Darwin Deez is a figure of fascination to The Seidlers. It was D who first discovered him way back when, as he subscribed to the man’s delightful blend of esoteric indie bleep-rock with such fervour that for a while I thought he’d never listen to anything else. And though the man’s self-titled debut disc, which occupies permanent prime position in the fusty darkness of my brother’s ancient Honda Civic, is certainly a fine piece of work, it never really grabbed me until I saw it in the flesh. It was that fateful festival, when I was dragged along to see the Darwin Deez live experience, that truly made me a convert. For Darwin Smith (yes, he is actually named ‘Darwin’) really knows how to pull an audience in. His effortlessly goofy writing and love of a good hook makes itself known when he combines it with sychronised dancing and shimmying and rapping for over forty-five minutes. And now with his new record, I feel like he’s managed to funnel some of that energy back onto wax.
‘Alice’ is named for an Alice whom I actually know and used to work with. Darwin has spoken publicly about it to NME, among others, and it has made me simultaneously jealous and in awe of someone who can be so incredible that an incredible performer will actually dedicate a song to them. Don’t get me wrong, this happens all the time. I’m sure there’s an actual Cecilia somewhere out there, alongside Ava, Michelle and Clair, too. But it’s so more exciting when you know that girl, and when Deez is singing about Skype and whiskey and swimming on Bondi beach and it all makes complete and utter sense. It helps that ‘Alice’ is a fantastic track full of rich harmonies, bleeping drum samples and about eight levels of wit. Because I do sometimes still operate as an actual journalist, I tracked down the subject of this song to ask her about it. You can read her full correspondence at the end of this post.
To make a song like ‘Alice’, I really feel you have to think laterally, rather than literally. I’ve been getting back into the process of writing music myself lately, and there’s nothing worse than sitting at a keyboard or with a guitar and realising that what you’re banging out is just a paler version of whatever you’ve been hearing or loving your entire life. Darwin Deez sounds only like himself, and his music is never ordinary. ‘Alice’ has a beat that sounds like it was made on the worst Casio ever and then processed in one of the best studios, a jittery, Postal Service-esque electronica-lite thing that’s boosted by squeeging synths and stabs of guitar that really wouldn’t make sense on their own at all but sound glorious in tandem. That spaghetti Western lead line which opens up into the spacey keys in the bridge brings out some of the best lines (“You have monopolised cute”) before that rainbow of voices in the chorus. God, I take that back. I am so jealous right now. Attention Natasha Khan. I’m ready for my recorded close-up.
From: Alice W, February 22, 2:40PM.
Um… Well he came to our office to do a photoshoot – I hadn’t listened to his music until the day of the shoot. When he came in he was so sweet, he made a genuine effort to learn everyone’s names and talk to everyone. The model we put with him was Anja K who was doing one of her first shoots and now she’s like totally famous and hanging out with Terry Richardson and stuff. She was super sweet too.
The shoot was lots of fun – in a way they usually aren’t – and Darwin asked everyone to give ideas and had a whole bunch of his own but suggested them in a totally unassuming fashion. Somehow my Editor had persuaded Nelson’s Beer to ‘sponsor’ the shoot (This meant donate a bunch of beer – for what reason, I have no idea…) and we all got quite festive. After the shoot about ten of us went to dinner, Darwin’s manager Steve left him in our tipsy care – adorably making Deez recite the name of his hotel to check he knew it before he left and taking my phone number like a parent leaving his kid at a sleepover.
At the cheapest Thai restaurant a print magazine can afford, we all ate and drank and I, as I am wont to do,
got bossier and louder more adorable and engaging as the night went on – eventually dragging everyone to a series of bars. By the time we got to The Carlton Club everyone else, due to either their inferior capacity for drink or just good judgment, had left and I remember walking into The Carlton Club thinking how clever I was. Taking Darwin Deez to the hipster haven of Melbourne was like taking Cher to a gay club – I was certain we wouldn’t have to pay for drink all night. And we didn’t. Darwin was the best kind of drinking buddy – he approached a bunch of cute guys telling them I was a famous drummer or manager or something – I forget – and then initiated a game of spin the bottle, engaging most of the people on the balcony at The CC. I ended up making out with one of the boys he scoped for me and he kissed up one of the many adorable hipsterettes that spent the night making eyes at him….
Eventually we went and hung out at his hotel and kissed a bit, but mostly talked, until it was daylight and I left. I think he was playing Summerdayze or one of those festivals later on that same day.
An unlikely friendship grew – I am cynical and sarcastic to the point of my own detriment and he genuinely has no capacity for either. Darwin is the most earnest, considered and thoughtful (the ‘full of thought’ kind of thoughtful) person I’ve ever met. But that doesn’t mean he’s a flake or a wimp. I went through a time of being awful to my boyfriend because I was worried too many pretty girls liked him and Darwin was the only person to straight up tell me to stop being such a fuckhead and get my shit together.
We talked and Skyped most weeks but that, as it always does, faded out to every few months. He’d told me he wrote a song about me ages before but I totally didn’t believe him. Then last year, I was in a tiny town in Argentina and Triple J emailed me for an interview because Darwin had told them all about the Melbournian Alice and the song he’d dedicated to her.
I’ve had other people write songs for or about me, one even made it onto another album but it wasn’t very nice and the experience has always made me feel awkward. What are you even supposed to do when someone sings a song they wrote for you? Where do you look? Do you make eye contact? It always seemed like they were doing I for them, not really for you. Hearing Alice for the first time I reacted in a way I didn’t expect. I was just tickled all the way through – like I had sherbet under my skin and my toes got all curly and excited and I couldn’t stop smiling. It’s just so nice. Obviously it’s nicer than nice but it’s a sweetness I lack the vocabulary to describe. It’s a nice song by a nice person and it just makes me feel really, really…nice.
Darwin Deez – ‘Alice’