Wild Ones

Those Darlins play kick-ass rock and roll. Period. With Link Wray-style guitar riffs, three-piece harmonies delivered with a Loretta Lynn "Fist City" swagger, and songs full of booze, family, sex and food, Those Darlins are plowing a row through rock 'n' roll history. 

Girls just wanna have fun: Those Darlins share a common last name, raucous live stage moves and killer songwriting chops. Photo by David McClister.

If there is an unofficial list of things one should do in life, having unrestrained good times should probably be at the top. Those Darlins seem to have mastered the concept and made it part of the band's mission. 

"A lot of our music has to do with energy, and since we've been a band and until we take ourselves too seriously, our goal is to get people to have fun. Music is fun, and you should just relax, let loose and have fun … If you're going to go to any show and act like an idiot, ours is definitely the one. Because no one is going to be bigger idiots than we are."

Those Darlins hit the stage stomping, swinging instruments, pulsing and pogoing and don't stop until they crash into a dancing audience or end up in a pile of feedback and drums on the floor.

The genesis of the band reads a bit like an updated all-girl version of 1979's Rock n' Roll High School: Nikki, Jessi and Kelley Darlin met through the Southern Girls Rock & Roll Camp in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Jessi and Kelley first met there (the camp is part of a national music and education organization that seeks to build girls' self-esteem), and the two returned year after year. One summer Nikki showed up, and the three young Southern women with a common love for the Carter Family and the Beatles started a band.

By 2006, Those Darlins (not to be confused with The Darlings from The Andy Griffith Show) had taken on a common name (think the Ramones, the White Stripes), were writing their own songs and released a self-titled record on their own record label, Oh Wow Dang Records. The album features countrypolitan string arrangements, saxophone and that same wild abandon from the band's live shows, along with drummer Sheriff Lin rounding out the sound.

Those Darlins (each Darlin contributes to the songwriting) understand how to put together a great two- to three- minute song. Songs like "Wild One," "Snaggle Tooth Mama" and "The Whole Damn Thing" could easily have been written 80-plus years ago, yet remain free of clichés.

Their lyrics relate to where these three musicians grew up. "I think the reason that I connected to it (country music) so much, was realizing how much I had in common with these people," says Jessi. "It was like 'Oh, this makes so much more sense than all this complicated, over-educated white indie rock crap that I've been listening to.' All of a sudden I found myself wanting to listen to completely simple, stripped down, bare-bones music about everyday people and everyday life."

Not that Those Darlins have been spending much time at home experiencing everyday life. The band toured for most of last year, playing 140 shows, including many supporting acts like Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys and the King Khan & BBQ Show.

The band began as a three-piece: just acoustic guitar, baritone ukulele and electric bass. The more shows the musicians played, the more they wanted to drive their songs louder and faster. The progression of Those Darlins is like a quick roundup of rock, from early '50s rockabilly to The Beatles to Creedence Clearwater Revival to (as already established) The Ramones.

And the evolution is still in progress: Of the group's next album Jessi surmises, "It'll definitely be a little more raunchy and loud, but it will probably not be a lo-fi garage rock record. We're still gonna add some weird stuff to it and try and be creative with it."

Brian McGee fronts the country-punk-rock outfit Brian McGee and the Hollow Speed.

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