Interview: Dark Dark Dark
Dark Dark Dark saw the light by jacking it all in for music
Words Thomas A. Ward
Photography Tod Seelie
If their name were anything to go by, Minneapolis’s Dark Dark Dark would have you believe that their music was of a gloomy disposition. You imagine that if you uttered those three words in front of a mirror one tempestuous eve, all manner of unearthly spirits would emanate from the grave to haunt you for the rest of your listening life. Luckily, this is only a half-truth.
“The name started out as a joke — for the kind of darker folk music that we were playing — and we just took it to the extreme,” explains frontwoman Nona Marie Invie. “There is a lot of this kind of music coming out of Minneapolis; there’s a real community of amazing unsigned artists whose music is really accessible. And there are a lot of opportunities to play with different performers and to be inspired by them.”
The word ‘community’ comes up a lot in conversation with the softly spoken Nona and her co-frontperson Marshall LaCount when discussing the troupe’s background. They met in Minneapolis five years ago and then, they say, “travelled around collecting people that we got along with”. Soon, individuals of a similar disposition from as far away as New Orleans and New York, as well as from Minneapolis, came to form the sextet as it stands today. Then their local community became a global one as they promptly skipped town and wandered the continents searching for influence and education.
“People hold on to their college and day jobs and say, ‘I wish I could go on tour and travel but I can’t,’ and we just went and did it,” says Marshall. “We essentially volunteered to not see any money for four years, not live anywhere, only play music, never get a job, never do this, never do that, and we have forced it to work. We don’t have a mortgage or children; we sacrificed on it, and gambled.”
The gamble paid off, it seems, and Nona maintains that the band are content with their nomadic life. “The body and mind can’t be stagnant,” she attests. “We meet so many amazing people on the road and get to hear so many bands that we certainly wouldn’t get to hear if we had stayed home.”
Experience and a sense of spiritual freedom weigh heavily on their second album Wild Go (debut The Snow Magic was released in 2008, also on Supply And Demand Music) a breathtaking mix of pop, southern swing, traditional American roots music, chamber folk and Eastern European sounds. It’s an esoteric blend of influences gathered like kitsch souvenirs, only to be arranged to form a singular, evocative whole.
“We’re bigger hippies than we appear,” says Marshall. “We just tend not to dress and act like it.” Is that why you, Nona and cellist Jonathan Kaiser appear naked on the front cover of the album?
“I think the meanings are layered and open to interpretation and I appreciate that,” he responds. “I like that it is revealing and intimate, but not too much so. I know people see it as daring and I also appreciate that, but I don’t see it myself. I think we bare a lot more than that in our music.”