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Darwin Deez

Darwin Deez

Tuesday 29th March, 2011 1:43PM

The indie popster with a penchant for headbands, Darwin Deez, is coming to New Zealand in May to perform the hits from his self-titled debut album. UTR caught up with the man behind the pseudonym to find out what gets him going creatively, what he's working on at the moment, and what we can expect from Darwin Deez going forward.

It must have been a pretty crazy couple of years for you. Tell me about how Darwin Deez formed and the road to now?

I started writing these songs alone in my bedroom and then I was performing them at Sidewalk Café which used to be the best open mic night every Monday night. I just sort of slowly built the band, mostly from co-workers from the restaurant I was working at and one of the people in the band I met at Sidewalk. So first I was capable of doing things by myself and then in order to increase the entertainment value I would add more musicians and make it more of a live show and that’s how it happened I guess.

How important is the performative element of a Darwin Deez show?

I think we’ve made the show so people are more than happy with it. The challenge more recently is to keep ourselves interested and excited about playing. Whereas we used to just change the show based on “well people have seen this already so we can’t do that anymore” we’ve started to do so many shows we need to make changes to the show to keep ourselves excited and interested. This isn’t exactly what you asked me but the more pressing thing is just keeping ourselves having a good time because that’s what the entertainment value is - people having a good time on and off stage.

What sort of things are you doing to keep it interesting?

Add little songs here and there, different covers here and there, and jamming and creating musical intros and outros to various songs – that’s basically all we can do. Sometimes we change the show intro and sometimes we make a new dance routine to go at the middle. Maybe next time around there will be the opportunity to add different instruments or something but then again I don’t know how exciting it is to have a synthesizer on stage. It might be fun but I don’t know whether it would be worth carrying around. So we’re working within the limits of what we can do to make it fun, and it’s enough, at least at the moment.

So Darwin Deez is a pseudonym – tell me about how and why this came about?

It was a pet name created by Michelle who plays bass for us and she’s just my best friend. She made that name up for me out of love and creativity and we’ve always sort of shared a fun language together. We enjoy just making each other laugh with things like that but she just started calling me Deez a while ago and I figured I needed a name for the music and there were a lot of reasons why Darwin Deez was good but I just always liked the authenticity of that .It wasn’t something that I made up just to be cool it was something that was made for me out of love and so I decided to wear it.

Tell me about the debut album that you’ll be playing when you come to New Zealand.

Well, there’s a lot of breakup songs on there and it’s mostly up-tempo and a lot of it is really minimal. When I was younger – 17- I was really into electronic music and into minimal drum ‘n bass and I used to make that stuff a lot. When I was younger I used to make guitar songs and I’ve got this guitar I still use from when I was eleven and those are the first songs I wrote – they’re poppy guitar songs - and I think now there’s a bit of a synthesis between the minimal production – getting the most out of the barest few instruments, especially on the percussion, rhythm section side – and I like that because the thing I was really interested in were the melodies and trying to get people attention with melodies and lyrics. So the minimal production was a bit of an outgrowth from all that electronic music I used to be totally immersed in. There was a bit of trying to put the focus and the spotlight on the lyrics and the melody is the thing I’ve been exploring more recently.

The album that’s out now has been out for a while. Are you working on anything new?

Well, there’s a new thing you maybe have heard – the mix tape? That’s my most recently completed project. It’s a rap mix tape and it exclusively uses samples from the original Willy Wonka Movie.

Where can we check this out?

You can download this from my website You have to jump through some hoops but it’s free. That’s my most recent project and then at the moment I’m playing a lot of blues licks for whatever reason and my goal is to make a serious follow up to Darwin Deez, and continue touring. I feel I have hardly scratched the surface of that but I’m not super inspired to write melodies at the moment so whatever.

What inspired the Willy Wonka project?

I can’t remember but I’m really excited by concepts and I communicate in concepts as opposed to detail. Like my mum is a really detailed communicator and it’s always been frustrating because I’m like “what are you trying to tell me and hurry up and get to the point” and she’s like “I am telling you” so it’s interesting. But I just thought it would be a really cool concept and I don’t remember where it came from but I was on tour at some point and I just thought of it. About half way through making it someone reminded me that Li’l Wayne had already done a song sampling one of the tracks and I was like. I just love just playing with the source material from Willy Wonka and I was having a blast and then I actually finished it.

I got really into these rappers Das Racist who did the Taco Bell / Pizza Hut song and got into their mix tape from last year, and I just thought “man I wish I could rap” and then I fucken just did and I got a lot better through the course of making this mix tape and I even got one of the guys from Das Rascist to guest on it. The biggest thrill for me in life is taking something that I know nothing about and trying to become good at it and see if I can become good at it and that’s the point with everything I do. I’m Aires, I’m a pioneer! I’m the first sign of the zodiac so I like to do stuff that I haven’t done before. I guess sitting down with my guitar and piano is not exciting at the moment, but I’ll do what I want until I get inspired to make music again.

Considering you always want to explore new things, is it hard constantly touring these same songs that you’ve had for a while?

Not so much actually. I just saw The Strokes recently and that first album came out like ten years ago but that’s sweet because those are awesome songs and I anticipate playing a lot of songs from this album from the rest of my life because I feel like that’s what people are going to want to hear. I’m just a little bit tired of being tired all the time and wanting to try something new again, so I’m looking forward to the end of this. We’ve got three months left and then I’ll be in a brand new unstructured world where I can do whatever I want and I hope it’ll be musical.

Courtney Sanders


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