Doing Time in Darwin's Waiting Room
by Dave Schwartz
Photos Courtesy of Darwin's WaitingRoom
The life of a writer can easily be described as "hurry up and wait." It's the nature of the beast that I arrived at this interview on time, but most of the band had been detained doing press at another location. I have become accustomed to this inconvenience and found it an opportunity to make small talk. With a band named Darwin's Waiting Room (a slang term associated with the stereotypical image of the South as a place populated by the slow and backward), I wasn't sure what I had gotten myself into. I only had their new CD, "Orphan," in my hands for a few short days, but that was long enough for it to find a place in my daily music rotation. It is a great CD, sonically pure and filled with an unexpected depth, still it wasn't enough to the offer the insight I wanted to fully understand this band. As I waited in front of the Troubadour, I knew that, as in all cases, time would be my teacher and it wasn't long before I met a friendly face and my first contact with the band.
Joe Perrone, Darwin's drummer apologized, "Hey, I'm really sorry about making you wait." Laughing he continued, "But they never let us do the interview!"
"I feel your pain my friend!" I replied. "And I'm never going to write America's next great novel either, but I can live with that."
Since I traded in my bass guitar for a pen I haven't seen much of the spotlight, but it's been a fair trade nonetheless.
About that time, the missing members of Darwin, guitarist, Eddie the Kydd, bassist, Alex Cando, lead vocalists, Grimm and Jabe make their appearance. For a moment we debate doing the interview inside the Troubadour, where it's better than 100 degrees, or at an alternate location. Finally we settled on the spacious confines of the tour VAN (yes I said van!) where I sat down with Grimm and Jabe.
"Welcome to our van," Jabe opens.
Is this really the way you're touring?
Smiling Grimm replies, "Yes, this is it. We're touring on a budget!"
I half anticipated that the big bus across the street was yours.
"No!" Grimm continues, "That belongs to Simon Says. We are pretty grounded individuals here. This is called paying your dues. This couldn't exactly be the 'Short End of the Stick' tour if we had a bus. We would spend our days complaining, 'Hey this fucking tour sucks' if we were on a bus. You know a primo XL2 with a kitchen, shower, bathroom and DVD. We would all be saying 'Hey this tour sucks ass!'"
I guess it comes down to having way too much time on your hands, so all you have left to do is complain.
Laughing Grimm agrees, "Yes, I don't know how we would survive with only one microwave! Or what if we ran out of videos?"
Sarcasm is an old friend and I must say that I admire the band's perspective. There is an honesty that had become immediately apparent. Well it's fair to say that the ice has been broken and it's time I exercise their intellect with all those grueling questions that rock reporters love to ask.
You started out in Miami. What's the scene like?
Jabe begins, "It's amazing!"
"The scene is underground," Grimm picks up. "It's very word of mouth, unlike LA where there is tons of clubs and the Strip and there is always live music every night and top-notch bands playing. In Miami there are no clubs. The clubs are really warehouses and people often have house parties. It's very underground, but there is a lot of talent down there. There are amazing musicians and a lot of support."
It must be difficult to get the word out for your band.
"Not really actually." Jabe continues, "We go to a lot of the high schools, we have friends that come to the shows and once you put a show together and it's good the people tend to tell their friends. The underground scene is very cohesive so it's not so bad. Actually it's pretty easy."
Grimm maintains, "We have a pretty good street team and everybody is very supportive of everyone else. I believe that the way we helped build up the scene was to work with other bands in our genre. We combined efforts with bands like Nonpoint and others in South Florida that are signed. I believe we were successful because we worked together and had each other's backs. Darwin is from Miami and Nonpoint is from Ft. Lauderdale, so we incorporated our followings by trading shows. One of the smartest things we did was hook up with a band out of St. Petersburg called Cross Breed. They're on Artimus records and have a huge following in St. Pete and we have a pretty good size following in Miami, so we traded shows. They came down and played in Miami and the kids loved them and we got the same treatment in St. Petersburg. That's how we established much of our following there. It's all about community and that's the kind of band we are. We are a very family-oriented band."
Do you consider yourselves to be another one of those 10 year "overnight success" stories or did this happen relatively quickly for you?
"It took us a really long time to find the missing piece," Jabe explains. "For us, it was the guitarist. We had been through three or four different guitarists and we had decided long ago that we weren't going to settle for a nice guy who didn't play well or a great player that was a dick. So once we found Eddie, everything just kind of fit and the puzzle was complete we moved forward from there. That full year was amazing for us, we wrote a bunch of songs, played out, gathered a following, got a manager, got a record deal and recorded an album all in one year."
