Fotoform Fill The Darkenin Heart Questionnaire

Darkenin Heart

What do you consider to be the darkest piece of music you’ve ever heard?
Kim: That depends on how you want to define dark. Penderecki and Diamanda Galas come to mind. “I’ve written a letter to Daddy” is pretty sinister in its own way.

Geoff: Although I’d heard the song countless times (in various versions), I recently listened to Billie Holiday’s “Stormy Weather” with its historical context in mind, and it is absolutely harrowing.

How would you characterize your own music?
Kim: Introspective, hopeful, melancholic, a constant existential push and pull. Cinematic, shimmery. For us the experience of playing music is transcendent – I think there’s an ethereality to it. I would feel cheesy describing our own band that way but it’s how we feel when we are creating and collaborating. Geoff: I typically describe us as “pretty and loud”

What are your musical aspirations?
Kim: On a pragmatic level we want to continue to create, evolve and expand our reach. The drive for us has always been around community and connection. We’re an active live band (pandemic aside) and can’t wait to get back to it. It would be amazing to do a collaborative project – create something for an art piece, a film, or potentially creating something with other musicians we admire. After this past year and a half, I’ve been yearning even more for human connection and bonding/expression. On a base level, a big part of the drive for us as music lovers is to continue to engage and strengthen ties with various music communities at home and afar. To expand our tribe. To affect/ touch people – to relate, sooth, inspire, commiserate. To play with and support other bands we love. It’s all about connectivity and community for us.

What are your main musical inspirations?
Geoff: Whatever takes my breath away, honestly – wherever the songs and sounds coalesce and transcend. For guitar stuff, British post-punk stuff really shaped how I think a guitar should sound like and what role it plays in a song, and that often ends up leaning to delayed washes and cascades. I first seriously picked up a guitar because of the swirling, echoey guitars in the Chameleons, and I continually try to get to the feeling that gave me, even if it may sound different.

Kim: I think Geoff nailed it on this one. Inspirations shift and change with time and continuous discovery. Outside of referencing bands, some of the main things that inspire and drive me to create are travel, art, death / existential struggles, moving through unfamiliar places alone – the introspective, inspired melancholy of solo travel and experiencing different cultures. A few artists that come to mind in terms of directly influencing me personally would be Simon Raymond, Cocteau Twins, David Sylvian, Siouxsie, X-mal Deutschland, early Cure, early 4AD. Be Forest, Wire, Malka Spiegel, Blonde Redhead. Also inspirational though not apparent in what we do – the Notwist, Lebanon Hanover, Ryiuchi Sakamoto. Current bands on high rotation for me – Drab Majesty, Soft Kill, Bat for Lashes, even Taylor Swift. We are all over the spectrum in terms of consuming and appreciating music, which, I think is a good thing. I could go on forever rambling off bands I/we love and I’m sure later will kick myself for overlooking something important.

What are your main goals in life?
Kim: Overarching goals for me are to continue to find inspiration, create art/ beauty, connect with others, explore new places and experiences and increasingly to have a positive impact – planet, people, animals. Wanting to be a bit more nomadic as well. This past year and a half has been a big pivot for me (as many others have experienced – plus the unexpected death of my father last year.) I left my role as Footwear Design Director at Nordstrom in 2019 and moved to Italy that summer/fall to study sustainable fashion. Just before the pandemic hit, I was working on a “big” project to launch on my own. I’m interested in shifting toward a career not entirely centered on creating more stuff to put into circulation to something more purpose driven – but with the pandemic and the death of my dad I’ve just sort of pulled in the reigns a bit. I’ve been consulting with a focus of helping companies on a more holistic level – providing creative strategies and helping teams find inspiration and function more effectively and sustainably which has been really rewarding. I’m sort of holding tight on any major projects for now – until the dust settles. Consulting has been a great way to rebalance.

What motivates you to create?
Kim: A stirring in my soul. Can’t think of any other way to put it. Sometimes I’m spurred on by a restless feeling – sometimes it’s sadness I don’t know what to do with other than to sit down at the piano or pick up the bass and just let it all out. Sometimes it comes from a place of peace but usually it’s to work something out. It’s cathartic and it feels like nothing else. It’s addictive. I’m also motivated by death. I’ve had a lot of death in my life. My brother who was my very best friend died when I was 17. He was so full of love and light and energy. He was peaceful, kind, motivated, fun-loving and a deep thinker.  A powerful, magnetic combination. He and I were both overachievers growing up. He did some amazing things with his life. After he died (in an accident) I realized how soon it can all just disappear. And I think since then I’ve felt kind of a duty to live for him, too. But ever since I was little, I’ve always been singing, dancing and going after various creative pursuits including a rewarding career in design, trend forecasting and creative direction. There’s always been a restlessness to create and a desire to express and connect in ways that language alone doesn’t capture.

