Nashville sweethearts Those Darlins have quite a reputation. The southern quartet ― a trio of fiery females and their lone male counterpart, drummer Linwood Regensburg — emerged out of Murfreesboro, Tennessee nearly five years ago, playing rough-edged rock with a country twang. Since then they’ve released two albums and toured extensively, lighting up crowds with grit and gristle, leaving stages in sweaty disarray. They’re loud, they’re uncouth, they’re sometimes off-key and off-kilter, but there’s no doubting their authenticity.
I caught up with lead guitarist Jessi Darlin somewhere between San Francisco and Chicago, where the band just kicked off a fall tour that will take them through the Midwest and Northeast before bringing them back home to the South. After their self-titled release, the girls quickly became known for their energetic shows, with Kelley sending rowdy kicks to the crowd, Nikki thrashing around manically, and Jessi, wild-eyed, too much punch for the stage to contain her. With the release of their sophomore album, Screws Get Loose, this past spring, Those Darlins have proven themselves to be a band with staying power. “At first it was all about just having a good time and having fun,” Jessi reflects. “We said, we might be a little sloppy, but this is fun. Now I feel like we’ve become professionals.”
It’s the balance of professionalism and attitude that makes Those Darlins such an exciting band to watch. The video for “Be Your Bro,” the second track off Screws Get Loose, has the spit and sass that Those Darlins are known for, with the girls trading in lingerie and lipstick for t-shirts and jeans while crooning, “I just wanna run and play in the dirt with you/ you just wanna stick it in.” The zippy, poppy “Boy” turns surprisingly heartbreaking, with four vignettes of the pull of on-road love and its impermanence: “Hold me now/ never let me go/ I’ll see you at the show.” With Screws Get Loose we see a Those Darlins we haven’t experienced before, a band that moves swiftly from delinquency to emotionality, a band whose stories speak to ours without compromising sound, style, or that ever-important element, fun.
The varied influences on Screws Get Loose make Those Darlins a hard act to pin down. “We get people saying, ‘you guys sound just like Loretta Lynn, you guys sound just like The Ramones, you guys are the female Stones, the female Ramones, you’re just like the Shirelles,'” Jessi laughs. The truth is somewhere in between ― there’s a punk rock mania, a doo-wop catchiness, a rock n’ roll rhythm, and a country sensibility to Those Darlins that draws in fans from every genre.
As for where they’re headed, the Darlins are excited to take a few months off from touring this winter and get to work on a third full-length, to be released next year. They’re approaching their music with a focus and an intent that was absent during the recording of their first album. “Now,” Jessi says, “it really matters. The music has to be really good. It’s just a different feeling, almost like growing up a little bit. At first it was this whole giddy thing, it was like ‘Whew, this is crazy!’ but now it’s become a lot more like we wanna keep doing this, we wanna take this seriously.” However Those Darlins evolve, you’re guaranteed to still find that spitfire energy in their live performances. “It’s just about everyone having fun during the show, us included,” Jessi says. “We do the same thing every night, so it’s always really fun to get the crowd into it.”
This Sunday, Those Darlins play the Highdive with locals The Dirty Feathers opening, followed by Peelander-Z, a band Jessi describes as Japanese Power Rangers. “It’s an experience, something that you don’t want to miss. Within the first five seconds of their set the whole energy of the room always changes. Everyone’s dancing, going wild, doing whatever they want them to.” While Peelander-Z may not sound anything like Those Darlins, Jessi says “it’s more about the vibe of the band and more about the energy they give off than what kind of music they play. It’s way more fun to tour with a band that is fun than a band that sounds the same as us.”
With such a lively trio of bands lined up, this may be one of the best Sunday night shows Champaign-Urbana has seen this year (yes, Pains of Being Pure at Heart included). Jessi pitches it best: “It’s gonna be a whole lotta fun, and there’s gonna be all kinds of people there, so whatever kind of person you are, you won’t be left out.”
The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance or at the door, but those lucky readers who have made it this far have the chance to win a pair of tickets to see Those Darlins this Sunday for free! All you have to do is comment on this article with a working email address, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the heading “Those Darlins” by Friday at noon. One winner will be randomly selected and notified on Friday afternoon!