That's blazing. That's amazingly quick.
"Yes, we've been very lucky," Grimm agrees. "I mean this isn't the first band that we've ever been in, we've all had history with other bands. But the culmination of all the hard work basically started January 1st, 2000."
You often hear stories of these two members being in this band for five years and people knowing each other but never really connecting.
"Oh absolutely. Jabe had history with Joe, our drummer, and I had history with Joe too," says Grimm. "Joe and I had history with Eddie our guitarist. We've known Alex because he was prevalent in the Miami music scene. He had done a lot of the same shows that we were going to so we all kind of knew each other and it all made sense that we work together and it clicked! That bond was there."
I would like to ask about the Latin influence in the South Florida area. You mentioned Nonpoint earlier and I know that you both shared a producer, Jason Bieler, and from the opposite perspective, a good example would be Puya. Did you feel a need to reach out to the Latin audience much like Nonpoint has incorporated a couple of Spanish language tracks on their latest CD and Puya doing the English language tracks on their new CD?
Jabe thinks for a moment and then answers, "We're not really about that. We think that it is a really good idea and we give kudos to Nonpoint and Puya for expressing themselves and taking pride in their origins. But even though we come from Miami, with the exception of Joe, none of us are natives of the Miami area. So really our sound comes from our hearts and the society we live in rather than the cultural background of Miami."
Echoing Jabe's response, Grimm adds, "I think the reason that Nonpoint and Puya have incorporated the Latin influence in their music is mainly because of their cultural background and their heritage. I know that members of both bands are from Puerto Rico and that's where it stems from; I don't think it has much to do with Miami. I believe that music is universal and that it doesn't matter which language you're speaking in. Grooves are grooves, beats are beats and emotion is emotion and it really doesn't matter which language it is in. The communication is important, not the language."
"Orphan" was released July 24th and you decided to do a pre-release tour. Was this to generate an early buzz or were you just trying to spread the wings a bit?
Smiling Jabe replies, "The most important thing that I think we are accomplishing with this tour is to really meet all the kids that have been helping us through Streetwise (www.bestreetwise.com), through our street team. To really bond with them and get a chance to meet them because we're not about having a group of people and just paying them to give our samplers and just drop them off and not know who they are. We are all about going out there and meeting everybody and having diner and parties with them. We are truly enjoying all these new friends that we are making. This is very important for us. Before this tour, we had never been west of Birmingham, Alabama. This is a great opportunity to not only see the country, but also to meet people who have been Darwin fans for a long time but could only see us through our Web site."
"We are a band that prides itself on the family vibe," Grimm agrees. "This is community and we want to develop a 'one' with everyone. It's great to be able to meet people who love to listen to the music and to develop a family vibe throughout the states. We really have never had this opportunity before now and this tour has been great for that. We get up in the morning and we're so thankful that we get to play music. To be able to travel and to do all the things that we get to do every single day of the week is something that we look forward to. We are not a band that likes to stagnate. We don't want to sit and wait and do nothing. We would rather go out and do these shows."
"That's why MCA has been so amazing," Jabe continues. "Most bands don't get the opportunity that we have had to go out and tour with bands like Papa Roach and Alien Ant Farm. Most bands have to sit home until they can generate record sales and we have been the exact opposite. MCA has not only given us the freedom to write the album that we have always wanted to write and not to place limitations on us, but has also given us the opportunity to go out there and tour."
That leads us right into my next question, "Orphan" is a major label release, did you consider taking the indie route to get a little more of that long rumored personal attention? I mean, at a big label it is sometimes easy for a new band to get lost in a "nest" filled with other birds chirping.
"The truth is that at MCA it doesn't get more personal," Jabe explains. "Because if you go over to the MCA building here in Los Angeles, you go to each floor and everybody knows each other. Their R&B department talks to the rock department, so it's really a family vibe and, like Grimm has said, we're a family band, so we wanted to go with a family type of label. And MCA is definitely the choice for us."
Grimm was quick to agree, "We've got no complaints whatsoever, quite the opposite. Both indie and major labels approached us and we wanted what would be best for us. We wanted a label that could nurture us and would allow us to be artistic, give us freedom and allow us to be us. We're not like other bands, we don't have a straightforward rock sound; we incorporate many styles of music and it's different, it's odd. Sometimes we can catch you off guard and we want a label that can allow us to do that. MCA has done that for us 100 percent by giving us room to breathe and spread our wings and we appreciate that. They never wanted us to just be a standard rock band. They didn't have that intention when they signed us.
