With a rallying cry that's half "yee-haw" and half "gabba gabba hey," Murfreesboro, Tenn.’s Those Darlins have burst onto the national scene, garnering widespread praise for their energetic reinvention of the honky-tonk spirit. Singing jangly ballads about drinking, heartache, and greasy skillets, Those Darlins' gritty, twangy punk has a lot more in common with the melancholic heroes of old-time country than the polished pop stars Nashville produces these days. The trio of true Southern girls (its members hail from South Carolina, Kentucky, and Virginia) the Darlins started off as a pseudo-novelty act, clogging in poofy dresses while covering country standards. Though they've since left the clogging and costumes behind, Those Darlins are still known for putting on a raucous live show, which they’ll do Sunday, Nov. 29, at the Triple Rock. The A.V. Club sat down to shoot the shit with Nikki Darlin—the so-called "wild one"—about their hard-partyin’ reputation, why they ditched the clogs, what not to say to them after their shows, and why they don’t want to talk about the weirdest place they’ve ever found a tick.
The A.V. Club: How are you doing today?
Nikki Darlin: Fucking hung over as shit.
AVC: So that hard-drinking, hard-partying reputation is true?
ND: I get into my share of trouble. We don't do it every single night. I did last night, really hard. The other day I woke up in a hotel room that wasn't mine with a note on my chest. Alone.
AVC: What did the note say?
ND: It said, "Dear Nikki, have a wonderful tour. Love, Jared." The Black Lips ended up carrying me to their room because I couldn't find mine and I fell asleep at the bar. Not my best moment ever.
AVC: Those Darlins started off playing covers while clogging. What happened to the clogging?
ND: We used to not have a drummer, so it was our percussion. We stopped doing it when I broke my toe running through the house, wasted. I ran through the music room and smashed my toe into four amps, like one after another. Then I was like, "I don't feel like doing this anymore." It's kind of hokey and goofy. Once we went into the studio and started recording, we were able to have our producer, Jeff Curtin, play drums with us. There's clogging on the recordings, actually, but it sounds like crazy hand-clapping. It doesn't translate well.
AVC: Jeff Curtin is most famous for doing Vampire Weekend's record, which seems like an odd match. How did you end up working with him?
ND: J.T. [Those Darlins’ manager] was like, "I think it would be great if you girls worked with him." And we were like, "Why the fuck are we going to go to New York City?" Then we met Jeff and talked about ideas, and he was really receptive. We made him mix CDs and were like, "We like this about these recordings." We talked a lot about recording ideas before we ever recorded with him.
AVC: What was on the CDs?
ND: Oh God, I don't even remember. I know we listened to that tape a million times when we were staying with him and had dance parties to it late at night. I really love Nick Lowe, so some of that comes across on the record. A lot of Nick Lowe, Wreckless Eric, some girl group stuff. Probably The Shangri-Las or something.
AVC: Do you consider yourselves a feminist band?
ND: It's not that we're not feminists, but none of our songs are political. We were raised by badass women. It's just who we are. That upbringing makes you more self-sufficient. It really depends on who we're touring with. When we toured with Dan Auerbach, it was all these dudes coming up to us after the show being like, "Holy shit! I usually don't like opening bands, but you guys were amazing. I was like, 'Oh great, another fucking girl group, they're going to sing songs about their periods and crying and shit like that,' but then you went up there, and you guys could actually play. That was fucking awesome. Can I get your autograph?" And I'm just like, "Fuck you. That's stupid. No."
AVC: You guys come off as pretty sarcastic in a lot of your interviews. Are those just your natural personalities?
ND: We got really bored doing e-mail interviews, so we make up lies for them. Getting interviewed so much, you gotta keep your answers interesting or you seem like you're bored and don't give a shit. I fucking hate getting asked how we met, ’cause it doesn't even matter. I'm tired of telling those stories. This guy just interviewed us and one of his questions was, "What's the weirdest place you've ever had a tick?" And I was like, "I don't want to fucking tell you that, you creepy old man." Then he was like, "Well, let me tell you my story… " And I'm like, "I don't want to know about a tick in your dick hole."
AVC: You got to show Samantha Brown around Nashville for the Travel Channel recently. What was that like?
ND: It was so weird. We told them, "If you're coming to Nashville, we want to take you to all these dive-y bars—the cool, underground part of Nashville. Not the strip." But that's what we did. We played at the strip, and she would ask us questions like, "So, you think if you're able to play down here, does that mean you've made it?" And we were just like, "Uhhh… If you want to believe that? But, no, these are bar musicians. They play traditional country songs." Nobody plays original songs down there. It was weird that she made the assumption that we were a band like that. The first day we did the shooting, Jessi had to go to the hospital because she got electrocuted really badly. We were at Ernest Tubb's record store. It was this old vintage mic and the grounding was fucked. Jessi had her guitar on, and she went to move the microphone and got shocked really bad.
AVC: What are your general thoughts on the Nashville scene? Do you fit in there?
ND: I think it's crap. I don't even think it’s country music. It's pop music with a little bit of a twang in their vocals and maybe a fiddle playing in the background. That whole corporate-Nashville-country shit now is not even close to country music.