Musician and nomad Tim Darcy has lived in New Hampshire, Canada, Arizona and the US. He is lead singer and guitarist for the post-punk band Ought and recently released his first proper solo album entitled Saturday Night.
Front man of the band Ought, Tim Darcy recently released his debut solo album, Saturday Night. Issue met up with Tim for a live performance of “Joan” as he passed through Los Angeles.
Where are you from?
I grew up in NH, was born in Arizona. I’ve lived all over but right now I’m floating between the US and Canada.
When did you start making music?
I got addicted when I was 16, started learning covers and recording songs in open tunings with my mom’s four-track.
Who did you listen to growing up and who is your music influenced by today?
We didn’t have the internet, and there wasn’t much around for radio, so my taste was pretty eclectic. I learned a lot of classic rock tunes. I loved Bob Dylan, learned lots of his songs. Neutral Milk Hotel was big for me. I wrote pretty folky tunes that had surreal lyrics. Things would just come up. Its funny, a lot of those songs are still rattling around in my brain, kind of like they’re haunting me, which is essentially what was happening with the solo record. I was really bottling something up that I needed to get out. Maybe some of that will come out again in some way, there is some intensely creative stuff hiding back in that closet. It was a good foothold.
Lately I’ve been more and more intentional with my listening. Sometimes I’ll treat it a bit like homework—“Oh I have to check this out,” and then I’ll catch myself. That feeling is a good one, but music has to keep its joy. I love being a fan of music and going back to my treasured pieces. I love soul, and I love interesting voices that can be lyrical or tonal, but usually it is some kind of X factor that hits you between the eyes. You kind of see it coming but then by the time it connects you can’t see it anymore, it’s in your skin. That can be anything from Charles Bradley to Cat Power for me. A lot of musicians I love have a kind fragility, like they are bearing a secret. But there needs to be edge as well. I do love Pop music, but the things I come back to again and again have that stain of human spirit. Robyn to me is an example of someone who walks that line. She is making Pop but her voice carries so much with it. “Dancing On My Own” makes me want to cry when I hear it. And good lyrics.
A Canadian post-punk band fronted by Tim Darcy (2012- ).
How and when did you decide that this is what you were going to do?
It was way more cut-and-dry before Ought’s first album blew up. I was an instigator. I booked a music festival in my hometown, ran an indie rock zine. In Montreal I was hellbent on meeting musicians and starting a band. I organized shows all the time, poetry readings. Spent so many hours making and putting up posters. Looking back, I had no real framework for this, it was just what I was called to. The result was that I did a lot of DIY things without prescribing to a particular scene or style. I’m really grateful for this because as a result I met so many different types of people. I wasn’t locked into one group. That level of activity dropped off when Ought started touring, for obvious reasons. I’ll always look back on this period and be grateful for how hard I was working, how many things I did myself. I remember writing Constellation after they had been sitting on our demo for a while and saying “hey, we’d love to do this with you, but if you’re not interested you need to let me know because I’m trying to book a tour, we’re going to print our own physicals if you’re out.” It was a half bluff but the point was that I had a lot of confidence in what I was doing, in how good we were, and I got that by really getting cut in the brambles of working.
Once stuff started taking off, it took me a minute to give myself enough credence to feel alright with the idea of (even just barely) making a living as a musician. We are really good performers and we toured our asses off, so in that sense it felt like the work was being put in, but it’s been an interesting journey ‘growing’ into the idea of professionalism. It really is a double-edged sword but I take a lot of solace from meeting other artists I respect who can navigate it while keeping in touch with the art and their creative wellspring.
You were a member of the band Ought, but left to do your own solo project. What was the cause for that?
Ought actually has a new record in the works. But, like I said, this was something I really needed to do. It’s such a different kind of songwriting, one that is really connected with my specific selfhood. The response to the album I made has been incredible. I’m blown away and humbled that people have connected with this raw gem. Little moments like people reaching out with Ought but also in the days before Ought when I was alone in my bedroom seeing what I could make with two pedals and an acoustic guitar and I’d immediately put things up on Bandcamp.
