Darling Chemicalia Releases Album Number Three, Spun in White
The word “evolution” implies not just adaptation to a changing environment, but also alludes to the increasing complexity of an organism. Local band Darling Chemicalia has been a fixture of the Sacramento live music scene for several years now, and they’ve reshaped, compounded in intricacy and proven their fitness to potential mates (you, the listener and showgoer) with the creation of their third record. Spun in White makes its official emergence in March.
Spun in White is the first Darling Chemicalia effort being put out by a record label— New York’s A Wicked Company. They recorded it themselves at their practice space, House of Hits, on Marconi. It showcases what the band is like live, and exhibits the new additions since Darling Chemicalia’s first two records, Valleys and Ghost Sketch, which were self-recorded by Ian Bone (vocals, guitar), Stephine Bone (vocals, keyboard) and Justin Gonzo (drums). Andrew Henderson (also in the totally rad band G. Green) lends a second guitar, and ex G. Green member Michael Feerick adds bass to the new record and evolution of Darling Chemicalia.
The 11 tracks that comprise Spun in White are each distinct from the last and catchier than a motherfucker upon repeated listens. The songs are spun together into an insidiously inviting web by common threads: youthful post-punk melodies; low-fi yet complex layered soundscapes; energizing pop influence; a dreamy underwater quality; Ian’s shaky, desperate vocals and Stephine’s raw, urgent, and longing vocals. Though they’ve preciously been compared to My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth, for me, Built to Spill qualities were immediately recognized when I first heard track one, “Final Girl.”
The album name comes from a Charles Bukowski poem, an excerpt of which reads:
“… And then the spider from his dank hole
nervous and exposed
the puff of body swelling
not really quite knowing,
and then knowing—
something sending it down its string,
the wet web,
toward the weak shield of buzzing,
a last desperate moving hair-leg
there against the glass
there alive in the sun,
spun in white;
and almost like love:
the closing over,
the first spider-sucking:
filling its sack
upon this thing that lived…”
As you can probably extrapolate from the tone of the poem above, the album is dark, and as Henderson described, “Claustrophobic—so much going on all the time in most of the songs… It’s what you’d feel like if you were in a crawl space and someone’s banging on the floor above you, but it’s good.” Henderson’s manner and voice reminded me of Mordecai from Regular Show.
It’s decidedly a loud, rocking record. Explains Ian Bone, “Growing up, I was super into Nirvana, and I never tried to do something like that. This doesn’t sound like Nirvana, but it’s as close as we can come to sounding like Nirvana. When you’re young, you get one record and obsess over it, immerse yourself in it. We don’t play a lot of shows where there are teenagers, and I want to know where the teenagers are. Because I wanted to make a record where some kid somewhere would listen to it and get obsessed. Actually listen to it all the way through.”
There’s so much going on musically in spite of managing to maintain minimalism, that it requires listening to it over and over again to really capture all of the things. Kind of like watching The Big Lebowski—no matter how many times I rewatch that movie, I catch some nuance in the dialogue that I’d never picked up on before, which makes it superior to a work that can be absorbed in one sitting.
“We’ve exhausted every melodic possibility for each song,” adds Ian, and while that’s mathematically improbable, the record is full of sound.
“Maybe we need to add a horn or something,” Henderson says jokingly.
“Yeah, that’s the next step,” concurs Ian sarcastically.
“We’ll make a ska record,” quips Gonzo.
Band dynamics will make or break even the most skilled group of musicians, and Darling Chemicalia is a tightknit alliance possessing pretty damn cute dynamics and dexterity to boot. In the beginning, it was just Gonzo, Ian and Stephine (the latter two had a baby three years ago). They added a guitarist momentarily but she didn’t work out.
One night in December 2012, when longtime homies Henderson and Feerick were going in on some booze with Gonzo and the Bones, Ian declared, “You should come join our band.” And so it was decided.
“It’s cool that we’re a band that is just friends anyway, and we’ve just become better friends,” Henderson elaborates. “We just like to play music together. We all look forward to band practice because we get to hang out with each other.” That camaraderie is palpable in the new record.
They rehearse once a week, randomly intersperse local shows, and on occasion venture out to San Francisco to perform. Their songwriting process varies. Ian brings ideas to the table half of the time, and as far as the other half goes, they’ll just be jamming at the beginning of practice and something worth exploring further arises. It took about a year to write the new record, and a year to record it—this was no haphazard process, but a painstaking and methodical one.
The album cover artwork for Spun in White is on par with the quality of the record itself. For the previous two albums, they utilized found photos, which are very cool images, but the new one was the first thing they actually did where it was a bit more premeditated.
“After we got married, Ian grabbed me and some residual wedding stuff…,” Stephanie Bone starts to explain.
“That sounds like a sexual thing, ‘it was our wedding night…’” teases Henderson.
“It wasn’t our wedding night, it was after we got married,” she clarifies.
The resulting picture is a beautiful, haunting image of a woman, spun in white, in itself a work of art.
Lofty future goals for the band? Define lofty…
“I’m still stoked every month that goes by that we’re all still doing this,” Ian says. “I don’t have any delusions of grandeur that we’ll be on the cover of the Rolling Stone or anything like that… if we can keep making something that’s good, as long as all of us are interested in doing it, then that’s good enough.”
“We’re finally going to go play in the Northwest, and that’s a huge step for this band,” adds Gonzo.
I disagree. Maybe they won’t get richer, or get their picture on the cover of the Rolling Stone, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this band is asked to play festivals like SXSW within the next couple of years, or is at least pleasantly surprised by a wealth of affirming, great reviews by notable music publications—not unlike this review.
Catch Darling Chemicalia at Witch Room’s first show on Tuesday, March 25 with Wax Idols, Wreck And Reference, So Stressed and Hollow Sunshine. Starts at 8 p.m., $8 cover, 18-and-over. Witch Room is located at 1815 19th Street (Bows and Arrows’ old space). For more information, visit Witchroomsac.com.