Darwin Deez

Some of our finest musicians, the ones most capable of commanding attention onstage or blaring through the speakers of a radio, can often seem aloof and reclusive in real life. They can sometimes seem like total polar opposites to their public demeanour, or, unfortunately, in some instances, they can sometimes be downright disappointing (too many to name). And then there are the true pop stars among us; the ones blessed with rare, innate qualities, who shine just as vibrantly offstage as on, who have the genetic good fortune to be able to write whip-smart, life-affirming, heart-swelling songs, and at the same time say all sorts of funny and clever and entertaining things, and without whom the cultural landscape would be that much greyer and duller. No one illustrates this distinction more so than young Darwin Deez.

Whether expounding on the virtues of open mic nights in Manhattan and Brooklyn, writing about the hair-care routine for his magnificent 'fro (hot water and drip dry, for the record) or praising the guitar sounds of (yes!) Jimmy Eat World, Deez simply can't help but be utterly enthralling. His songs – delightfully twisted, gorgeously off kilter slices of perfect pop meanwhile, are naturally nothing less than absolutely captivating too, sort of like Arthur Russell if someone spiked his drinks with happy pills.

And much like the best pop stars, Deez started young. Born in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to parents who were avid Meher Baba disciples, the first chapter of Deez's musical career began when he was given a guitar for this 11th birthday. "It was a cream Fender Strat which I actually still use", he recalls. "My dad taught me some chords and I started writing songs straight away, writing the lyrics on these real small 3x5 cards". Listening to a diet of Weezer, Nirvana and Nada Surf – "stuff that was mass marketed in 1996" – Deez started a band at the ripe old age of 12 with a friend called Black Moon. "The lyrics and chords were quite simple and predictable. It was just kind of an imitation of what we thought was poetry". He received healthy encouragement from his parents to boot however, with family friends even recommending cool records to buy for Deez. "Yeah, like Superchunk, Fugazi and Archers of Loaf. That was pretty amazing".

A year later however, Deez heard a Chemical Brothers song and fell out of love with indie rock, albeit temporarily, throwing his lot in instead with electronic music: he even saved up his money to buy drum machines and samplers and began to experiment with making drum and bass himself. "I heard my first Chemical Brothers song and thought, "This is the music of the future"'" he says now. In a strange twist of fate, it wasn't until he was about 18 years old when a cousin pulled him back from the brink by playing him, of all things, bombastic Emo merchants Jimmy Eat World's "Your New Aesthetic" on a pre-iPod mp3 player, that he swung 180 degrees and ended up firmly in the rock camp once again. "There was such a rich guitar sound, that made me realise what I had been missing out on", he laughs. "Actually, when I left high school and went to Wesleyan I tried to start my own band, and our goal was to emulate Q and not U and 90 Day Men, whose first albums are two of my favourite ever. Our one practice was rife with potential, but there were too many busy schedules. Our name was Miso Cardigan".

Ah yes, Wesleyan University, Deez's personal bête noire. Even though the college is now synonymous with the burgeoning AmazingBoyChairMGMTViolensCrisis music nexus in Brooklyn, upon leaving his native Carolina and entering its hallowed halls at 18, Deez found himself, for the first time, cast adrift, lonely and in "a really dark place. It was many things; it was being away from home for the first time, and it was not having much in common with anyone there. I thought I was going to meet people who I was going to be friends with for the rest of my life, and it wasn't like that at all. I guess I just didn't choose the right environment for myself".

The "right environment" however, turned out to be in New York City. There, Deez started to become a fixture on Monday nights at the Sidewalk Cafe in the East Village, billed as "the legendary stomping ground for NYC's Anti-folk scene". Hailed for producing anti-folk luminaries such as Regina Spektor, Adam Green and countless others, Deez felt like he had finally found his niche. "It was the real hub of the action for me, and it was exciting to be there because most nights the audiences were so attentive, and so into it, even the first bands on. I became inspired to write better lyrics by studying the other songwriter-performers there". Galvanised and rejuvenated by this new scene – Deez was even asked to join Creaky Boards by its founder, Andrew Hoepfner – Deez got himself some Casio keyboards and wrote a "lo-fi pop song". That song turned out to be "Deep Sea Divers", and it ended up being the first of a whole new batch of songs; the first, Deez says, "where I used my own voice since I was 13. That's when I felt like I had found something".

A lilting, shimmering gem of a pop song, gently witty but streaked with dashes of melancholy, "Deep Sea Divers" encapsulates exactly what makes Darwin Deezstand out so effortlessly from the rest of the pack. In roughly three minutes he manages to cram in gloriously addictive melodies, deliciously off-kilter wordplay about a crumbling relationship ("little yellow fish are happy, it's not so tough/ would everything you wish you had be good enough?") and his beautifully rough around the edges croon to create an instant classic, at once deeply infectious yet also undeniably affecting. By now you would probably have heard his (long since sold out) debut single"Constellations", complete with handclaps and his opening crib of "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star", but, come April 12, when his debut, self-titled album drops, there will be many, many more songs to treasure, from the brightly scrubbed anthem in waiting"Radar Detector", to the barbed riposte "Bad Day" (sample lyric: "I hope that the last page of your 800 page novel is missing") to the plaintive, lovelorn croon of "The Bomb Song", all of which he wrote and recorded entirely on his own, in his apartment, on one mike on his PC.

Another thing to look forward to in 2010? Deez's live shows, extravaganzas of unbridled energy and unfettered joy, each and every one of them, with him being known to break into spontaneous bouts of synchronised dancing mid-song (an extension of which can be seen in his widely circulated viral Youtube video, "The Spring Dance"). "Well, I love to dance", Deez laughs. "Michelle, my bandmate is a tap dancer, and I'm secretly pretty good at it as well, so we take it up another notch onstage. But when we play live, the bottom-line is, we want all the people outside the room to come in, and we want the people inside the room to really enjoy themselves. I want people to get into it the way audiences at the Sidewalk Cafe got into shows, people would tell jokes onstage, and if you told them to clap, they'd clap".

Like we said, Darwin Deez is a true original. He talks about his songs being "a little bit "Thriller", a bit Dismemberment Plan". He gets as excited about new bands like Everything Everything as he does about the new John Mayer album (although he confesses that it was "not really for me"). And he laughs off any spurious vocal comparisons to Julian Casablancas, saying "I love the Strokes, and I get the similarity, but he draaaaaaaaaws his words out". He is a singularly brilliant, hilarious, complex, entertaining individual, and writes songs that will make you want to bust out your dancing shoes while also touching that raw, emotional nerve in your body. He is everything a pop star should be and so rarely is. Embrace him now, before everyone else does...

Tropics, joy. Down to earth tones, hanging out with your friends all day to forget routine. Thinking of what should be, staying inside. Missing the one, swimming against waves. Holding on, dreaming. Meeting new people, realizing more about yourself. Lack of understanding, traveling far away. Remembering the folks you used to know, staring up at the stars above. Letting time pass you by, memories.

High Pop

High Pop is primarily a recording project produced by Sean Henry Posila and Jordan Caulfield, who originally met at the same all-boy Catholic high school in Connecticut and bonded over punk bands like The Clash. Most recently, artists Daniel George and Alexander Goosmann joined the group, providing aid with writing and live performances. Now, living all over the Northeast, the band has sprouted scenes everywhere- from Boston to Brooklyn and in between. High Pop calls themselves a fuzzy, degenerated “pretend pop” experience, hyperactively exploiting many genres at once.

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Darwin Deez with The Guru, High Pop

Thursday, May 30 · 8:00 PM at The Space

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