Darlingside is hungry for some sushi and Japanese stardom

By Leigh Greaney

On their Pacific tsunami ride to glory, Darlingside stopped by the University of Massachusetts and Sweet Baby Lou and the Reverends of Funk’s office at WMUA to spread their sound into the ears of campus Feb. 3.

With their indie/folk/rock beats and catchy harmonic rhythms, the guys of Darlingside showed UMass the fruits of their labor, planted in their Williams College base. Make no mistake, this small town college band has been growing tall around the Northampton area.

After first hearing the band’s cascading strumming, humming and drumming, the appearance of insta-fans was not so surprising. Their sound is very accessible – and goes down easy. During the two-hour show, they played five songs, including a cover of Damien Rice’s “Volcano” and Muse’s “Knights of Cydonia.” The band’s five-piece power packed a hard punch for the Muse cover, while keeping Rice’s cover sweetly mystifying.

Darlingside- “Knights of Cydonia”

Their unique sound is born out of Don Mitchell’s vocals and guitar, Auyon Mukharji’s vocals, violin, mandolin and saz (a Turkish string instrument), David Senft’s lead vocals, guitar, bass, and keys, Sam Kapala’s drums and pennywhistle, and Harris Paseltiner’s vocals, guitar and cello. Combined with the cello, the violin soars into an intermingled harmony accented by the more traditional instruments of their artistry. Carefully woven together, they are sure to pull on the heartstrings of fans.

If their music isn’t a love tap on your heart’s left ventricle, then the guys themselves will surely win over the fickle. Their passion to play is genuine, even though they set the lofty goal of touring Japan. Their aim is to be memorable, much like their band name.

Born at Williams College during a winter term songwriting class, the guys adopted Darlingside as their laminate. They liked that when Googled it, the only result was some road in Ontario – which may find its street sign missing someday.

Darlingside- “Good Man”

Their songwriting teacher, Bernice Lewis taught them to “kill their darlings” to make their songs uniform and cohesive. Taking her advice, the guys decided to go off on a lyrical homicide mission, calling themselves Darlingcide. After some heat from their critics and some fear of a mixed message, the band opted for what they consider “a dandier ‘s’.”

This dandy-ness carries its weight within the band members and within the songs they write. In the making of their EP, they noticed how excited they were.

“Our songs have adopted so many different qualities. There have been lots of unexpected turns from song to song and within each song,” Don said, while the rest of the band nodded in agreement. “You’ll find yourself in a new place all the sudden,” added Auyon. Everyone else seemed to agree, as a contented smile swept over their faces.

Darlingside- “Malea”

They all seemed so mellow – like one agreeable unit. Something didn’t seem right. A band that gets along – AND – lives together in Hadley? This is no “Real World,” no “Jersey Shore,” no P. Diddy making of a band kind of living situation. There’s no fighting, only collaboration, hanging out, trying out harmonies and good home cooking.

The band found it unquestionably important to stress that, among the other things they do well, they dine impeccably. “We eat well,” Sam stated. “We don’t do microwave dinners. We rotate cooking and we have a rule: if you come to visit when we’re rehearsing then you cook. It’s obviously not convenient for us to be cooking while we’re rehearsing, so we pay for it and all you have to do is cook and we will feed you.”

“It’s symbiotic,” Don piped in, “Like a song.”

Darlingside- “Volcano”

However, their stomachs full of avocado, pear, blackberry salad and candied walnut brownies, still hadn’t quenched their lust for Japanese sushi. After playing out of as many stadiums as the U.S. has to offer, the band has big plans for Japan. Why? According to Auyon it’s because “Japan is far away enough and exotic enough that once you make it there, you’ve made it.”

Being a unit since this September, Darlingside is confident this goal isn’t just dinner conversation. They’ve been steadily booking shows and radio gigs.

Solo artist Caitlin Canty has been playing with the band and adding her sultry female vocals to tracks, such as “Volcano.” The two acts swap connections, share harmonies and even hang out. “She’s actually asleep at our house right now, I think,” Sam added. Although she prefers to do her own thing, her additions to Darlingside’s tracks and their additions to hers make a musically enlightened friendship and work environment.

The two acts play shows together, including a recent benefit for Haiti which was held in Rutland, Vt., in the Paramount Theatre. The next upcoming show, however, will be without Canty’s harmonies.

After coming in near the top of a preliminary round of a battle of the bands held at the Elevens in Northampton, they were invited back to play the final round on Feb. 21. Although the steps to the final round were somewhat of an emotional rollercoaster, due to what the band calls an “Al Gore style election mishap,” they’re excited to battle it out.

Darlingside- “In the Catbird’s Seat”

Until then, Darlingside is hard at work on their EP. They’ve released their first single, “Surround,” for free on MySpace. However, the version they sent out to the public is nothing they are overly satisfied with. Their goal was to inspire some interest to get people to go to their shows, but they’re not happy with the quality quite yet. “We wanted to throw it at people for free,” Auyon explained, “but in a couple months it will be better and worth paying for.”

Getting close to the mixing stage, the band is thrilled about getting their EP out. Thinking hard and long about what makes a good song, they decided the ideal song’s composition is like “Cool Runnings.”

“It’s like a team between music and lyrics. They have to support each other – like being on a bobsled. It’s a synthesis; one core expression,” Sam explained, while the others were still smiling about the “Cool Runnings” reference.

While traveling around from gig to gig, the band likes to caravan and listen to inspirational music, such as Ray LaMontagne, Radiohead, Muse and Taylor Swift. Defending Taylor Swift, Sam said, “A good song is a good song,” although he isn’t a fan of all her tracks. Nonetheless, their wide range of influences adds to their vamp and their motive of taking a listener somewhere else.

As for Darlingside, they’re happy where they are for now. They’re stunned by the girth of UMass – maybe because the undergrad population is roughly 17 times the size of the town that Sam grew up in.

Darlingside- “Surround”

“[Thousands] of students with grad students,” Sam thought out loud, “…that’s the size of New Hampshire’s capital. And you guys have a stadium here?” Just hearing that, the band smiled as daydreams of the Mullins Center must have danced in their heads.

“We’ll play anywhere. If there’s a party around here, we’d love to play it. Whether it be the lawn of Baker or Japan, we’ll do it,” Don said. On the road to fame, they’re down for anything.

The good news is that fame’s doubled edged sword doesn’t seem to threaten Darlingside. When asked who in the band would go solo first, they answered: “Darlingside.” They’re all set on their road to sushi glory together. For now, they’re willing to play wherever is asked until the sound of “Konichiwa” rings in their ears.

Leigh Greaney can be reached at [email protected]