cropped-iye-logo-dark (1)


In Your Eyes ezine  we are a group of passionate creatives who believe in the power of DIY in music, art, books, and film. We pour our hearts and souls into every piece of content we create, striving to inspire and connect with our readers on a deep emotional level.

The Darts are an all-girl band hailing from Phoenix (Arizona) shaking the rock ‘n’ roll worldwide scene, since almost a decade, with their Farfisa organ-oriented garage rock formula fuelled with a punk attitude inherited from The Sonics‘ lesson and inspired through the example of their “older sisters” The Pandoras and The Trashwomen, or glam-party girl bands like The Donnas. The four piece ensemble is formed by Nicole Laurenne (organ and vocals) Christina Nunez (bass and vocals) Meliza Jackson (guitar and vocals) and the new entry Mary Rose Gonzales on drums. Last year they released, on Jello Biafra’s Alternative Tentacle Records, their official third studio album “Snake Oil“, an electrifying record blasting out a solid, versatile and raw R’N’R sound. We reached their frontwoman Nicole for a chat.

InYourEyes: Hi, little vampire witches! We know that between the fall of 2022 and last year you headed out a massive european tour, supporting your latest long playing, “Snake Oil”, which led you to play also seven concerts here in Italy. Did you enjoy the experience and the italian atmosphere in general, especially at the notorious “Festival Beat” in Salsomaggiore?

Nicole Laurenne: “We could not love Italy more. The “Snake Oil” tour took us for the first time to a lot of public park stages in the hot summer, so we got to play for kids, families, cyclists, cafe customers, people just wandering by… and it was amazing to draw the mallin and create a huge party in the park every night. Hana-Bi and Festival Beat are always two of our favorites tops in Italy, and last summer was no exception. Our Festival Beat set got moved to a little club due to weather problems, in the last minute – but that didn’t stop the crowd from literally crowding the little stage with us and going nuts. Hana-Bi regaled us as usual with incredible food and drinks and beach time; we basically never wanted to leave that place. But the best part of our tour was a quick stop in front of the FARFISA factory! They don’t make organs anymore, and I’m sure they were confused about all these girls taking photos in front of the doorbell factory, but it was so cool for me. We are coming back in July 2024, to Italy, so stay tuned for the dates and locations!”

IYE: Another quality we appreciate about The Darts is that it doesn’t matter if you’d play in caves, small or big festivals, prestigious concert halls or dirty dive bars in the middle of nowhere: your live shows are always wild and they’re faced with the same intensity in every location you’re scheduled to have gigs for just ten people or several thousand persons, you warmly involve the crowd in the same way. That’s the real essence of rock ‘n’ roll and the way R’N’R should always be: it’s a way of life everyday, not just a “job” to keep up or a “professional fiction” to be displayed when musicians are on stage. Do you agree with this statement? And what are the passions (in music and/or life in general) inspiring the band in keeping things real?

Nicole: “Oh my gosh, yes. That is what we are all about. The thing is: when I hear Christina’s fuzz bass and Beef’s kickdrum starts lamming , I literally cannot stand still. I have to run all over the stage and knock my Farfisa around and scream. It’s not an act, it’s not a fiction, it’s just how I feel. I couldn’t stop it if I tried . But when I’m not performing, I’m the most chill person ever – I spend my days like a hermit, writing songs, eating tofu and staring at sunsets, just waiting for the next tour.”

IYE: Your last album was the aforementioned “Snake Oil”, which we loved so much and became part of some of our “best of 2023” record lists. It’s your second release for Alternative Tentacle Records and, as a band, you seem to have a special relationship with the label “boss” Jello Biafra, who is credited in the making of the full length as a “production manager” and a “production whisperer”. Your early idea was set on making a 30 tracks double album – one with fast songs only, and the other with slow songs only – but Biafra suggested you to rearrange the sonic material in a different way and then you came up with one single album and the thirteen songs (which are brilliantly mixed and produced by your long time collaborator Bob Hoag) we can hear on the final version of the record. Do you like working with Jello? We know he was a fan of The Love Me Nots, the band where Nicole and Christina played before forming The Darts.

Nicole: “I first met Jello when he was DJ-ing at a show our previous band (The Love Me Nots) was playing in California, years and years ago. He started spinning one of our records and told me he loved our sound. Then he came upon stage during the last song and sang the chorus with me – it was incredible. He signed my leather jacket and we stood off stage after the set talking politics (of course!) for a long time. Fast forward to The Darts a few years later. He apparently didn’t want to come to Darts’ show because he didn’t think he would like it as much as our last band, but someone dragged him. After the show, he came straight to me and said he loved it even more, and then we were on his label. Jello has the biggest heart. He really cares deeply about every note, about every lyric; he has very high standards and truly loves it when the music is great. So working with Jello is a challenge at times – he doesn’t let me be mediocre, he pushes me to new levels. I think you can really hear that on “Snake Oil”.

