March 15, 2010
The Dardys are a group of young New Yorkers making music that's as loud and raucous as it is fun. Today, contributor Amy Spiegel delves into their world.
If they were born in a different era, The Dardys might have played your parents’ prom…if only they weren’t far too hip for it. Although they live, work, and play music today, this Lower East Side-based band sounds like the musical compromise made by two opposing aspects of 1960s culture. The self-described “girl-group” aspects of their sound could be easily found on any golden-oldies radio station, but their lyrics, vocals, and the overall tone of the music are more reminiscent of the counterculture brewing just beneath the surface. This hybrid of bubblegum pop and psychedelic jangle is bizarre, lovely, and most frequently heard in unlikely venues – think shoe stores – by undulating crowds of wide-eyed girls (the band’s preferred lyrical inspiration) and their jealous male companions.
David Heffernan, lead singer and guitarist of The Dardys, wants to show me something. He un-tacks a poem that singer/tambourine player Jimmy Keithly has written from his crowded living room wall, explaining, “this is kind of the way we write songs.” Jimmy wrote the poem, then left it in David’s apartment for him to discover and pick apart, as every member of the four-piece band does with each other’s lyrics and music. The poem inspired a song called “Shower Curtain,” and it features one of Jimmy’s original phrases over slow, dirge-like guitar lines: “You stick to yourself. I peel you away.”
The Dardys play straightforward, guitar-driven pop songs, which are more often about love than bathroom fixtures. “I don’t own any pedals or anything like that,” says David. They believe in letting their instrumentation and voices shine through and view electronic alterations of music as a kind of disguise. They also pride themselves on being prolific. “Bands that are good and only come out with, like, 25 songs over six years frustrate me,” says Jimmy. The period between releases is agony for The Dardys. They write and record music so often that it’s easy for them to feel like their tracks are out-of-date a week after they’re released. They create and play new music as often as they’re able to get together during the week, so in the time it takes to record, mix, and release a track, their live sound may have changed completely from the one on tape.
How are they able to keep up this pace? There’s power in numbers, and since every member of The Dardys writes both music and lyrics, their output is enormous. “One of us will come up with an idea and it will become a story that we all tell,” says Jimmy. Although Jimmy doesn’t come from a musical background (The Dardys is his first-ever musical project), he’s especially attuned to writing lyrics. He communicates them to David in many different ways – poems like “Shower Curtain,” ad-libbing them over music, text messages. In fact, he text messaged the words to one of their staple songs, “Special Bond,” to David at a pretty strange moment. Having just left the house of a girl he was breaking up with, he got a text from Jimmy that read, “I’ve got a special bond with your girlfriend and I can’t explain it.” Knowing that it was probably a snippet of lyrics that Jimmy was working on, David marveled at Jimmy’s unintentionally perfect comic timing.
It’s not always unintentional, though. Having known each other for sixteen years, Jimmy and David have plenty of material on each other, which basically means that they’re always cracking jokes. Lakis Pavlou, their recently acquired drummer, and Brian Bisbano, a.k.a. “Dardy,” their bassist, fit right in with their patter. When I called Brian on speakerphone and asked him what he’d like to tell readers about The Dardys, he said, “Tell them it’s full of a bunch of cute guys.” On that note, you can check out The Dardys at their myspace, their homepage and their blog.
Photo by Jimmy Keithly