s way more psychedelic than what we’re doing,” says Rob Barbato (far right). “We’re just a rock band.”

Conversations about music can easily turn into conversations about geography. Where you are affects who you are, and that affects the music you're listening to and/or playing. Touring means adjusting to a gypsy's lifestyle, and Boston indeed looks like a city of gypsies. It's a handy place to come for school and then move to, let's say, Los Angeles and start an awesome band. This was the case with Rob Barbato, Will Canzoneri, and Jared Everett, three-fifths of Darker My Love, who come to the Middle East this Wednesday.

"LA's hot, the air quality's really bad, and I have really bad allergies, but the people are nice for the most part," Barbato — who sings and plays bass and has an epic beard — tells me from his bungalow-style home. "I think people from the East Coast have this askew idea of Los Angeles because of films and stuff. It's not really like that. But it's a very strange place to live. There are no seasons, and it's so vast, it's hard for it not to affect you."

Given that Barbato grew up in Holliston, you can understand why he'd still be feeling culture shock five years after departing the Bay State. What's harder to figure is how a guy with his pedigree in jazz guitar moves to LA and winds up with members of the now defunct Distillers and together they make music that isn't punk or jazz. It's not really psych-rock, either. Call it a velvet haze of potentially narcotic pop rock.

Barbato: "It happened really naturally. We would take something like heavy riffing stuff from the punk aspects and do the repetition stuff that's sort of a jam-type thing over it."

Pretty much every band who ever formed will tell you how "organically" their sound came into being, and just thinking about writing "Darker My Love defy genre classification" makes me want to smash my fingers with a hammer. But on DML's second disc, 2 (Dangerbird), something elemental is happening. "Northern Soul" reminds me of the title track from Perfect Strangers, even though DML have zilch to do with Deep Purple. "Talking Words" reminds me, for no reason I can explain, of Orange Julius. "Two Ways Out" reminds me of bopping around on Adderall while listening to the Beach Boys.

(Speaking of cheap drugs, hearing from Barbato that Dandy Warhols' Courtney Taylor-Taylor is actually an upstanding dude makes me wonder whether Ondi Timoner's 2004 documentary Dig! wasn't a hatchet job. Barbato and DML guitarist Tim Presley also got along swimmingly with Mark E. Smith during the year they spent as members of the Fall. Of course, everyone is more likable in smaller doses.)

"We don't want to be associated with scenes," Barbato continues. "We just went on tour with the Dandy Warhols, and we've been on tour with the Warlocks, but that's just because those bands like our band. It's not because we hang out with those people all the time. LA, I think, is a spot for so-called new psychedelic bands. It's tough for us, because we don't see ourselves as that. There's music that's way more psychedelic than what we're doing. We're just a rock band."

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