This Saturday at Hardywood, Richmond art-pop band My Darling Fury will offer up a pre-release of their new three song EP
This Saturday at Hardywood, Richmond art-pop band My Darling Fury will offer up a pre-release of their new three song EP Aches. New music is always great to hear and release shows in any form are always fun to attend for the heightened energy on display, but this show — this will be a culmination of a two and a half year journey for My Darling Fury as they fight back from the brink of calling it quits and look to reaffirm their status as one of Richmond’s truly premier artists.
“We might be a new band again,” member Joel Hollister said in passing. It was an off-hand comment made while describing the band’s new approach, but it spoke volumes to the musical growth the band underwent through multiple changes, changes that strongly came through in the lyrical tone of their new EP. “The songs are really about the unpredictability of life and things that happen,” member Danny Reyes described. “We wanted to reflect that, but not just have one shade of anger or sadness by doing so.” Reyes did clarify that they weren’t consciously writing about the band’s last two years, but when listening to the haunting vocals resonate across three wildly different styles on the EP, there’s no doubt the band’s many obstacles are firmly rooted in the genesis of these songs.
To better understand this, let’s rewind a few years to late 2013. It was November and the band had just released their debut record Licking Wounds, an album all of Richmond seemed enamored with. It wasn’t just Richmond either with many blogs and publications swooning over the album’s reserved intensity and gripping vocals. It was a huge release for fans of the local music scene and for months afterwards, you couldn’t escape someone discussing My Darling Fury when mentioning Richmond music…or even Richmond in general.
The success of Licking Wounds seemed to point to bigger and better things on the horizon for the band, but only a few months after the band celebrated a monumental high, they were dealt a huge blow when guitarist Alex McCallum decided to leave the band due to time commitments. “He was such a creative force,” Reyes remembered. “It was a really tough time for us.” With only a few months removed from Licking Wounds‘s release though, there was no time to rest as the band needed to strike while the iron was hot. “We just had to drop everything and learn how to play all these songs with four people instead of five,” Hollister stated, shaking his head. It was a huge obstacle to overcome, but the quartet found a way to continue on as a band and even debuted new material like the intriguing “Over, Under” in May of 2014.
The band continued on from there, still thriving on the success of their last record, and finished the year strong in December with the release of a loveable holiday song called “Just This One Thing.” It wasn’t a powerhouse song like “Over, Under” a few months earlier, but it did help tide fans over with a short and simple taste of the band’s creative energy and Reyes’ endearing vocals. Plus, everyone knew 2015 was primed to be a huge year for My Darling Fury, even though it would turn out to be just the opposite as the teetered on the brink of dissolution.
In March of 2015, the band launched a successful Pledge Music campaign for their new record and after raising slightly more than needed, they began work on their sophomore record. It was clear the public was ready, willing, and even hungry for the band’s next work which led to an increased drive to push out a new album that rivaled their debut in every possible way. Unfortunately, that push would come to an abrupt stop in June of 2015 when their guitarist Clark Fraley announced he would be leaving the band. In the span of nineteen months, the band had released an acclaimed debut record, lost both of their guitarists, and were now down to a trio seriously wondering how they were going to continue.
Unlike McCallum’s departure, Fraley left the band somewhat devastated, especially as they had already completed songs they considered “core essences” of the next record. Yet the desire was still there to see what the remaining trio could accomplish. “It was hard mostly because we just didn’t have a guitarist anymore,” member Todd Matthews recalled. “But I think after the initial shock of it, it was obvious we all wanted to keep going even if we didn’t know what that would mean for the sound.”
The first step for the trio was to get on the same page musically. “We named a bunch of artists,” Reyes explained. “If we were going to be on a radio station, what other artists would make sense to be on there sound-wise?” When they looked over the list of artists they wrote down, they were surprised to find that the majority of them actually lacked a proper guitarist themselves like tUnE-yArDs and Son Lux or rather eschewed popular usage of the guitar like St. Vincent. “[St. Vincent] doesn’t use traditional guitar,” Matthews clarified. “She’s just strumming the guitar behind the nuts and just making sound effects most of the time.” The band had spent so much time now obsessing over the fact they rejoiced when learning the sound they wanted to emulate and chase didn’t seem to actually need one.
A crucial step came next for the band though as they decided to re-approach the songs they had already written and recorded with Fraley. “If we could do that and make it still sound good, then we wanted to keep going,” Reyes reasoned. Luckily, the band had some experience in supplementing a guitar sound after dealing with McCallum’s departure a year earlier. “It was the alpha version,” Reyes detailed, “so we had at least some experience and ideas going into Clark leaving too.” Still, it was a struggle for the band who admitted the guitar parts added something very crucial to the songs. “They just add so much rhythm and harmony,” Reyes laid out. “We were just struggling finding ways to introduce those into our songs.” Luckily though, there efforts yielded an answer to their troubles as they began utilizing recorded parts as their own instruments within the sound. “We went with cutting up a lot of the sounds,” laughed Hollister, though Matthews was quick to clarify what that meant. “For instance, we’d use an MPC pad like in hip-hop and we’d chop up what we recorded and put it in the song. Basically just using all this recorded audio as its own separate instrument that you then play.”
