Having burnt a trail across Sydney’s music scene, Dark Bells, and their gutty shoe-gaze, have had local audiences drooling over them in their short time together.
Made up of guitarist and singer Teniel Throsso (Diamondback Rattler), bassist Ash Moss (Mercy Arms) and drummer Simon Parker (Lost Valentinos) between the three of them they have plenty of experience with playing the music game, experience which has taught them to take it easy.
Rather than mounting an onslaught of promotion in an effort to grab attention, Dark Bells instead let their music and their shows speak for themselves. Uncompromising in their dedication to their transient and visceral aesthetic, both in terms of music and performance, it hasn’t taken long, just under a year for the band to develop a loyal following, routinely drawing crowds to their regular shows.
Keeping up a relentless approach to performing, the band will be supporting Killed 2 Birds at the Sandringham Hotel on January 14th. We caught up with bass lord Ash to recap their last year and gain some insight into what the next may hold.
Music Feeds: You guys have had a pretty strong first year, considering you’ve all played with other bands before, how has this compared? Are you approaching it differently and if so how?
Ash Moss: I think, like with our other bands in the past it has just taken off on it’s own, in that I mean for our very first shows we had to contact promoted nights and venues to start performing and push for it ourselves and then as I recall we did just one show where I think people got what we were doing and started to offer further shows. I also think by that point we actually became what we wanted to be as a group and really took on our own roles within that.
MF: The band seems to have progressed very organically, I haven’t seen any bullshit buzz – just packed rooms – and I can’t really think of any instance when I’ve heard the band talked up by anyone other than fans. Was there a conscious effort there to let the music speak for itself and if so what made you want to take that approach?
AM: It was certainly a conscious effort to “pack out rooms”!!!! and that is our main aim I think alongside pushing our recorded music as far as we can really get it. Compared to any other group I have played with I strongly think this is the most humble one I have ever been a part of. I have always thought from the very beginning we would be a really slow burning group and looking back every little aspect of Dark Bells has not been rushed and truly very humble. Our personalities come through in every way that we play as three members and I don’t think any real big hype would be suited to what we are doing.
MF: The music itself is also, well not laid back, but it’s hardly pushed into your face when you play, rather it unfolds before you? Would you agree? If so is that intentional or just natural?
AM: Well the way we work together is all natural, it is really by working off each other particularly between Teneil’s guitar playing against the bass lines. The guitar is certainly not so in your face and most of the time very innocent which I think is helped by some almost daunting bass guitar parts with the two almost in contrast in feel yet work well together…I hope. Visually I would see our sound as rhythm guitar, bass guitar and lead lines coming equally from both the left and right with drums and vocals coming straight down the centre. This then gives you the opportunity to place or interpret each instrument to where they are meant to be. We also have a keyboard organ running through some effects for feel.
MF: The music hinges on the interplay between the bass which seems to drive the songs and the guitar and vocals that fill in the character and personality around them, how would you describe the relationship between the two of you in terms of writing and performance?
AM: I guess as I said in my last answer guitar and bass cover lead/melody and rhythm with vocals almost being used as another instrument in itself. Of late our drum parts have really taken on a place of their own which is great and brings along almost it’s own melody and feel but really work off particularly what the bass is doing which again I think relates to being “humble” as a group as we work with and around each other.
MF: How does the writing process work, the music seems to be somewhat jam based, am I right?
AM: Not at all, we have our long track He Came in which the second half of the song is completely improvised and the verse to We Are Runaways came from a little jam but most of the parts come from either Teneil or Myself and we pretty much play them in sections until we have the drums parts ready. Then we structure it roughly and come back to finish that part of it with rough vocal parts until it all feels right.
MF: Your performances tend to focus on atmosphere rather than showmanship, why is that?
AM: That is just what we do! it’s nicer…..
MF: You guys have put out some early recordings under the name Demo, can you tell us about it? How was it recorded? Any plans for a release sometime this year?
AM: We did it at Hanging Tree Studios which was just great, our really good friend Tim Dunn did it with us and he is just the smartest guy about when it comes to recording with vintage equipment, he really lets you do what you want to do with the sound recording and mixing which was really well suited particularly for someone as knarkie as myself!!!
We really want to put something out early this year then take the group to Europe. Also we will be working on our lighting and backdrop and have written a bunch of new tracks so we can bring a new set to each crowd we play for so it keeps it exciting each time for us and particularly for you…the crowd!!