Darlingside’s new album represents departure from band’s usual ‘wall of sound’
Indie folk group Darlingside has a long history of lush, layered sounds and vivid lyrics. But in a bold move their new album, “Everything Is Alive,” strips down the blankets of harmony to single vocalists sharing intimate truths.
“It’s very different for us,” Harris Paseltiner, the youngest member of the group and a classically trained cellist, said recently in a phone interview. “Rather than layering and burying the lyrics in a wall of sound, you can hear the vulnerability of each other’s voices.”
Paseltiner was excited to share how the most recent album was born during the pandemic.
“We’ve always used creative writing exercises to create music, such as playing telephone, and we do collaboratively write,” Paseltiner said when asked about the richness of the lyrics. “Darlingside has represented four different people’s ideas, with differing themes and experiences to explore.”
The band is loved for creating a new feeling with each song rather than replicating variances on a single theme.
“We are pretty committed to discovering something new every time, both sonically and thematically,” Paseltiner said. “We want listeners to feel something new every time and not fall into any grooves. And each season of our lives has provided us with new material.”
Paseltiner’s current season includes caring for an infant son and toddler daughter, both of whom could be heard playing in the background during the interview.
“This is a first for me, interviewing with the kids at home,” he laughed.
The personable Paseltiner is often grinning as he shares tales onstage, and the entire group is beloved for their dad jokes and dry humor. Paseltiner has noted the band’s preference for tea over beer, unique eating habits on the road and silly observations about communities they’ve traveled through.
When asked about his favorite memory of Albany, Paseltiner admitted he often hasn’t had the time to explore the region much.
“I do love jogging around The Egg and the Capitol plaza area though. The architecture and views are memorable.”
The four band members are all at slightly different life stages, but Paseltiner describes them as “fortunate to be close friends, almost like family. We don’t separate work and play, although lately we’ve been a bit more apart just due to geography.”
Current members include Paseltiner as well as Don Mitchell and Auyon Mukharji; the band’s fourth original member, Dave Senft, recently stopped touring to focus more on being home. When asked if that precipitated the change in sound, Paseltiner surprised with his answer.
“In fact, no. Dave’s songwriting on this album helped him to recognize his struggle being pulled between two places. We made the changes before Dave came to that conclusion.”
The band was writing during the pandemic but separated due to the requirements to stay apart.
“We were working on songwriting with partners but truly working alone and sending each other these songs. We needed motivation to complete tasks and would owe our partners $20 if we didn’t get our assignments done on time,” said Paseltiner. “This turned out to be extremely motivating,” he laughed.
“We usually write with three to four people around us, but this time we were writing solo with a partner, who was remote,” Paseltiner. “The result was a ton of songs sitting in a song bank that we hadn’t heard because we were working in pairs.”
The band debuted the songs during a livestream from Mitchell’s living room.
“It was really different. We are usually very democratic about how we write, and ask questions and shift the music,” Paseltiner said. “This time, though, the sound was unvarnished.”
“After the livestream ended we kept playing for each other and sharing our songs around the circle,” Paseltiner recalled. “We were really moved hearing each other’s voices, sitting there hearing my friend sharing his feelings unadulterated and without revisions.”
That’s how “Everything is Alive” was born, complete with new sounds and some courageous moments for the members.
“This album feels most exposed and most vulnerable to me,” Paseltiner said. “I couldn’t do this five to 10 years ago. I wanted to obscure the sound of my own voice then.”
No longer obscured, the band is taking some bigger risks with the album. While they still rely on rich lyrics, they aren’t hiding behind the soulful harmonies.
Paseltiner, 36, admits to having some anxiety performing the songs live, which also feels vastly different for him than the previous performances. When asked what Darlingside will sound like in the future, Paseltiner shared some excitement for the unknown.
“We are sort of feeling around in a dark room for the light switch sometimes and we are experimenting with very elemental sound now,” he confessed. “I know we will still be writing together and making music as a family.”
The band first met and began playing together in 2009 at Williams College in an a capella group but has grown to a national sensation that merges sumptuous harmonies with idyllic lyrics. We claim them as local due to their Williams’ roots, but in truth the members live in western Massachusetts and the Boston area.
They have graced multiple stages locally — including Caffe Lena, The Egg and Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s Charles Wood Stage — and plan to play the Spa Little Theatre on Dec. 3.
Laura DaPolito is a Nippertown contributor.