Summer Stars: Darkside

Rob Slater on June 25, 2014

Our annual Summer Stars series features a variety of groups making the rounds on the festival circuit. Today we feature Darkside. We’ve also checked in with Washed Out and St. Paul & The Broken Bones .

“The meeting point from the very beginning of working together was improvising. That was kind of the basic common ground for me joining Nico’s band three years ago,” Darkside’s Dave Harrington reminisces as he prepares to travel to Indio, Calif., for a performance at Coachella. “Storytelling and giving a full experience is really important, and those are the traditions that we’re interested in exploring when we play live.”

“Nico,” better known as the solo performer Nicolas Jaar, and Harrington are set to bring their blissfully ambient brand of instrumentation to 38 festivals this summer, ranging from Chicago to Budapest and everywhere in between. As multi-instrumentalist Harrington explains, the global appeal of Darkside can be
traced back to Jaar. “Nico has covered a lot of ground on his own and really built a foundation for this band before we even knew there was going to be this band. In a way, Darkside has been growing in tandem while that foundation and all of the hard work that Nico was putting in was laid.”

Shortly after Jaar and Harrington got together in 2011, they released their debut, self-titled EP and played their first show to a sold-out Music Hall of Williamsburg. Much like the project as a whole, the debut arose organically. As Harrington recalls, “After the first summer of touring together, we made our first EP, just because we had an off day and we made a song. Then, we liked that one so we made another and said, ‘Let’s put out an EP.’”

The splash, however, came two years later.

“It came about when ‘Get Lucky’ hit and it was everywhere,” Harrington says, reflecting on the band’s wildly popular remix of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories. Under the pseudonym “DaftSide,” Harrington and Jaar delivered their take on Daft Punk’s triumphant return through a newly created SoundCloud account. The overwhelmingly positive response to this “experiment”—as Harrington calls it—shot Darkside into the stratosphere. “You never know how people are going to react. You do what you love and throw it out into the world and hope for the best,” Harrington explains.

One aspect that bolstered the success of Random Access Memories Memories was the healthy respect that the duo had for the album as it stood. “It’s just the guitar!” Harrington gushes. “For me, it starts and ends with Nile Rodgers—he is on a lot of that record. He’s a legend.”

The Saturday Coachella schedule found Darkside sandwiched in between Pharrell Williams and Muse—two celebrated artists in their own right. Harrington remains unfazed by a situation that the band may very well be faced with numerous times this year: “Whether we’re playing a small show in a small club or we’re going up against a legend, we’re still going to give the best show we possibly can.”

Darkside are now posed with the challenge of concentrating their extravagant live show into the world of time constraints and hard curfews. Their first full-length LP Psychic contains eight tracks that pale in comparison to their live counterparts. “To us, fifty minutes is three songs,” Harrington explains as he
describes the ongoing planning process for a Darkside festival set, where the band will play to immense crowds with varying degrees of knowledge in Darksideology.

Fans of the duo and their improvisational ways shouldn’t fret, however. As Harrington states, “Our M.O. is if we’re not improvising and we’re not taking risks and trying to do something that’s unique in the most literal sense of the word, then we’re phoning it in. And we don’t like to phone it in—we don’t do that.”