Friday, October 7, 2016

Dear Darkness: Aggressively Engage

Dear Darkness could blow your mind. They could throw you off, entirely. You might get the wrong idea. You might get it, instantaneously. Even as I write this, though, I’m not, myself, purporting to distill or fasten any authoritative interpretation upon this local duo, with singer/guitarist Stacey MacLeod and drummer/singer Samantha Linn.

Photo by Chantal Elise Roeske

Dear Darkness perform Sat, Oct 15
Infowith Blood Stone, Sros Lords, and Car Phone
at Kelly's in Hamtramck

“I think that rock audiences in Detroit just want to have a good time,” MacLeod said, “to let go, and truly be entertained. (Linn) and I prefer to play fast, fun songs with strong narratives—lyrically and musically. The thing I love about the band, most of all, is the way it allows me to tune out and live out my rock ‘n’ roll fantasies. We want to take people’s minds off shit.”

Dear Darkness a minimalist punk-rock that channels the theatrics of glam, the solemn poetry of 90’s alt-rock, the riffs of indie-pop. It’s expressive, it’s energetic, it’s got fight and it’s got charisma. It has sweet venom about it, indulging in down-stroke guitar scuffs, foot stomp/snare-punch drums and empowering/cathartic sing/scream intonations that trill over the riffs. It’s not implicitly furious, but it can be.

So relax: you are supposed to be having a good time at a Dear Darkness set. That said, it’s also intense!

“(Linn) and I have pushed and supported each other into becoming dynamic performers,” said MacLeod. “We want to encourage audiences to give themselves over to who they are and to their own forms of expression, to be wild and daring about what parts of themselves they expose. I’m dying to know who people really are. So, what (Dear Darkness) does when we perform, now, is surrender…even if it’s ugly, even if it’s a desperate shambles of a performance, at least we are vital and trying to connect!”  

“As a band,” said Linn, “our pace of evolution is more rapid than any other creative project I’ve been a part of…” Linn met MacLeod in 2007, when they both worked at Whole Foods. They soon formed a band together, Looms, and reconvened for another project called The Heaven & Hell Cotillion. Linn, meanwhile, drummed for iconic Detroit garage-pop outfit Outrageous Cherry in the past. “We ask a lot of questions: What is Dear Darkness? WHY does it exist? What’s our role in its creation? We try to keep it fresh and check in with each other a lot to make sure we’re both still having fun.”

MacLeod lives a stone’s throw from downtown Ferndale with her family, while Linn is a former Ferndale resident currently based in Redford. This year finds them with an uptick of momentum, having played their first show in 2014 (in a backyard); they’re now performing at large local festivals, hip joints downtown like the Marble Bar, large gallery openings and even in the storefront of Found Sound on Nine Mile.

You can hear their latest EP Get It Here online at: They’ve been on a creative tear ever since a year ago when they released the fierce and rousing EP Be Nice Honey.

In the near future, they’ll put out an art book, Strange Noise To Keep, with MacLeod’s poetry and Linn’s photography. Meanwhile, they perform October 29th in Ypsilanti at the Dreamland Theatre. They start recording in December with Jim Diamond in Detroit.

The next issue of The Ferndale Friends Newspaper
will be out on Oct 12, where you can read more about Dear Darkness

“Though it’s only me and (Linn) up there on stage, I don’t think people notice anymore. Our sound is minimal, but we fill in the gaps with our desire. But also, we’ve been friends for more than nine years and we’ve worked hard to understand each other. We love each other and people can sense that.” 

The other thing some people are going to immediately sense is that this is a no-frills, caustic-cut, collar-throttling rock outfit powered by two dynamic women. “To tell you the truth, I am somewhat tired of being pegged as a ‘girl group…’” said MacLeod. “A few writers have called us ‘riot grrrl,’ but we aren’t. We don’t have that particular sound. And that sound isn’t bad, but it’s just not what 
comes out of us.”

Both Linn and MacLeod are supporters of the important work of local organizations like Girls Rock Detroit and the feminist-inspired, inclusivity-expanding Seraphine Collective, both fostering more equality in the scene. Because, as MacLeod points out, men still dominate the Detroit rock scene; that said, Dear Darkness have encountered male musicians around town as welcoming peers.

But we writers need to stop falling back on that lazy qualifier of “Oh…it sounds like early 90’s Riot Grrrl….” That narrows dozens of unique bands and musicians into a box with no room for their unique characteristics… “For sure, these organizations of women musicians make the expression of our female-identified selves more comfortable. Female musicians need each other’s support, no doubt, but we can make our own marks as individual artists that accedes that generalization….”

“Dear Darkness is revolutionary because we are ourselves. Most of the lyrics are unapologetically sexual and predatory. Rock ‘n’ roll can make beautiful beasts of us all, if we let it. We aren’t political, outright, but we practice truth. We don’t conform to the expectations of anyone in the Detroit scene—male or female.”

“We’re lucky to be women in the 21st century,” Linn said. “As performers, we are free to take the stage and act as we choose and celebrate the power of the female body. It’s inspiring to see other women in the community taking charge and leading the way to a bright musical future for southeastern Michigan. I don’t think we’re trying to defy or disrupt anything with our music. We’re just trying to push ourselves to be the best performers and artists we can be”

A lot of writers will use the word “raw” with Dear Darkness, but Linn and MacLeod are both skilled musicians with a complex blend of cerebral influences (musically, as well as in literature), but it’s the intention… “I don’t play guitar to impress people,” MacLeod said. “I do it because I have good rhythm and it allows me to physically connect with my lyrics.”

“Brett Anderson (Suede) and Adam Ant inspire me, vocally. I was a classical voice major in college, before I started my first band and started smoking, partying and dropped out for a time. I know the way I’m ‘supposed-to’ sing. I use that to inform my breathing and that gives my voice strength. But I’ve been singing acapella from the stage, lately, and people love that. It’s a bare, unfiltered human voice in their ears—a real technology-free moment of connection. I try to use the faults in my voice to my advantage and aggressively engage.”

Aggressively engage…! 

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