"That's the first thing our A/R agent said to us when we went into the studio," Jabe continues. "He said 'I really want you to concentrate on making the album inside you. Don't think about one thing being more commercial than something else.' They signed us for the music that they heard at our shows."
You know there has only been a few bands that have been able to own that passport that allows them to travel from album to album being completely different. For these bands, the listener doesn't have a clue what the next album is going to be about.
"Oh yeah, the U2s and the Radioheads," Grimm agrees. "I think that is great. You should let your heart and soul wander and make the music that moves you. There is no reason to hold back and say 'Hey we're a rock band, we can only make rock songs'. You do what you feel in your heart is right and if it's real and has emotion other people will feel it no matter what style it is."
You referred to the recording of "Orphan" as "an awesome and stressful experience". Why is that?
Laughing, Jabe answers, "I think the first time is always stressful. I don't think I need to say much more than that!"
I could understand his reply. I have spent sometime in the studio myself and sometimes you just want to scream!
"It's awesome because we were given the gift to be able to record in an amazing studio with a producer that is very close to us and knows the band well and knows what to capture from each individual member of the band," Grim says. "It's awesome to be able to make the album, but it's stressful that we have five entities combining their thoughts. Everyone had ideas as to what the music should sound like and what they wanted from the recordings and as always-conflicting opinions when it came to the creative process. Overall we are all united, we all have the same idea of what we want this album to be."
As you know the difficulty of recording with a band is, in your case, five different entities all hearing different things relative to their position standing on a stage. The bass player hears this and the guitar player hears that and when they get into the studio they naturally want to hear whatever they are used to hearing. And that's where a good producer comes in, he is able to hear all the inputs, filter through and find the nugget of what the song is really all about.
"The coolest thing about Jason is that he's not a dictator. He was more like a diplomat," Jabe says. "He took everyone's opinion and formed a sound that we all wanted instead of just saying 'This is what I think you should sound like'."
Have you found that your fans understand what you're singing about? Do they understand the stories you are telling?
Smiling Jabe replies, "Absolutely."
"I totally agree with that," Grimm acknowledges. "But it's hard in the live aspect. It's hard for someone to understand all the lyrics because some of it comes at you fast and not every venue has the greatest sound system."
"That's why we are so excited about the album coming out," Jabe states. "It's recorded in a format where people can hear all the words. It's exciting."
Many of your songs take on a personal flavor, you make commentaries on life and your personal experiences. Is this therapeutic or are you reaching out to your listeners?
Somewhat introspectively Grimm replies, "It's a little of both. We definitely want to get our message out there but not in a preachy kind of way. We are speaking from our hearts and telling people what we think. It's definitely therapeutic. We had a two week break before we started the 'Short End of the Stick' tour and it was brutal. We were dying to get on the road; we don't want to go home. I miss my cat but that's about it. We want to get out and be able to play. We want to do this as long as possible. We are a band that, well our song 'Live for the Moment,' that's what this is all about."
Your mantra is "evolve or dissolve," that's a fairly dramatic statement and one from the heart undoubtedly.
"Yes and it is very true," Jabe says. "When you're always in one place and doing the same routine you can't grow as a person. You stagnate and remain in that stale stagnant place. I think it's necessary to grow as a person, to grow as a society and to trigger that by change."
Yes, but this is also a statement of mortality. Most bands don't have this realization, most people in your position are out on tour and they are thinking that they will be doing this 10, 12, 15 years from now. But in most cases they won't.
"And perhaps that's because they didn't grow," Jabe responds.
"We don't know what we will be doing," Grimm picks up. "We have all spoken and we would love to have the kind of lengthy career that U2 has had. They started off and their earlier work was very rock-based. They were amazing songs and watching them go like from the 'Boy' album to 'Pop!', I mean, nobody saw that coming! The day we established this band and the philosophy behind the band, we wanted it to be so we had room to grow. We feel we can grow, we can express ourselves in different ways; we don't have to stick to a certain style. Its not like we're a punk band and we always have to play punk. We can go anywhere and pretty much do anything. This album is an introduction to Darwin's Waiting Room and, although we haven't been around that long, we have a lot of music left in us, a lot of things left to say and a lot of things that need to get out. We hope to have the opportunity and the forum to do that."
In the course of 30 minutes I was lucky enough to witness all the emotions of Darwin's Waiting Room. From whimsical to heartfelt, there was always an underlying foundation of sincerity and honesty. I was impressed with the awareness I saw in these musicians' eyes and their willingness to address the challenges of a life on the road. See this group; buy this CD-- you may see yourself in the lyrics of this little band out of Florida.
Check out "Darwin's" Web site http://www.darwinswaitingroom.com
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