IYE: “Snake oil” is an album based on mixed feelings, we read that the songs were mainly composed during the pandemic, resulting in a baggage of controversial and contrasting moods of that period in terms of restrictions and frustrations due to lockdown(s) and the lack of live music. We found food for thought on gender-free love, but also rants about fraud people who poison the mainstream mass media with fake news and other shit. Anger is an energy, and it still seems to be a burning fuel in helping to write good songs, isn’t it?

Nicole: “Yes, Christina is always telling me to write about some thing other than bad love – which we both have all too much of all the time. So with “Snake Oil” I accepted that challenge, and the pandemic gave me some downtime to gather that courage. I am not very outspoken about things in general, so it was hard to put myself out there. And actually the messages in the songs are pretty guarded and filled with double entendres, so they’re not very in-your-face. But it’s a start for me. And you’re right, anger can be great creative fuel, just like any huge feeling. And I went through a lot personally during the writing of both “Snake Oil” and our upcoming record, so there was anger, and sadness, and fear, and joy, and hope, and hopelessness, and humor. The feedback we got, especially for the LGBTQ+ anthem “Intersex” has been so wonderful ; I am so honored when it means something to people, and I am so happy to help the cause, if only just in this tiny way. It is also great to be on a label with someone who thinks like Jello, someone who really wants to see change in the world.

IYE: Live music nowadays means almost everything for musicians and sometimes playing in tours around the world is the only way for bands and artists to support themselves financially just in order to survive and keep on going on, especially in these rough times after the pandemic and after the advent of internet digital music that ate almost all the physical music market sales. What do you think about “liquid music” on streaming platform services? There are a lot of bands and artists complaining about this new kind of capitalist business crediting the musicians rights with very poor money not deriving from quality or value, but based on people views and algorithms, while keeping the big money for the multinational corporation labels.

Nicole: “Digital/streaming services are such a blessing and a curse for musicians and songwriters. On one hand, they have allowed the DIY underground artists to get their music heard worldwide almost immediately once a song is created, which is a dream come true for the unsigned artists and songwriters. And for the music fan, they have immediate access to music of almost every genre, known and unknown, for sometimes no cost at all to them,which is kind of the ultimate punk rock dream, right? Access for all, say what you want, listen to what you want, rock the world. And I’m sure that running a giant streaming service that offers so much for such a small cost to the end user is hard to sustain. But on the other hand, making music can be expensive (not for everyone – some are making incredible creations at home in their bedrooms better than ever before thanks to always-improving technology and software). For a songwriter who wants to make a living on their songs, or a band that pays for studio time and engineers, graphic designers, tour vans, crew, merch, and a million other expenses to get their music in front of people in the best possible way both live and on recordings… well, that is barely sustainable right now for a lot of financial reasons. Actually, I don’t know if it has ever been sustainable for anyone who isn’t a superstar. And even lots of superstars are cutting their costs these days. “Video killed the radio star”,and streaming services make stars who can’t afford to tour The Darts strongly believe in the underground scene, and even though it would be great to make a zillion dollars and be able to do everything we want to do, we’re honestly just so grateful to have people hear and like the music, in whatever capacity we can afford to get it to them.”

IYE: A very important concept in rock ‘n’ roll is defining not only the sound but also the look for a band, and you combine very well a wild Farfisa-soaked garage rock magma with slightly “goth” visuals. How did you come to mix a dark image with the funny and explosive world of garage punk?

Nicole: “Well, Christina has always had a goth-inspired look, even off stage, so I think she and I just naturally drifted in that direction over time. We both are drawn to the darkness in the world. When we signed with Alternative Tentacles, their logo is a bat, so that was an obvious connection for us to run with. I love the dichotomy of uptempo surf-beat garage punk with vampire outfits, that’s just a band I myself would like to go see This whole band is about doing things the way we like it, not for anyone else, and the look is part of that mentality. Sometimes we wear vintage slips, sometimes black capes, sometimes Emma Peel jumpsuits… there are no rules in this band, it’s whatever we want, whatever turns us on at that point in time.

IYE: Every band has its own alchemy, and we noticed a strong musical chemistry running through you as a band when you’re on stage playing. Is there the same connection between The Darts off the stage also and in everyday life? And how do you usually start approaching music making for songs? Do you work on your music individually or you write it as a real four members team composing and rehearsing together at the same time in the same room? We know that almost all the four of you are involved in several side-projects and other bands too.

Nicole: “This is a very unique band. From the beginning, we have never all been in the same city, or even in the same states. Our connection comes from loving the music and having fun together – whether it’s stomping around castles in Spain or crying together over some bad news in the tour van in Philadelphia or battling our way in to getting guitars on airplanes in Paris or stuffing ourselves with Thai food in Phoenix after a (rare) rehearsal. Those are the moments. On stage, it’s easy; we all want to play more than anything else in our lives, and we feed off the audience energy. Off stage, we try to keep the drama to a minimum and see the humor in things. As far as writing, I will sit with GarageBand and a midi keyboard and write all the parts usually. Then I email the demo, the individual band member’s part, and a lyric/notation sheet for each song, to each band member. They learn the parts and send me little videos or recordings back so we can dial in the nuances together. Before a tour or recording, we usually fly to the location in time to get one live rehearsal in before show time. So everyone really has to do their homework and rehearseal to on their own time, to be ready for the show without any real rehearsal time. They are such good musicians, and garage punk isn’t rocket science of course… so this system has been working since 2016 somehow. It’s so efficient. We love it. And this also allows us a lot of time and energy for side projects, session work and solo stuff, which we all love to do and keeps us fresh and recharged.”

