The word “extraordinary” is defined as something beyond, amazing, or incredible. The word “extralife” doesn’t exist. But in the world of Darlingside—another previously non-existent word—it’s all about invention, expansion, and elevating everything into the realm of the extraordinary both conceptually and through musical performance.

The band’s new album Extralife intensifies the journey begun on its critically acclaimed 2015 album Birds Say. On that project, Darlingside’s quartet of bassist Dave Senft, guitarist/banjoist Don Mitchell, violinist/mandolinist Auyon Mukharji, and cellist/guitarist Harris Paseltiner fused assertions (“Go Back”), assumptions (“God Of Loss”), predictions (“The Ancestor”), projections (“Do You Ever Live?”) and reflections (“White Horses”). “We put our four heads together and created this collective consciousness about bits and pieces from our past and how we saw the world based upon reminiscences,” explains Paseltiner about that sojourn. It having been the Massachusetts group’s second full-length outing, Birds Say mastered a musical and lyrical path that led to the more challenging territory explored on Extralife. Mukharji describes the “Extralife” concept as “…a life beyond where we are now, whether that's a brand new thing, a rebirth, or just a new version of ourselves as we move forward.” So by abandoning Birds Say’s nostalgia and its tales of “what once was,” Darlingside created its polar opposite with Extralife, the new album exploring “what is now” and “what might be” simultaneously in the brave new world.

“A lot of the album has to do with the present and the future,” Mukharji reveals, “that future being a completely unknown quantity and the present being a new and bizarre place to be living in. I think we’re grappling with a number of aspects of reality we had not expected.” That reality, surviving a dystopian landscape, constructs the new album, the band killing many of its prior darlings (the name Darlingside being a reference to non-attachment) in the process. Their Birds Say, wide-eyed innocence is now bloodshot for the better. As the title track “Extralife” informs in four-part harmony, “It’s over now / The flag is sunk / The world has flattened out,” it loosely sets the new album’s premise. However, the recording also delivers hope through Beach Boys-inspired vocals that contrast with lyrics such as “The fiery flower beds above / Mushroom clouds reset the sky.” “Eschaton” uses a similar formula, this time immersing its Waterworld imagery in fun, fluid synthesizer runs, concluding with the rally, “No matter what we’ve been / We are the upshot now.” Its axis-flipped, Escher-mimicking lyrics sketch a variation on the End Times that suggests it’s actually preventable. Even the “Taps”-inspired trumpet mourn and harmonica cries of “Hold Your Head Up High” are held at bay by the uplifting, anthemic chorus chants of the song title’s message.

As seen throughout the above, Extralife is not shy about employing metaphysics to prove its flexible theses. Perhaps the most blatant example would be in “Futures.” Despite despondent references to “futureforests in the sea,” “bikini snow,” (a historical nickname for nuclear fallout) and even the Thermocene Epoch, we’re encouraged through time-traveling radio transmissions that “It’s not ever too late,” undeniable when empowered by those powerful four-part harmonies. Even the song’s tiny interpolation of The Beatles’ “I’ve Just Seen A Face”, “Falling, yes I’m

falling, and she keeps calling me back again,” is a reassurance that, yes, as even The Fab Four suggested, we will find our way back. And if doom and gloom is reversible, perhaps whatever darling is emerging on “Indian Orchard Road” can be killed or contained by the sheer beauty of a Darlingside musical assault.

Although Darlingside’s signature superpower is considered to be their vocal prowess, it perhaps can overwhelm their presentations’ subtleties, both live and in the studio. After all, the mind gravitates to that which is charming, and their harmonies could seduce the rings off Saturn. But Extralife is the first Frankensteining—as the band puts it—by the group’s four equal-status members. Each one now equally contributes to something way bigger than his individual part. Equal contributions of vocals, lyrical altruism and wisdom, and effortless musicianship are what empower today’s Darlingside and animate Extralife’s twelve reality-benders.

