We caught up with one of our tips for this year, the Bristol trio Candy Darling, a dark visceral punky rock band with a cinematic noir-ish underbelly that permeates both their brutal noise moments and the grandeur of their tragic ballads. We got the low-down from their main lady singer Emily Breeze:
Tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Emily Breeze, I sing and play guitar in Candy Darling with Rob Norbury (guitar) and Adam Coombs (Synth/Production.)
Where does the name Candy Darling come from?
For the uninitiated, Candy Darling was born from James Lawrence Slattery, an early obsession with Hollywood idols and desire to transcend the ordinary led to James’s transformation into Candy Darling – Warhol superstar, muse to the glitterati, and Queen of the downtown-demi-monde. She died aged 29 of leukaemia thought to be induced by a fatal batch of hormone pills. Peter Hujar’s photograph (which was used for Antony and the Johnsons I Am A Bird Now album cover) depicts her luminous beauty as she lay dying – her dreams of Hollywood stardom unfulfilled, but her glamour undiminished. Candy Darling’s myth is one of glamour, transformation and tragedy. These themes appeal to me as a songwriter and we were looking for a name which had feminine, sensual overtones to offset the abrasive side to our sound.
You have quite a striking visual representation – from your look to your quite Lynchian artwork – are there themes behind these?
I didn’t start making music until I was in my early 20s; before that I was passionate about visual art so I use the band as a vehicle to express that side of myself. I waste hours trawling the internet and hoarding images which I save to Pinterest and as you can see, Candy Darling’s aesthetic is a lurid, twilight world, imbued with a cold, creeping sexuality. This stems, in part, from the vulgar glamour of 1980s fashion photography and advertising. From the Silk Cut advertising campaign to Helmut Newton‘s depictions of female sexuality or airbrushed V.H.S. covers for erotic thrillers and action films. I love how hollow and cheap that period’s depictions of luxury and sophistication seem in retrospect, and I wanted to channel this sense of synthetic sensuality and tawdry glamour into our style. We have been lucky enough to work two amazing Bristol artists who have brought this into being – Chris Nichols who did our single artwork, and film-maker James Hankins who is currently editing a video for ‘Going Straight’. I can’t recommend these guys enough, hire them!
Who or what influences you musically and lyrically?
The main thrust of our musical influence is drawn from late 1960’s and early 1970’s New York, where artists such as The Velvet Underground, Suicide, Patti Smith and The Stooges were deconstructing and subverting the classic rock format. We also draw on 1980s post-punk and shoegaze bands such as The Birthday Party and The Jesus and Mary Chain. The reverb-heavy electronic drums and synths relate to a long-held fascination with 1980s end-of-the-disco tearjerkers such as ‘Drive’ by The Cars, ‘More Than This’ by Roxy Music and ‘I’m Not In Love’ by 10cc. Lyrically, I would say I am clawing at the coattails of Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, and, of course, Bob Dylan. I also love – and often reference/rip off – French Symbolist poets Baudelaire and Rimbaud alongside Raymond Carver, F. Scott Fitgerald, Pablo Neruda, Lorca and Bret Easton Ellis.
How does the writing process work?
The writing process usually begins with Rob and I wrestling with some chords and a rudimentary drum beat. I then scour my barren imagination for some words and we take our offering to Adam, whereupon he adds some musical sophistication and production skills to the mix. It usually takes weeks for us to beat a new song into submission. As a three-piece with static drums it requires a high level of focus, and ruthless edits and rewrites to get a song to the stage where the content and arrangement are as tight and dynamic as we want it to be. Having spent my previous years as a solo writer, it is thrilling for me to co-write with Rob and Adam; we are constantly pushing against the limitations of our ideas, skills and equipment. It’s never easy, but it’s not supposed to be.
What else do you do besides making music?
We all work in education; we are meddling with the minds of your children.
Tell us more about the brutal noise punch of upcoming single ‘Going Straight’ and the B-side ‘Waves.’ Is that latest single indicative of what’s to come or do you have something else up your sleeves?
‘Going Straight’ is about hollow promises and hedonism. We deliberately reigned in our predilection towards noise and chaos because we want to support the sentiment of the song. There is a tension between warm human sounds (reverb-heavy guitar, Hammond organ and vocals) and the cold, artificial sounds (synthetic strings, guitar fuzz and drum machine) which I think reflects the narrative and hopefully draws the listener into our world without bludgeoning them – that comes later. It would be churlish to deny our influences (‘Heroin’ by The Velvet Underground and ‘Just Like Honey’ by The Jesus and Mary Chain.) Those two bands created music which is lyrically driven but also sonically adventurous and this is a template which we find inspiring. I recently read an interview with Lias Saoudi from Fat White Family who, when challenged about drawing on past influences replied – “The last 50 years of music is incredible, why shouldn’t we tuck into that and fuck about with it?” In the same vein, we are tapping into the rich history of rock and roll, and offering up our personal bastardised version. In contrast, b-side ‘Waves’ is a brutal soundscape based on a five-note bass cycle. The word ‘waves’ is repeated 25 times throughout this song, intended as a hypnotic mantra to represent an overwhelming human experience – love, sex, depression, intoxication and death. It is the first song Rob and I wrote together and in this sense it represents the genesis of the band. Both songs have benefited enormously from Adam’s ace production skills, and David Francolini, who gave us file upon file of amazing drum takes to work with. the genesis of the band.
Each of the four songs you have released to the public thus far have been quite different yet no less impactful. Is it your intention to show the breadth of Candy Darling’s sound?
I think there are two sides to our sound – half ‘noirish grand tragedy’ and half ‘brutal noise-punch’ as you so succinctly summed us up. This reflects a shared love for obliterating dissonant layers of noise and also a love for lyricism, songcraft and sadness. I hope there is a sense of continuity and cohesion between the songs. For me, the scope and breadth of what we can create when we get in a room together is what makes this band so exciting and we would all die of boredom if we stuck to a rigid format.
What bands writers and artists are exciting you right now?
New bands I love are Fat White Family, Perfume Genius and Sharon Van Etten. Bristol also has some great stuff going on. Check out Scarlet Rascal, Idles, Kitchenettes, Mike Crawford, John E Vistic, Rita Lynch, Nasty Little Lonely, Howlin’ Lord, Dynamite Pussy Club and Oh The Guilt to name a few. With regards to literature, see above.
Going Straight and Temples have this wonderfully noirish grand tragedy about them. Do you like to create songs that could soundtrack an imaginary movie?
Getting out of bed in the morning has a noirish grand tragedy to me; in fact everything does. For me, this is the point of rock and roll – to provide an antidote to the numbing disappointment and acceptance of adult life. It should create a platform for performer and listener alike to construct a grand myth of their own existence, where feelings of sorrow, ennui, fear, rage and most of all desire are acknowledged and elevated to mythical proportions. Musically, I think they soundtrack element has a lot to do with Adam and Rob’s skills and musicians; they create the drama by laying down beautiful and brutal layers of noise which are a rare pleasure to sing alongside.
Do you have any tours shows coming up that you would like to tell our readers about?
Yes. Our Bristol single launch will be at The Fleece 24th May with John E Vistic, Kitchenettes and Oh The Guilt. The Bath launch will be 26th June with Downward, and with Oh The Guilt at the Royal Oak London launch.
What can we expect from Candy Darling in the future?
We are going to start recording our debut album this summer, then we will begin the vulgar business of whoring it out to all and sundry.