The Darkness: We're not "trying to out-Coldplay the Coldplay band"

In the summer of 2003, the Darkness' eventual quadruple-platinum seller Permission to Land had just been released. Before anyone knew quite what to think about it, they believed in a thing encompassing skintight spandex jumpsuits, Ziggy Stardust, and Freddie Mercury -- or just love. Although Justin Hawkins' high-pitched falsetto throughout "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" seemed to be something we could hold onto forever, 2005's One Way Ticket to Hell... And Back proved prophetic for the band's mid-aughts destruction.  

This past Super Bowl Sunday, however, the Darkness returned via a Samsung tablet commercial, and "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" is back! Their name hasn't been forgotten, and neither have the lyrics to that damned song. They've embarked on a U.S. tour, and Gimme Noise spoke with Hawkins prior to their show at First Avenue on Sunday.
Gimme Noise: Who is the master of your tongue-in-cheek humor?

Justin Hawkins: Yeah, I've seen a few bands that have tight trousers and do guitar rock and, I know what you're saying because what I felt was that there was a certain earnestness about the band I'm talking about and I sort of realized that, that is what makes us different in some ways, but I wouldn't be able to identify any one member as the master of it.

Because it has to make us all laugh and cry in equal measures before we do it and that's why we don't do an album a year because collectively we have to all feel really confident about everything we do. So and it has to take that particular box that you've just mentioned there so I think we're all masters of it. I mean, we've all kind of had very similar upbringings and three of us are from the same town and, you know, we all hit a point in our lives where we thought well, there's no point in trying to out-Radiohead, Radiohead.

There's no point in trying to out-Coldplay the Coldplay band and there's no point in trying to do battle with bands that are younger and better-looking than us, you know, so we might as well do what we like, because when I got to 25 I thought it was game over from there. I saw a lot of people coming into the music scene who were 18 and making me feel old, so at that point you just got to do what, true to what turns you on, and you have to sort of just do your thing and forget about everybody else. We all hit that point at the same time and decided to do Darkness.

This is going to be your first U.S. tour since 2004. Do you notice any big differences between European audiences and U.S. audiences?

Well historically looking back I just remember there being a lot more of the kind of mania. Is mania the right word? I don't know, our fondest memories of audiences is from the States. I mean, there's one time in San Diego and somebody sitting there, they left me all (child up) on the stage and then we sang with him for a bit and then put him out on the crowd to surf back to the back of the auditorium and then home again.

And I'm going hoping that he'll be there actually. I wonder how old he'll be now. He must be probably a teenager. He's probably old enough to make his own decisions now. I wonder if he'll opt to come and see us again so yeah, I mean, I just remember it feeling a lot realer and it kind of being overwhelmed by it in (certain times) and thinking it was exactly why we were kind of -- we wanted to do it -- in the first place. You know, we always hoped that America would be a great place for us and on that first tour, it felt like it was going to be, you know?

What do you know now that's going to keep The Darkness from the kind of implosion that did happen in '04, '05?

Yes, I think that the whole "life's too short" thing is a good lesson, really. There's a lot of stuff that we were getting bogged down in that was just not worth it. When you have a simple existence and it's just about music, then you do great work. And I'm sure that's the same for everybody. The minute you start trying to balance other factors it just becomes unmanageable. So for me, I kind of, it's not an ascetic life but it's kind of -- it is pretty simple. It's a little house near my parents, near the sea, my girlfriend, the dogs, cats. And I just write songs, you know, and keep myself in shape. And that's it, you know. That's my life. I think I've done enough living now to write the next couple of albums. I'll start living again when I've run out of songs.

The Darkness. With Foxy Shazam and Crown Jewel Defense. 18+, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, February 12 at First Avenue Mainroom. Click here.

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