By all accounts from their recent U.K. tour, the reunited Darkness have got back the swagger of their 2003 debut, Permission to Land. Frontman Justin Hawkins tells Rolling Stone that is indeed the case. "For every person that loved us another person hated us. That used to annoy us, but now it turns us on again," Hawkins says.
Hawkins and his band mates will bring that bravado back to the North America early in 2012, for a brief tour starting February 1st in Toronto. The group will be showcasing older material, including the entirety of the debut album, as well as songs from their forthcoming record. "There’s one called 'I Can’t Believe It’s Not Love,' and I suppose it’s the nearest equivalent the new set of songs has to 'Friday Night' or something like that," he says. "It’s an acoustic-y, swing-y one with a massive guitar solo in the middle. Then there’s another song called 'Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us,' which has been in the set for a while. There are probably seven or eight tracks we’ve actually done live, all of which will make it onto the record probably."
He adds the probably because while the band thought the new album was done, after living with it for a while they've decided to add some more tracks and work on a few they feel need that something special. To achieve that sound they'll be heading to Nashville in January. They're hoping to work with a particular producer, though Hawkins wouldn't reveal who – "I don't want to jinx it," he says. Whoever the producer might be, Hawkins doesn't believe the new material will take on a country twang, though he is a Nashville fan.
"I doubt there’ll be pedal steel, but I’m definitely not averse to it because I love that sound," he says. "But I think it’s a great place to go anyway just to spend some time there."
A U.K. rock band going to Nashville to record definitely fits in with the new/old philosophy of the Darkness, which is based on taking chances. That lack of risk is why Hawkins quit the band in 2006. "We started doing stuff because we were trying to cling onto the achievements we’d made with the first record," he says. "And that’s definitely the main reason why I left, I felt like we’d stopped being creative and being fun in the name of desperately trying to maintain something."
Part of that of course stems from the immediate success of Permission to Land, and the youthfulness of a band enjoying big time rock stardom. After five years away, the group is older and has a better perspective, but Hawkins gives a surprisingly honest answer when asked if he's m0re equipped to handle success the second time around.
"I’d love to say yes, but I actually thought that I was pretty well prepared last time around because I didn’t care for the hype whether it was negative or positive. I just took everything with a pinch of salt and I was just having a great time. And then somewhere along the line that changed," he says. "You’ve got to hope with the benefit of that experience it’s gonna be different. I certainly don’t anticipate letting it get to me in the same way cause that’s what happens isn’t it? You do stuff and you end up with rhino skin thinking nothing can defeat you."
Rather than worrying about maintaining any success, the band is just enjoying the second time around, especially with the benefit of some new fans seeing the Darkness for the first time. "There are people who are seven years old, 10 years old, who heard us on the radio or saw us on the TV and never got a chance to come and see the show. And now they’re coming to the shows, so when we’re playing in the front row it’s younger than it was before," he says. "It’s really kind of exciting, we’re seeing things that we never used to see, like mosh pits and stage invasions and crowd surfing."
Hawkins is finding the new fans invigorating. "You really do feed off it, it reminds me of all the reasons we wanted to do it in the first place."