Drastic change into full-disco direction has emptied out the dour crowd and filled up the dancefloor with those in on the joke and ready for fun.
It was the band-aid approach. Rip it off quick.
And now the healing has begun, the new skin has formed and it’s coming back stronger than ever.
For Toronto act The Darcys, it was the transition from brooding, electro-rock group to ultra-cheeky, disco-pop duo, which was done with one quick rip thanks to their uber-stylized glam-pop outing Centerfold.
Released last fall, it was painless for some, ouch for others.
For the band? A whole helluva lot of fun.
And, in seven months, it has already done what they wanted and much, much more.
“I think that it did, in a sense, it changed the trajectory of the band, the style of the band and how people perceived that band,” says Wes Marskell. “I knew that it was going to be difficult for us to do it all in one fell swoop.”
But it has. And they couldn’t be happier.
Nor could those who bop along to unabashedly ebullient radio hits from the record such as Miracle, Arizona Hwy and San Diego, 1988 — or even one-off covers of Prince’s Kiss and Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You.
As for fans of the band for its previous decade of music making, when they numbered more than Marskell and newly flamboyant frontman Jason Couse and were putting out more seemingly cerebral outings, those inspired by Cormac McCarthy novels and not, say, Blondes Have More Fun era Rod Stewart or Miama Vice episodes, that’s where the pain comes in.
“I don’t think anyone from the old cycle is really around any more,” admits Marskell, with something approaching satisfied awe.
“It’s amazing that it alienated everyone and brought almost the same amount or a little bit more people in, so everything has been one big clearing and refilling. It’s been really wild.”
The drummer says it’s somewhat invigorating to see their new fanbase fill up with what he sees as a younger crowd, more females “college-town demographics.”
“People that are out to have fun and dance,” he continues, “which was a lot different than the guys with beards and their crossed arms that were there for most of our career.”
New fans will have a chance to check that out when they hit town for a Friday, June 16 show at The Hifi Club.
Expect the new hits performed alongside re-worked versions of older material, such as track The River, from Centerfold’s acclaimed predecessor, 2013’s Juno-nominated, Polaris-longlisted Warring.
Marskell admits it’s been a lot of work, to disco-up their older material, but it’s been a satisfying process seeing it all come together.
“That’s the fun of making a song that you never want to play ever again exciting for you. So we’ve curated a bit of a centrepiece to the set that really focusses on our older material, and I think it works. It all fits in a mood, an arc of the show,” he says.
“For a time there was definitely a moment where we tried to play them in tandem with the other songs and people were like, ‘What’s going on here?’ especially if they didn’t know us before.
“So I think we really try to carve out a pocket for them in the show and that’s part of what I like about being in a band, creating new challenges for us to keep going.”
As for going back, or rather the new fans going back and discovering that old material, particularly Warring, he thinks the transition makes more sense that way.
“I think that record is a lot more accessible than maybe it was given credit for,” he says.
“So coming from Centerfold backwards is one thing, but if you believed in Warring as some sort of hyper-artistic art-rock or whatever it got labelled as, you could very easily scoff at what was next, being Centerfold. And I think maybe that is what happened with some people.”
You get the sense that there’s some animosity between Marskell and those older fans who heard their current incarnation and their music and “tossed it away as a money-hungry, fame-seeking, simplistic pop record.”
And it’s hard not to understand why, when you do realize that it’s not as throwaway, easy or crass as some might want to make it out to be.
He notes that there was a lot of hard work and humour that went into the making of the album, that it’s as calculated and thought-out as any artsy concept record, with everything about it planned down to the last detail — from the catchy synth teases to the cheesy cover, which features the duo in full Tiger Beat pose.
He admits even their record label lobbied for something a little more “muted,” but The Darcys wanted to go full rip.
“You can look at the album cover and see it in one of two very different ways, which is either ‘We’re in on the joke,’ or, ‘These guys are fucking assholes.’ I like that about it … ,” he says.
“I knew that we were in for it from the beginning, but it’s been a really fun process just watching it all go down.”
Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for theYYSCENE.ca. Follow him on Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.