Ahead of their gig on The Saturday Night Show, Gary Harding of Darling admits their first fan – his mother – will be “the most nervous woman in Ireland”.
He is also anxious ahead of their biggest performance to date, admitting the feeling, “comes and goes, followed by a two minute panic attack”.
“Our parents are going to be in the audience,” he tells GoldenPlec. “I still remember when we were first starting out being in the room that we recorded in – my old room. We turned it into a studio, and my mam was hoovering the landing”.
“She couldn’t believe it when she heard us”, he laughs, “She was like, ‘this is really good!’”
Darling formed off the back of another band’s dissolution with James McGuire, something which Harding now admits was a blessing in disguise.
“Me and James have been playing music together for eight years. We started writing music and we were really enjoying it. We sat down together and started exploring this new dynamic – it was really exciting and we became really inspired”.
“To be honest, it felt like the decision was made for us,” he says.
Darling have just released their second EP, ‘It’s Just One Look’. The EP’s lead single lends its name to the EP for a variety of reasons.
“Lyrically, with the chorus and the music, we knew that that’s where we wanted to go. There’s a big sentiment behind it, and the chorus is a big moment in the song”.
‘It’s Just One Look’, thematically, represents Harding’s views on love and the workings of the heart.
“The phrase ‘it’s just one look’, is pretty sure of my experiences with love. When you’re with someone you love, and you catch their eye, and you remember why you’re with them and how nothing else is really as important as that.”
The band spent time in Dublin, Belfast and London when recording the EP, and worked with producer Stephen Lipson, who Harding says “added a sprinkling of technicolor” with his production. Considering they are a two man band, did it make the writing and recording process harder?
“It was a pre-meditated decision that it would always just be the two of us writing and recording,” he says. “With all my favourite bands, there’s always two people driving the show. Because it’s only the two of us, I feel none of our decisions are watered down.”
It’s not always this simple, mind. “Some aspects of it are tricky. All the big decisions are on your shoulders, across the board.”
Despite this, Harding relishes in every part of band life. “Writing, recording and performing are all the reasons you want to be involved in music in the first place. It fills a part of your personality – it’s the only thing that can fill it fully. I get a kick out of everything. Photo shoots, interviews, gigs – you name it.”
‘It’s Just One Look’ is an unashamedly pop affair, having spent two weeks “messing about” with guitar parts and overdub, as Harding puts it. He cites cleaner production as the main difference between it and their first EP.
“I love the first EP. It’s noisier, and there’s more going on, and all the tracks featured will inevitably end up on the album. But with ‘It’s Just One Look’, it has a bit of a sheen that the first EP didn’t. It’s a little bit neater and it’s been getting lots of radio play.”
“We wanted tracks that would sound well played between a Taylor Swift song and an Ellie Goulding song”, he says. “We wanted to keep our Darling sound and make it more accessible. And I mean, so far so good on that front.”
When asked to describe the EP in three words, Harding does so with ease – “catchy pop loveliness”. Darling are proud of being a pop band, and it’s a label they promote forthrightly. Why is it so that pop has such a bad reputation nowadays as being a frivolous genre that doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously?
“I’m a big fan of pop music, I always have been,” Harding admits. “There are certain band that I follow that are more alternative, but I always come back to the big hooks”.
“I think with the growth of Spotify and playlists, genre is becoming less meaningful. Artists are more focused on writing a good song. It doesn’t matter if you’re Katy Perry or James Bay – artists want to fit into people’s playlists now.”
“Obviously, it’s important to have an identity sonically, but I just think genre is less important now, which is quite exciting. Music is connecting with more and more people.”
Darling are due to play their biggest headline show to date in Whelans on 1 May, something which the band are hugely looking forward to.
“We always pack out our Dublin gigs, and every single show is a step-up. We love, love, LOVE playing gigs. We aim to give the perfect indie pop performance.”
Harding highlights the main struggle musicians face in this day and age as carving out a career from your biggest passion. He himself juggles Darling with a separate job.
“My friend, who’s not involved in music, described it perfectly when he said that the industry is full of bands who are really great, weekend rockstars, who, when Monday morning rolls around, are getting the bus into work in the rain,” he says.
“The work I do, I get a lot of it. I think you have to engage with the world a bit as well as doing music. I enjoy plugging into work because it feeds into what I do.”
The future is bright and busy for the twosome. They are heading to Kerry to film the video for 2001, at the end of the month, before heading back into the studio. At the minute, Harding’s unsure whether the session will end up being the first session of their debut album, or a new EP.
“I can confirm we will be releasing something at the end of the summer. There’s your exclusive – something will be realased by Darling … Eventually,” he laughs.
Darling play Whelan’s on 1 May. ‘It’s Just One Look’ is out now.