Those Darlins blur the finish line
Nashville trio looks toward future endeavors
In December 2015, Those Darlins announced that a modest string of shows slated for the new year may be their last. It came as bittersweet news from the hard-partying Nashville-based trio, but it's not the end. The group's duel singer/guitarists Jessi Zazu and Nikki Kvarnes are visual artists as well as songwriters thriving on their own right. "We've been a band for so long," Kvarnes says. "It's wise to take a break from it and do what we truly want to do."
Those Darlins' origins date back nearly a decade, when Kvarnes and Zazu met a girls rock camp. The two became roommates in Murfreesboro, Tenn., linking up with original bassist Kelley Anderson and playing country covers and original songs. In 2009, they released a self-titled debut via their self-run Oh Wow Dang Records. Featuring 12 tracks of poetic sass, Those Darlins hit home with live favorites such as "Red Light Love." With the album's second song, "Wild One," Those Darlins found an anthem: "If you don't want a wild one/quit hanging around with me," they sing.
From the beginning, their live shows held the energy of a late-night house party with a Southern-fried power pop soundtrack. Weathering two more full-lengths and a few member rotations — drummer Linwood Regensburg joined, while Anderson left the band following 2011's sophomore LP, Screws Get Loose — Those Darlins evolved between each record without forfeiting its raucous vibe on stage. Adrian Barrera of Atlanta garage rockers Barreracudas even joined for a stint playing bass.
"One thing that really engages me, seeing a good rapport with bandmates on stage, enjoying each other genuinely, and it not being a showy show," Kvarnes says. "We're just joking around. We like each other ... I think."
The development of Kvarnes and Zazu as individual songwriters on 2013's Blur the Line hints at a band on the verge of outgrowing itself. The pair stated in interviews surrounding the release that their songwriting for the record had been mostly solitary: Kvarnes with numbers such as the hard-rocking "In the Wilderness," Zazu with the hazy doo-wop of "That Man." But when Kvarnes talks about growing apart, the conversation hangs on Those Darlins' growth as a unit. "All of our records are really different from one another, and we take a good amount of time in between making records," Kvarnes says.
As growth and change find a home in their individual pursuits, Kvarnes hints that the band might be teasing at their upcoming farewell shows. Still, they're loyal to the fans that built them: As a parting gift, they recorded a studio version of "Female Trouble," a Divine song from the John Waters film of the same name. "After making the decision to take a break, we were like, 'This would be a good song to end on,'" Kvarnes says. "Female Trouble was one of those movies that me and Jessi watched together. I think I was the first person to play it for her, and we would just quote it all the time."
They're also collecting requests for favorite songs and shout-outs via social media, ensuring their farewell in every city has a shot at being their most memorable show yet. "I want everyone in the audience to walk away with that feeling," Kvarnes says.
And that's her goal with this band, and with all of their separate endeavors, whatever they may be.