Darlingside – An Xperience Monthly Interview

Written by on December 1, 2023

Darlingside – An Xperience Monthly Interview – by Rob Smittix.

RRX: I wanted to make sure that we got this in our deadlines for our magazine was actually yesterday, so… I figured we could sneak this one in to promo the show that you have coming up in Saratoga Springs.

HP: Yeah. We’re really looking forward to it. I love how you’re a day after the deadline. It almost feels exactly like when we’re trying to complete a record. It’s like, so the masters were due yesterday and we now have notes on eight of the mixes.

RRX: I know how that goes. Yes, and now you have the the newest release, “Everything Is Alive,” which I 100% believe in that concept. How long has that been out?

HP: It’s been out since the summer time, mid summer and we’ve been basically out touring it since.

RRX: Yeah, I’ve been checking it out, I’m really into it. Darlingside as far as Caffe Lena is concerned… they really feel like you have a lot of history with their venue in Saratoga Springs.

HP: Absolutely. Yeah, Lena is one of the most supportive community based venues that we have come up through on the music scene in the northeast. We’re deeply appreciative to that venue in that community for helping to foster a career, when really nobody knew who we were. They took a chance on us and kept bringing us back. Each time we’d see the audience grow incrementally, see a lot of familiar faces and just a few more in the room each time, until it became a place we knew we would have a community each time we returned.

RRX: Definitely. I could tell just by the way that they’re promoting the show that they’re, pretty proud of you as well. And they’re the ones that are presenting the show December 3rd in Saratoga Springs at the Spa Little Theater. It’s gonna be a great time, I imagine. What does a regular concert goer like myself expect from a 2023 show from Darlingside?

HP: One of the fun things that we’re doing on this tour is touring in an expanded band format. In years past we’ve often recorded and produced our records with a lot of parts; sometimes 6, 8 or 10 instruments playing on a track with a lot of overdubs, drums and layers of harmony. Then we would go out and tour it in a sort of a stripped or acoustic format where it’d be a sparser arrangement of the tunes.

This time around we’re presenting the record much closer to the full arrangement. We have the percussionist who recorded with us, Ben Burns out on the road. He’s done drums on our last two records, so it’s a treat to be able to have the exact drum parts, sounds and things from those last two records being presented live. We’re also touring with Molly Parden, who’s on bass and vocals. She sings on, I think 10 or 11 of the 12 songs on “Everything Is Alive.” So, her voice in the blend is a big part of the album sound and harmony arrangement.

Having Molly live is again is really a treat for us to get to present those recorded arrangements accurately. We also have Deni Hlavinka playing keyboards and singing. She collaborated on the album with vocal arrangements, keyboards and even like a vocoder for more experimental vocal play. We’ve collaborated with her in the past as well. She joined us in the studio during the pandemic to do these piano and voice arrangements for “Birds Say”, to make a deluxe re-release anniversary of that record.

We love collaborating with her as a pianist. So it’s a six person band, it’s a much fuller and thicker sound. We are really enjoying being able to present the album accurately.

RRX: I can appreciate that, especially being in a band myself. Many times we were discussing little things that we could add in on the recording but we knew we couldn’t pull it off live. I guess the biggest example of that would be “A Day In The Life” from the Beatles. I don’t think they’ve ever been able to recreate that live.

HP: Whether it’s layered instruments or especially for us, layered vocals… we have a ton of vocal harmony, but a big part of our sound and our recorded sound is vocal unison. Having a few voices, sometimes 2, 3, 4 or many layers of our voices on each individual part singing on top of each other to create that sort of chorus sound. Now, live it’s really exciting when that upper harmony is being sung by three people at the same time. It gives us that palate to be able to create that kind of chorusing, that lush sound.

RRX: You play cello, guitar and do vocals as well and I was reading online… you’ve been playing cello since you were six years old.

HP: That’s right. Yeah, it was my first instrument. I started as a little kid and came up playing Suzuki cello in the traditional classical format, chamber music and orchestral music. I continued with that until college when I started to experiment a whole lot more with guitar and songwriting. After college, when the band formed in Western Massachusetts, that’s when I smashed those two different worlds together and brought the cello back around into the fold to experiment with using the classical instrument and in a sort of modern music format; seeing where those worlds intersect.

RRX: It works well, it definitely does. I’m looking at my youngest son, he’s really into music but I can’t get him to listen to a word I say. I know kids just want to rock-out but there are steps and building blocks you need to learn first.

HP: The Suzuki method that I grew up studying began slowly. I remember as a six year old, I wasn’t allowed to bow on the cello or even play a note on it until at least a month into it.
My cello professor at the time said we’re not even gonna take the cello out of the case. We’re just gonna spend a month working on the bow grip and making sure that you have that fundamental right hand rock solid before we even pick up the instrument. It was bow grip for a month and then we put the bow down and just held the cello to work on posture and positioning with the left hand.
If you start doing everything at once there’s a lot of variables in the system and if one of them is off… the whole thing starts to collapse. Only after all of those individual elements were working and solid was I finally allowed to then play cello, quote unquote. That was probably 3 months in.

RRX: Wow. I think I’ll revisit my approach with my son’s musical training. Thank you for your time we look forward to your show, Caffè Lena presents Darlingside at Spa Little Theater in Saratoga Springs on Dec 3rd -7pm

HP: I’m feeling really fortunate after the years of waiting at home during the pandemic and to be back out real rooms with real human beings again.


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