Are you more of an early bird or a night owl?
Kim: Creature of the night for sure.

Geoff: I’m very much the early bird – I always do my best in the mornings. I suspect that I have only so many good thoughts or ideas on any given day, and since they’re the first ones to get used, it’s best to put them to good use. For example, I recorded/wrote many of the guitar parts on the home demos for Horizons before 8 am over a hot cup of coffee (or three).

Besides music, what other art forms would you like to explore?
Geoff: I’m an avid reader, and I’ve always loved literature, so writing and/or translation.

Kim: Visual arts/ graphic arts and potentially something sculptural. I’ve always thought about designing jewelry but that feels like something I might get into when I’m much older. At the moment, I’m more driven to continue to create music as it feels like the truest expression of my soul – as clich├ęd as that may sound – and figure out how I want to pivot my creative career which, while not art in and of itself, has always been an intuitive, inspiring headspace. I’m fortunate to have a big dose of art and creativity in my “day job.”

Which is the very first record that had a big impact on you?
Kim: Blondie. I was really little, and I just idolized her. Debbie Harry was my first music hero, style icon, girl crush. You never forget your first love. We finally saw her some years back at a casino of all places. I almost didn’t want to go but it was fantastic. We were in the back but as soon as they started playing “Heart of Glass” I rushed to the front. It was a daytime show, and the crowd was older and super mellow. She saw me run to the front and gave me a huge smile and kept smiling at me through the song. Gave me tears and chills. Much later, and with other albums in between that had a big impact, another record that comes to mind as the first record that really piqued my curiosity into creating atmospheres/ soundscapes and a world that completely envelops you was the Cure “Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me”. I love earlier Cure but when I first heard that album it filled me with wonder and awe. I didn’t play any instruments at the time aside from piano and it was hard to wrap my head around how those sounds were being created. That wall of shimmery cascading dark completely transported me. I was transfixed.

Geoff: That’s a tough one… The Smiths “Hatful of Hollow” absolutely scrambled my understanding of things on a few levels: what are all these beautiful (folk-adjacent) guitar layers, how do all these guitars fit together, and – importantly – what the heck is he singing about? As an American (even if a child of English professors), I just had no clue about any of the references to kitchen sink dramas, British culture, English idioms, etc. I didn’t even have much of a clue at all: I’ll admit that I thought “How Soon Is Now” opened with “I am the sun and the air” (ooh, elemental! cried my teenage dungeons and dragons addled brain), which is totally wrong (I can laugh about it now, but at the time...). The music, too, was both familiar and foreign, gritty and chimey, a far cry from the whatever skinny-tie, plastic hair/plastic sound was on the radio and also really different from the punk/hardcore stuff I was discovering through skateboarding.

What is the best decade for music and why?
Kim: I think the best decade for music is whatever decade you were in high school for. Formative years. It’s different for each generation.

Geoff: Some of our favorite music came out in the late 70s through late 80s, with all sorts of great dark guitar bands from the UK, for example, even if we were too young to know about it all at the time. I’d say the 80s, but everything was so inaccessible and unknown. The 1980s were defined, in some sense, by a lack of access to music, as the defining question was “I like this, where can I find more like it?”, which means that we’re still discovering / unearthing great old records and bands. The current era, with pretty much everything accessible all the time, is more about sorting through everything to get to what you like. Even if we listen to a record from the past, we’re inherently listening to it differently than at the time, because we’re in a different place culturally and technologically. It’s still interesting to try to recreate the listening experience of another era, such as by forcing yourself to listen to the same (metaphorical) cassette or CD in the car over and over, which changes your relationship to the music.

What do your future plans include?
Kim: Touring when it’s safe to do so, spending more time in Europe at strategic parts of the year for my work, continuing to learn Italian (Geoff and I both speak German – I’ve been taking Italian since the start of the pandemic) and of course continuing to create music. It’s difficult to see the future clearly at the moment due to the ongoing pandemic, but I’m hopeful that by next year we’ll be able to get back to a more kinetic, less restrictive existence.

Geoff: Playing shows again, continuing to write and record.

Horizons releases October 15th, 2021

Band photo by Chris Schanz

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