DARLINGSIDE’S AUYON MUKHARJI
File Darlingside under Bands With Big Ideas. On 2018’s Extralife, the Boston indie-space-folk quartet muse on the singularity, the end of the world, and the possible futures and fates that keep us awake. And that’s in the first three songs.
If that’s something you’re a little hesitant to take a dive into, dive you must. Darlingside may be futurists in one sense. Musically, they are culled right from the roots of Americana, texturing their songs with otherworldly banjo, mandolin, and cello.
There are few bands out their today like Darlingside who wed big ideas with subtle Americana, and they’re show this Saturday at The Bluebird Theater won’t be like any show you’ve seen either.
We had a recent chance to chat with Auyon Mukharji, the Darlingside violinist.
“There’s something heartbreaking about finding bits of beauty in difficult places.”
Soundcheck: I’d love to focus on your new album, Extralife, which I’ve really been enjoying. It’s clearly a call to the future, but toward what seems mixed. Do you feel the same when you play it, or is the future very clear to you? Is it a hopeful or mixed vision you have?
Auyon Mukharji: Thanks for listening to it multiple times! I certainly have no clear vision, and I think that question, about the nature of our imagined futures, is one of the big ones we were grappling with while writing the album. My personal predictions change day to day. Some days the future seems unspeakably bleak, and other days hope reigns.
Your second song “Singularity” is about a topic in which we lose control of our destiny. But your music gives the feeling that we do control our destiny. What does this say about music as a sort of universal?
That’s a kind thing to say about our music. One of the questions that came up as a consistent theme on the album was that of agency, or how much one can do in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. That a song of ours might inspire someone to feel less powerless is lovely to hear.
Extralife is a beautiful sounding album, which strikes me as a difficult sound to achieve, given some of the subject matter and lyrics in the album. What does it say about Darlingside as a band and as citizens that you can create beauty out of (to quote the band) “the ash that sweeps the sky”?
That’s very kind of you. I’m not sure what it says about us, but we do enjoy juxtaposing dark and light imagery. There’s something heartbreaking about finding bits of beauty in difficult places.
“The nature of our imagined futures is one of the big ones we were grappling with while writing the album.”
Now to your single, “Eschaton”. How and when did you become acquainted “The Eschaton”, which is a song we’ve been playing? Is it metaphor for your music, or more?
I first learned the word through David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest a few years ago, wherein “Eschaton” is the name of a game that drug-addled tennis prodigies play on a series of tennis courts. I wouldn’t say that there are any hidden metaphors there, but I did play tennis as a kid. I wasn’t very good.
I had to Google “eschaton,” actually, and then heard the song through an entirely new lens. Just as a aside, “Eschaton” is definitely in my top 10 songs I want to play if and when the world ends. Is there a song or two you’d like add to that hopefully not imminently-needed list?
“There’s a lot to be grateful for, and I think that’s part of what allowed us to write songs about sad things and still retain a sense of hope and optimism.”
That’s high praise. Thank you. As far as my additions, they would be “Another One Bites The Dust” by Queen and “Countdown” by Beyonce.
Birds Say, your glorious 2015 album, made a bunch of end of year best of lists. First of all, how important is that to you from a personal standpoint? It must give some validation, given the unique nature of your music, that it’s being received so warmly.
It is gratifying to know that what we are producing is resonating. That validation certainly makes other aspects of a sometimes-difficult industry more tolerable.
And secondly, and maybe more importantly, what do you think birds actually say to each other, because sometimes I’m thinking they look down at us kind of speechlessly.
If they are looking down at us, I can’t imagine they’re impressed.
When I listen to Darlingside, I hear influences all over the place – folk, rock, and ambient/electronic to name a few. So where are you more likely to go, a rock show, DJ set, or perhaps go watch an experimental violinist?
Right now, if we were to go to anything as a group, we would to go to a viewing of Black Panther. A couple of us haven’t seen it yet, and a couple of us are jonesing for a second glimpse of Wakanda. Our musical sources of inspiration, though, are quite varied. We have trouble finding songs that we all unanimously love (or detest).
In the same vein, do you all have similar record/CD collections, or is it as diverse?
Diverse. I love hearing about new music the other guys have discovered.
In “Orion”, a key and penultimate song in Extralife, I hear a faint whisper of banjo before some of the horns kick in. It feels like “Music To Enter The Pearly Gates To.” Or not. Was this the rough sound you were going for, getting asked to join in the fray, as it were, or is my interpretation off?
If you were to ask each member of the band about the meaning or vision of any particular song, you’d get four different answers. That’s just to say that we don’t believe there’s a single “correct” interpretation of our music. My personal impression of that part of “Orion” involves long gravel beaches, salty water, and yellow streetlamps.
The next song, “The Best Of The Best Times” closes the album. It’s got a real hopeful title, but you actually sing that “we are a long, long way from the best of the best of times.” The best of the best sounds pretty awesome but a long, long way sounds pretty awful. Can you share anything that helps us understand the depth of that (excellent) lyric?
I think a lot of what I’d responded in earlier question, about finding swatches of hope in dark places, applies to this song as well. I can’t speak for the other guys, but I like to think of “the best of the best of times” as an alternate reality that we only see glimpses of in our flawed world.
You famously speak and sing on environmental degradation, conflict, rampant technological change. At the same time, how great is it to be alive today? Because those ideas must be fascinating songwriting topics for the right band.
“That a song of ours might inspire someone to feel less powerless is lovely to hear.”
It’s pretty great. We have the internet and high-speed trains and commercially available avocados. There’s a lot to be grateful for, and I think that’s part of what allowed us to write songs about sad things and still retain a sense of hope and optimism.
And finally, we struggle with water here in Colorado, which gives us existential environmental headaches ourselves. From Boston, you don’t have to concern yourself too much about water, but what song or two might we turn to from your catalogue to get some love from the Water Gods?
We have a song called “Water Rose” off of our last album Birds Say. It’s short, so if you don’t like it, don’t worry. It will be over soon.
Darlingside will be at The Bluebird Theater, Saturday, March 17. A few tickets are still available.