“…it’s been an interesting journey ‘growing’
into the idea of professionalism.
It really is a double-edged sword but
I take a lot of solace from meeting other
artists I respect who can navigate it while keeping in touch with the art and their creative wellspring.”
— Tim Darcy
What was the process like making Saturday Night?
It was disjointed, irregular, and beautiful. The album was made in 6-8 different chunks of time, when I could in between Ought stuff happening. I worked very closely with Amy Fort and Ross Gillard, two friends who had access to a studio in Toronto. We would go in on weekends and at night and track a new few things or, later, mix. We’d throw crazy shit at the wall because we could. There was no timeline so we’d re-amp things or try out crazy delays on my voice or Ross would go get a Cello and have me try to play something in key with the ambient tracks. I had no idea what was going on because up until that point I had written into a cassette or in a room with a few other people. It was a huge learning experience for me. Knowing the studio, and knowing production, is such an essential tool for artists these days. So much of the song is tonality; how it is captured, versus making something that could exist more easily on paper like a standard or a folk tune or even a classic rock song to some degree.
Some of the places you’ve lived include Arizona, Colorado, New Hampshire, and Montreal. Is there any one place that stands out for you or has influenced you in any particular way?
There’s something about the southwest that will always remain deep inside me. When we moved, my mum brought all these artifacts from that part of the country, she was really in touch with it. New Hampshire was where I grew up properly, my high school friends are there, but the energy of the southwest and the imagery comes out in my art more. I can’t get it out of my poetry, not that I would ever want to, really.
“New Hampshire was where I grew up properly,
my high school friends are there,
but the energy of the southwest
and the imagery comes out in my art more.
I can’t get it out of my poetry,
not that I would ever want to, really.”
— Tim Darcy
What are your interests and passions outside of music?
Books, poetry. I studied film in college. That was a real curveball for me, but one that I’m glad for because film was such a massive blindspot. Plus that’s where the most outside-the-box teachers were, so it was a no-brainer once I got there. I’m actually trying to doubledown on music right now. Lately, instead of reading, I’ve been picking up the guitar and learning something. Its a good feeling. I’m still going to write a book one day though. It’s stewing.
What’s your favorite book, film, and music right now?
Books: Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse, View With A Grain of Sand by Wislawa Szymborska, Get In Trouble by Kelly Link. Steppenwolf is breaking my heart. View is a poetry book I keep coming back to again and again. Get In Trouble is the newest book by one of my favorite authors. Her books are smart, tender, surreal, modern, gothic.
Film: Arrival, Twin Peaks, Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel. Arrival blew my mind, one of the best sci-fi films I’ve ever seen, maybe just films period (I cried on the plane). Twin Peaks I had never seen (I’m outing myself here), so though it is really in the Zeitgeist right now, I’m watching it now so I have to say it. I fell in love with the characters during Season 1. Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel is a BBC Documentary about his life. I found it deeply moving, and enhanced my love of his records. Furthermore, it makes a commentary on Rock n Roll in general which took me fully by surprise and has sparked many thoughts recently.
Musically I’ve been loving the new Angel Olsen record. LVL UP’s album has been slowly crawling into my consciousness, it is gold. Beyond that it has been mostly Alice Coltrane.
What’s next for you?
I’d like to take a good long moment with whatever I do next. I’ve been writing a lot and I intend to continue down that path. It’s been incredibly freeing of recent for me to say aloud to myself that the music is all that matters. If you put that first, the rest can follow as it may, but you won’t be happy with yourself if you don’t let that be the guiding light. Follow the love wherever it takes you. It frees me from expectations or self-doubt or limitations. And any fear about losing that wellspring… If the love is fading, turn a bit, usually that’s all it takes.