With that in mind, the band revamped all of their recorded material and were left with vastly different versions of songs that actually felt much more effective. “We’ve always liked having that surprise element in a song,” Reyes said with a smile, “and this new method really brought that out.” The band continued to hunker down and perfect this new approach to their new music and before long, the band had three strong completed songs that defined the essence of their vision for their next album. But just like their sound had now changed, the band’s concept of their next album had also drastically changed.
Instead of waiting for the next album, My Darling Fury will be splitting up their new album, A/O/K (short for Aches Over Kisses), into separate EP releases that will then be compiled together to make the total package. The first EP, Aches, will see its proper release on April 8th — though physical CDs will be on sale at Saturday’s show. From there, the band plans to release their second EP Kisses around July with the final product all coming together late 2016/early 2017. It’s an interesting approach that bands like The 1975 and pop giants like Robyn have done in the past and provides My Darling Fury a way to re-introduce themselves back into the world. “It keeps you from being left behind,” Matthews admitted. “With the way things are now, if it’s not released in the past thirty minutes or so, it’s old. This gives us a way to consistently have new material for our fans.”
Any band in My Darling Fury’s shoes would be worried about being left behind too. Not only has the local scene changed dramatically since their debut record came out, but they are also re-entering that scene with a decreased line-up and complete sonic overhaul. The trio seems unfazed though and they’re anxious to begin playing live around town soon, and even more excited to do so with other artists from town they respect greatly. “We’re big Manatree fans,” Hollister said. “Clair Morgan too. We’re really excited to hear that new record. Can’t overlook Anousheh either. Her live shows are so amazing. She should be doing so much better overall.” Of course, you can’t discuss Richmond music today without mentioning Lucy Dacus, someone who actually credited My Darling Fury with her initial success here in town. My Darling Fury downplayed their contribution though, admitting her talent was always going to take her places no matter who added her to a show even if they did book her as much as possible. “For a while, we tried to get her on every show we did just so we could see her play again,” Hollister exclaimed. Seeing the success she’s having currently too is nothing short of inspiring for the band too. “It makes us so happy,” Matthews remarked. “It really gives you some faith that the music industry has some soul. It’s so easy to get discouraged so it’s great to see an extraordinary artist like her actually get recognized.”
The excitement to rejoin the live scene here in town has driven My Darling Fury to really focus on bringing their new music to life. “In the past, we wrote all of our songs live,” Matthews revealed, “but now there’s this recorded song we wrote on the computer that we never played live until just recently.” He elaborated that everyone’s role on stage has changed and they spent a lot of time essentially divvying up parts of the songs to each of the three performers on stage. It’s a lot to handle for members previously just used to concentrating on one part, but thanks to a focused drive to add more energy into their live shows, the band isn’t too concerned with their live show being hindered. “We really went to tour more this year too,” Hollister said, “so making these live shows the best we can is crucial for us.” Outside of shows in and around Richmond, the band has tentative plans to head on a lengthy tour around the time of their second EP release that will see them go up and down the East Coast and even into the Midwest for a few shows.
Touring is not the only thing the band has big plans for either. At Hardywood on Saturday, the band will debut the music video for the spastically powerful song “AOK,” the closing track to their new EP, something they’re real excited to share with the world. Shot by a director in Britain and edited and animated by Richmond’s Mad Box (of RVA Star Wars fame), the video is a visual way of explaining the melancholy reflected in the lyrics and aesthetically slides in perfectly with their EP and album artwork designed by local artists Alexander WuWei & Zenzile Sky Lark. “Mad Box was incredible,” Matthews gushed, “They took all this raw footage and made it tell this amazing story while also adding this amazing animation effects into it. We were just blown away by it.” The video will see its online debut come shortly after the EP’s physical release and the band admitted they have more in store visually, including a taped session done by a variety of local artists.
It’s an exciting time for My Darling Fury across the board. New sound, new music, new EPs, new album, new videos, and even a new tour. They’re making up for lost time with an intense focus that’s pushing them to reach new levels with their music, both on stage and in the studio, and it’s a focus that will confidently fill the void left by two guitarists. It is definitely an exciting time for the trio, but it’s even more exciting for music fans ready to watch it all unfold.
My Darling Fury previews both their new EP and new music video this Saturday at Hardywood alongside openers The Mad Extras, Dazeases, and Lauren Hoffman & The Secret Storm. Show time is 6 PM and for more information, click here.