Who: Those Darlins — guitarist Jessi, bassist Kelley and baritone ukulele player Nikki — met at the Southern Girls Rock and Roll Camp, a summer youth program founded by Kelley in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The trio quickly bonded over their burgeoning love of classic country music and cut their teeth playing standards by the Carter Family and Hank Williams. “We would play with more traditional bands that were trying to do the whole revival thing, [but] we didn’t fit in with that scene,” remembers 21-year-old Jessi, who along with Nikki and Kelley now uses the last name Darlin.”We weren’t the sweet little girls playing ‘Will the Circle Be Unbroken.’ ” So Those Darlins dropped their old-time acoustic sound, picked up a drummer and started performing original material with more of a rock edge. “Every couple of months we added an element that was louder, faster,” says Jessi. It wasn’t long before they hit the road, taking Bonnaroo and SXSW by storm and opening for acts like the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach and Elvis Perkins.
Sounds Like: Those Darlins have created an infectious blend of country, rock and punkabilly on their witty, fuzzed-out self-titled debut. From the hard-driving “Red Light Love” to the tongue-in-cheek “Snaggle Tooth Mama,” the band has a knack for writing memorable hooks about booze, boys and everything in between. “Remember if you want to drink and drive/better find a boy to take you home for the night,” they playfully suggest on “DUI or DIE.” The girls have a sensitive side, too, as “Mama’s Heart” beautifully demonstrates, but their forte is the two-minute pop of songs like “Hung Up On Me.” Onstage the girls alternately sing and shout harmonies over distorted guitar riffs that nod to everyone from Link Wray to the Ramones.
• The band traveled to New York to record their album with producer Jeff Curtin (Vampire Weekend). “We had done some recording in Nashville and it wasn’t the right fit,” says Jessi. “It’s really hard in Nashville being a country-ish band. So we really wanted someone to work with who would come up with ideas we would never even think of.” In addition to producing, Curtin split percussion duties with Linwood Regensburg, the group’s touring drummer.
• Besides their innate musical sensibilities, Those Darlins have keen heads for business. With the help of their manager, John Turner, the band released their debut album on their own Oh Wow Dang record label. “After putting so much work into it, we just felt like we wanted to own everything — the publishing, the masters,” Jessi explains. “We felt like with the team we had in place and the people we were working with, we didn’t really need a label.”
• Kelley, Jessi, and Nikki Darlin still volunteer every year at the Southern Girls Rock and Roll Camp in Murfreesboro. “It starts on Monday,” explains Jessi over the phone, in between gigs in the Midwest. “We get home from this tour on Sunday and we have to go straight in to nine-to-five teaching little kids for a week, so it should be interesting.”
Get It Now: Click above for a special performance of “Snaggle Tooth Mama.”