As evidenced in their new recordings, these young turks jettison preconceived notions and hardwired life lessons with the grace of choirboys. This time around, there’s no patience for a lengthy, lighthearted song such as Birds Say’s “Harrison Ford” when a cut-to-the-chase commentary on the “American dark horse” using a short but pathos-rich “Rita Hayworth” as its vehicle will suffice. Also, instead of relying purely on its very capable, musical fraternity of core members, they even eliminate their Darlingside darlings by expanding its Americana with surprising instrumentation such as the aforementioned trumpet, plus synthesizers, echo-chambered flutes, and more. Of the gifts and weapons left by these honorary Darlingsidians, Mukharji informs, “It very much feels like a big, communal family that's growing together. That’s a very exciting thing.” And once described as boyishly cryptic, their innocent, poetic lyrics also were felled on the field. On Extralife, lyrics must serve as standalone poetry, cautionary tales, and extended musical backdrops via phonetics with no clear boundaries.

So considering all of the above, what exactly is “Extralife?” “The idea of the ‘extra life' in a video game is another chance or another path, and the ability to continue,” reveals Paseltiner. “We read an article about Mario Brothers and the development of Nintendo in The Economist. With that first track on the album, Auyon had been conducting a lyrics experiment where he was writing from the viewpoint of Mario stuck in a video game. We then ended up taking our songs beyond the confines of that video game experiment, identifying with some of its themes like either feeling stuck in a certain dimension and having a desire to break into the next one or what it means to break beyond the sphere we are stuck in—the present. The album goes through a series of songs that deal with that.”

As “Best Of The Best Of Times” posits, “I wonder whether our days are unnumbered,” if we’re truly heading towards Game Over. Neither Extralife nor its creators have any solutions. On the other hand, “Orion” offers some guidance as to preventing the “what is now” from cementing the “what might be” explored across this brave new album: “The beach is just a line in the sand / The tide is in the palm of your hand / It’s looking like the start or the end / Either way ahead is around the bend.” Perhaps by moving beyond our preconceptions—going Extralife—we can create an amazing future by steering this world towards something incredible. That all makes up the definition of extraordinary.

For more press information on Darlingside, contact: Jim Flammia Jim@alleyesmedia.com or Michelle Steele Michelle@alleyesmedia.com at All Eyes Media (615) 227-2770

