Los Angeles, February 2020: It’s the combination of the fresh with the familiar that’ll get you. On one hand, multinational thrillers The Darbies fold every traditional rock & roll element into their style and sound. There are the pouts and hip-flicks that we know and love. The affinity for dirty licks and sweet melodies. The bubblegum mixed with the broken glass.
But there’s something else as well. An “Ingredient X” that helps them to float in this very full genre-pond. Maybe the roots are in their glorious cross of cultures, stretching across the Americas and taking in Scandinavia too. Guitarist Ronny Dave and drummer Nico Castro are originally from Ecuador though had travelled to Mexico City and beyond before finding their way to Los Angeles. Here, they met L.A. bassist Joe Galate, and the quartet was completed by charismatic Finnish frontman Jani Jaakko — a glorious hybrid of the sexual punk energy of compatriot Michael Monroe and the bluesy swagger of Robert Plant.
Having formed in L.A. at the start of 2018, The Darbies wasted no time in setting about lighting musical fires around the city. They recorded a six-song EP, produced by manager Alex Kane (Enuff Z’nuff, Life Sex & Death, Starz, Shark Island, AntiProduct, etc), and have played on the same stage as the likes of LA Guns and The Warning at venues that include the Whisky A Go Go.
“These guys reminded me of what I’ve always loved about rock & roll, beyond just only the music,” Kane says. “Remember when you used to say “ROCK & ROLL” thinking it was about “Back in Black,” “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” and “Black Dog,” before you understood it meant so much more including freedom, non-conformism, tenacity and will. The unity of the unbreakables.”
One listen to the frantic “Sermons of Sympathy” or a look at the road warrior video for “You Think You Got it All,” and it quickly becomes clear that Kane is right. These guys have travelled far and wide, and found each other in the world’s rock & roll basecamp.
“In the beginning we were just a bunch of insane street kids with a dream and the balls to make it happen,” says Galate. “Early days we practiced in a one-bedroom Airbnb everyday until they kicked us out. Now, a couple of years later, we’re as tight as fuck. We've lived together, shit together, loved together, and played together every single day since I joined in 2018. We jumped into the fire and garnered mad life experience in a short amount of time.”
And shit, does it show. That shared life experience has translated into a tight, joyous unit — raw, honest and contemplative lyrics that sit in lurid technicolor alongside the sleazy strut of the tunes.
“We’ve been living in our van, digging in the trash for money and playing loud rock & roll for 8 hours a day since we started,” says Castro. “We’ve gotten so much tighter and ready to deliver no matter what.”
Despite the fact that this quartet has only been together for a relatively short two years, they’ve already taken huge strides forward. It stands to reason — they’ve barely spent a waking minute apart as they strive to achieve their aim to be one of the best rock & roll bands in L.A. Nay, the country. Nay, the fucking world.
“As individuals we all have gained a lot of technique and experience on our instruments and in our art, and how we translate that expressionism into the music/poetry we produce,” says Jaakko. “Also, we all have become so cohesive as a whole. We have really enmeshed ourselves creatively and musically with one another to the point where our thoughts and rhythms when on stage or in the studio are synchronized and almost perfectly aligned, like a school of fish, or flock of birds. We’re tethered to the same tide and move in the same motions without having to utter a word, and that’s a rare thing. It’s a gift which The Darbies are blessed with — that inexpressible ‘it’ factor that melds our intellects and intentions together.”
Ask the four men to list their influences, and you’ll get all of the usual suspects: The Rolling Stones, Guns N’ Roses, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Iggy Pop, Van Halen, Aerosmith, Bob Dylan, The Beatles. But it’s not about other people or the past — this music, while tipping a hat to those that came before them, is rooted very much in the now. The current rock & roll scene needs new blood, and that’s what The Darbies offer.
“History repeats itself,” says Dave. “It’s just a matter of time for the tsunami of rock bands to come. And this is the beginning of it.”
“We live in a van and do whatever we want when we want,” adds Galate. “It’s awesome. What better time then right now? Rock & Roll is alive and well. We're living proof, trust me.”
They truly are. The Darbies offer what starved rock & roll fans have been crying out for: a genuinely talented band of new-bloods reminding us that rock & roll is supposed to be dangerous. It’s supposed to be sexy. It should annoy parents and teachers, while simultaneously offering an outlet for the frustrations that life will inevitably generate. It’s controversial. It’s spell-binding. Seductive and hypnotic. Aspirational and, at its very best, to be admired.
Have you missed it? Meet The Darbies.