IYE: Rock ‘n’ roll world has always had a male and a sadly machist predominance, but thanks to punk rock many things changed and girls and women took consciousness of their strength, bravery and freedom in creating music and art on their own and being accepted as a part of a big family without sexual or gender prejudices. What do you think about the “riot grrrls” movement? In the interview introduction I wrote about The Darts being musically inspired by several all-female groups such as The Pandoras, The Trashwomen or The Donnas. Do you fit in this statement? And do you take inspiration from other past or present girl bands you love? 

Nicole: “Actually one of our first inspirations in starting this band was Thee Trashwomen. I also listened to Thee Tsunamis over and over back then. I’ve always been a fan of fun music tinged with a little darkness, no matter the gender of the band members. But Christina and I were just coming out of The Love Me Nots breaking up, and also some difficult romantic relationship sending, and honestly we were really excited about just being in a band with all women for once, to see if it would be any different. In many ways, it has been. For one thing, I love getting on stage when people don’t know us and their expectations are low (“Oh, it’s just a girl band“, they think it’s just a gimmick)… and then they get their heads blown off and see us having a great time to get her also. It’s a good message for the world, I think, that women can bond together and make something incredible and keep it going. I don’t know why this is still an issue in this day and age but it is. So yes, we love playing with other amazing female musicians, whether huge stars like Joan Jett and L7 or underground acts like The Jackets and Shovel… their impact on us is huge and immediate, and earth-shaking.

IYE: You toured with The Damned and played with L7 and Joan Jett among others. Do you have other bands or solo artists you wish to tour and play with? And outside The Darts, what kind of music do you love to listen to? Is there some band you like and you would suggest to our readers as a worth listening to check out?

Nicole: “We all have such different musical tastes in this band, it’s quite funny actually. I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me I love Ty Segall, Plague Vendor, Amyl and The Sniffers, Deap Vally, Holy Wave, Daiistar, Death Valley Girls, LA Witch, Shitkid. But on my off time I also listen to a lot of jazz lately – Bill Evans, Nina Simone, Miles Davis, the classics… I am trying to learn more about it since I love it so much. I would love to see pianist Alex Monfort play in France some time. My new solo project, Black Viiolet, is kind of jazz-tinged-pop-lounge, so that is a nice change of pace for me and a real challenge also. Bands to check out? I just did some session keys for our label mates DFMK and fell in love with their stuff, it’s real garage surf/punk goodness done incredibly well.”

IYE: What will be the next moves for The Darts? Will you be back in the studio recording new songs? Are you planning to release a new album soon?

Nicole: “This year is huge already. While on a break from touring behind our releases “Love Tsunami” (2022, Adrenalin Fix/Dirty Water Records/Beluga Records/Ghost Highway Recordings) and “Snake Oil” (2023, Alternative Tentacles Records), we had the opportunity to record with one of my favorite producers, Mark Rains, in Los Angeles. Over just a few days (much to Jello’s chagrin, he hates it when we rush) we recorded a new thirteen-song a LP titled “BOOMERANG” and it will be realeased on Alternative Tentacles Records again . The first single,”Pour Another“, just premiered on The Underground Garage (Sirius/XM) and will be released worldwide this week with a new video. We’ve already been playing three of the songs (“Pour Another,”Your Show” and “Hang Around“) live around the world and – based on the crowds singing along and as king how to buy the songs – we think this might be our best record yet. The full album comes out on April 26 on three different vinyl color variants. On April 19, we start a huge tour that will have us running around the world for more than 100 shows , including Europe, UK, and some very select US dates.We love our country and everything, but when we get the chance to tour overseas, we take it It was our first goal in this band to see the world and have fun, and we are still making that happen, now more than ever!”

Leave a Comment

Best 2023

Ronny Moorings Of Clan Of Xymox

Leading band of the prestigious English label 4AD by Ivo Watts-Russell in the 80s – together with Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance – the Dutch Clan Of Xymox have been one of the icons of the european darkwave for over three decades.

Read More »

Interview With Lol Tolhurst

And yet Lawrence Lol Tolhurst (class of ’59) who co-founded The Cure in 1976 – together with his friend Robert Smith – is a kind and peaceful man who has never abandoned his practical vision of his job.

Read More »

Interview with Brian James “the damned health”

London’s guitarist and songwriter Brian James – born 1955 – was not only an absolute protagonist of the punk scene from the very beginning, but also a transversal protagonist of the entire rock scene over the last forty-five years. Brian James the Damned Health

Read More »

Latest posts

Ramon Pang - Life cycle waves

Ramon Pang – Life cycle waves

Dive into the mesmerizing sounds of Ramon Pang’s ‘Life cycle waves’, where drums reign supreme in a world of electronic fluidity. Keywords: Ramon Pang.

Read More »