Darlings of Irish music

Musing about musical blueprints, working with an all-time great and Chicken Nuggets, Gary Harding of Dublin based group Darling speaks to Stephen LarkinCurly haired, casual and loose, Gary Harding, one half of the unique song writing team that makes up Darling, doesn’t let on that he’s in a band on the tip of making it. Harding, along with James McGuire, formed Darling following the end of their previous band The Kinetiks, and ever since the two have been hard at work refining their song writing talents.Playing around the Dublin music scene seems to have helped the duo suss out a direction that they wanted to go in. “Once we had finished with The Kinetiks, we said that there were bits of that we thought were great and other bits we weren’t so keen on. So, let’s just do all the stuff we enjoyed out of that” says Harding.“Definitely being in bands and travelling around picking up cool little bits and bobs around the place lets you know you’re on the right track. Like, we knew we had something, it was just about trying to refine it as much as we possibly could for it to be as good as it possibly could.”Taking that on board, they set up shop in north Dublin and started to learn from the masters. “Anyone from Burt Bacharach to Julian Casablancas and everyone in between,” Harding explains.“[We] critically listened to stuff, the albums that we love and try and figure out why we liked them so much and what was it about them that made them like so appealing to us. Was it the chorus? Was it the verses? Was it the riffs, the style, the approach or the sound of it? We just went through it with a toothcomb.”With all that in mind, the two went about writing songs, trying to find the right direction. About ‘Echoes’, their first single and also one of their demos. Harding says, “’Echoes’ was the first time we sat back and were like ‘Yeah this is what we wanna do.’ Big pop songs, huge choruses like something you could imagine people in a field going ‘Echoes!’ that sort of thing.”Their demos caught the attention of Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Jeff Beck producer Stephen Lipson, who took the band over to England to record their EP. “He definitely gave us confidence. The stuff we did ourselves we didn’t really re-record a lot of it, it was more just him sprinkling a bit of magic on it.“He’s great at adding a percussion element or a little bit of synth or a splash of electronics here and there. We went to him because we wanted him to bring something to the table, we didn’t want to just go over and get a fancier sounding recording of what we had, we wanted something else to happen.”With their first single ‘Echoes’ released last October and their latest single, ‘Sailing Awaygoing to radio this week, it’s hard to imagine that the band didn’t exist a little over a year ago.“We spent a long time behind the scenes working away, getting the live band together and figuring out every aspect of what we wanna be, kind of how we wanted to be portrayed. So we’ve done a lot of the donkey work,” says Harding. “We said to ourselves, ‘Once the first EP comes out its all guns blazing and don’t hold back, just go for it’. So that’s what we’ve done.”As a former UCD student, Harding remembers his time with fondness, especially the student bar. “I remember seeing a lot of tribute bands and that kinda stuff. Don’t think I saw anyone decent, well probably Republic of Loose, those kinda bands. But it was a good spot, the food was nice. You could get like your chicken nuggets and chips for a fiver like Happy Days.”Harding also remembers returning to play the bar. “I was probably two or three years out of there. I think we played with the Blizzards, I don’t know what it was for. Some student night or something, but it was good fun. Playing for students is always great craic.”In the meantime, Darling have their eyes on upcoming shows. “The main one we’re working towards at the minute is in the Academy this February”.As a band now fully recovered and moved on from their last creative venture, Darling has really pushed all they can and it’s paying off dividends for them. They are fully on their way to becoming the darlings of the Irish top tier.Darling play the Academy 2 on the 7th of February. Tickets are available from ticketmaster.ie