Carolina Story

Carolina Story never said no to a gig. A bar, a church, a theater, a nursing home: the duo––made up of husband
and wife Ben and Emily Roberts––crisscrossed the country for a decade, building a sprawling grassroots fanbase
enamored with the pair’s smart, self-penned, harmony-laden Americana. Today, their new album Lay Your Head
Down is a highly anticipated full-length debut on Black River. They’ve graced the Grand Ole Opry stage many
times, won over critics, and inked a record deal.
Today, life is Ben and Emily’s shared dream come true. But getting here wasn’t easy.
Early on, tired and hungry, Carolina Story almost walked away. The two were living with Ben’s parents in
Kingston Springs, outside of Nashville. “We’d just gotten off the road, and I was thinking, ‘Let’s just give up,’”
Emily remembers. “I thought he’d be the positive one, but Ben said, ‘No, I agree.’” They went to the grocery
store, defeated and lost. That’s when a woman approached them to tell them she’d seen them in a coffee shop
in town and loved their music.
“She was very kind, but even though we heard it as a compliment, we were thinking, ‘This woman has no idea
we’ve written our last song,’” Ben says, then laughs.
“We started to go down the next aisle,” Emily chimes in. “Then, she grabbed our attention once more and said,
‘Hey, I just really feel like I’m supposed to tell you guys to never give up.’ Well, that sent chills up our spines.”
Emily pauses, reliving the moment.
“She had no idea,” Ben says. “She didn’t know us from Adam.”
Carolina Story didn’t give up. And 10 years to the day after Ben first spied Emily on campus in Memphis, the
couple walked into Sound Stage Studios to record Lay Your Head Down, a mature, 12-song masterpiece that
captures two people’s moving, relatable journey from childhood to parenthood, independence to partnership,
and despondency to hope. “I feel like there have always been signs for us that keep us going,” Emily says. “And
I love that we have each other.”
Ben grew up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. He picked up a guitar, started writing, and joined a band in junior high, but
he had some detours to make before pursuing music full time. A gifted athlete, Ben played football for a year at
a small college outside of Boston, before transferring to a school in North Carolina, then Memphis. Raised in the
small farming community of Lennox, South Dakota, Emily always knew all she wanted to do was sing. She made
her way to Memphis, where she began writing her own songs and remained determined to end up in Nashville.
The two had been dating for about three months when they took a trip to North Carolina. Ben had served as a
white-water rafting guide there and wanted to show Emily the country he loved. There, sitting around a campfire,
they wrote their first song together. “It was then we decided, let’s start a band together instead of doing it
separately,” Emily says. They agreed.
Driving back to Memphis, the two began to make plans. Then Emily––the cautious, deliberate one of the pair––
threw a curve ball.
“On the way home, we were excited about starting a band,” Ben says. Then out of nowhere, Emily started talking
about baby names,” Ben laughed. “Almost scared me off!”
“Emily said, ‘Carolina Story’ would be a beautiful name for a little girl…’”
“He always leaves out the part about him telling his mother he was going to marry me before I was even
interested in him!” Emily interrupts, laughing.
Ben replied, “‘It’d be an even better name for a band.’” And Carolina Story was born. Today, years later, living in
their East Nashville home, Ben and Emily also have two children: three-year-old Wilder and baby Lily. “We’ve
always considered Carolina Story our first born,” Emily added.
Produced by Nick Autry and recorded in Nashville at Sound Stage Studios, Lay Your Head Down is a stunning
portrait of lovers and friends. Carolina Story penned every song. The title track opens the album. Lush strings
and winsome harmonica cushion the song’s lyrics that convey yearning and hurt. “I wrote that song sitting by the
Cumberland River, not far from our house, when I was in a bad way,” Ben says. “Spring time came with a
vengeance this year / the river rose high / the water ain’t clear,” Ben sings initially on his own, introducing the
telling imagery that fills every Carolina Story song. In the verses, the two plead to a higher power for a break
from overwhelming pain. The chorus is the divine, comforting response. “There is a lot of life in these 12 songs.
It’s the story of our life together,” Ben says.
Jaunty but wise, the melody and message of “Gold” follow. Over classic harmonica and thick electric guitar, the
pair point out that the high pressure created by tough times actually creates something incomparably precious.
With Ben and Emily’s gorgeous vocals far out front, “We Were Young Once Too” bemoans the way innocence
falls away even as it appreciates the wisdom age brings.
Carolina Story songs often explore feeling comfortable with truths that seem at odds with one another. Stripped
down and vulnerable with the couple’s voices over plaintive acoustic guitar and haunting background
instrumentation, “Set in Stone” explores the secrets that lurk in every relationship, even as deep love is honestly
claimed and professed. “There is a realness people can hear,” Ben says. “You can hear it and think, ‘It’s going
to be alright. Just keep going towards the light and it’ll work, even when that light is just a little pinhole in the
“We don’t want to be seen as just a married couple, but we are married,” Emily says. “That maturity––that
relationship––is in our songs. As long as we’ve been married, we’ve been Carolina Story, so there is a lot of
relationship growth and artistic growth here. That’s what I love about this record.”
Ben’s favorite song on the album, “My Feet Keep Moving Still,” is also the oldest. Tender and sad, the song
captures the frustration of feeling stuck, but carrying on anyway. Nostalgic “When I Was Just a Boy” tips a hat to
the nuggets of truth parents impart. “Your Children’s Children” immortalizes the couple’s own advice to their own
babies. Beautiful “Lonely without You” encapsulates passion and longing, while timeless “Rich Man” unpacks
the choice between material comforts and love.
Album closer “Let Me Rock, Let Me Roll” is a standout. One of the songs closest to Emily’s heart, the track
reiterates commitment to one another and to the music. “It sums up all those years,” Ben says. “At the end of
the day, the best part is singing songs with you. That’s it.”
Looking back on how far they’ve come, Carolina Story is awestruck, emboldened, and grateful. “Just when you
think the gig’s up and it’s all changing––that all your hopes and dreams of doing what’s inside you are gone, as
they say, the only one that matters is the last card you turn over,” Ben says. “You just keep going.”

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