INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
In 2009, Hertfordshire brothers Miles Kristian (lead vocals/rhythm guitar), Brett Harland (bass/backing vocals), and Taylor Howell (drums/guitar/backing vocals) got together with their friend Harry Collins (lead guitar/backing vocals) to form Dark Stares.
Since then, the band have been constantly crafting an edgy, stimulating and immersing alternative rock sound influenced by a wide variety of outfits, ranging from The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, to Muse and Royal Blood.
Within three years of the quartet’s formation, they had brought out a successful debut EP, played live with the likes of Enter Shikari and The Darkness, and one of their singles had been chosen by Bono himself as part of a U2 single promo.
Having been three-and-a-half years since the release of third EP, ‘Soul Contract’, the St Albans collective will be bringing out their debut album this May, and they gave me a little insight into its recording process, as well as what can expected from it, when we chatted recently.
How did the band get together?
Well we’ve always been tight-knit, three of us are brothers, and our good family friend Harry has been our mate since we were kids. Our mums were good friends themselves at school, so he’s definitely our honorary bro – we’re all very close.
From where did the name Dark Stares originate?
It kind of came from a TV series called Funnybones, which was a cartoon shown in the mornings for children. It had a memorable theme tune, repeating “dark dark” this and “dark dark” that, one of which was “down the dark dark stairs … some skeletons lived“.
There was a small nod also to a character called Darkstar from the ‘A Song of Dance and Fire’ books, which had also influenced our first ever name (Kalazar), before we settled on Dark Stares.
What would you say was your approach to songwriting?
We’ve always been very inspired by our favourite bands, but during the early days when we used to jam down in a shed, we’d play and play trying to sound like our heroes and develop a ‘big’ or ‘hard’ sound.
It took a while to eventually get the inspiration for songs to come through that felt like our own that had a chorus or riff worth hanging on to.
What influences the band lyrically?
We’ve all contributed lyrics to our songs, there’s usually one main writer from a lyric standpoint, and to be honest, that can really be as diverse as the topic or emotion of a song itself, there’s no main influencer there.
In the autumn of 2012, you unveiled a video for single ‘Bad Machine’, which quickly got over 100,000 YouTube views, and was selected by Bono for U2 single promos. You must have been blown away by all that.
That was a bit surreal. We’d seen ‘Bad Machine’ growing on our YouTube channel and watched the downloads and plays coming in, but when it was used for ‘Invisible’ and such a big band like U2, that was pretty amazing looking back and was a bit strange being in the press for it.
This May, the band will be bringing out their debut album, ‘Darker Days Are Here To Stay’. Why has it taken you nine years to do an album?
We definitely always wanted to release a debut album to an engaged audience, rather than going in cold.
Building an international fan base, however modest, is not easy, and we wanted our fans to be asking and prodding for us to get in the studio and do an album of new material. Doing the EPs has allowed us to build that whilst also developing our sound.
How has the recording process been?
It’s been challenging. We’ve invested in our own studio, building it over the years with gear, so as you’re not time limited, you have to self-motivate and propel yourself through the tracking days. Having the studio now is a great asset for producing our own music and future albums.
And how will the album be different to the three EPs that you’ve released so far?
It’s the best of our last EP, ‘Soul Contract’, developed further with some of our best new material to date. ‘Pedal Pusher’ has been a stand out track so far, and we think there’s some great new songs on there.
The band have played with the likes of Enter Shikari, the Fun Lovin’ Criminals, and were also the sole support for The Darkness at their 2011 comeback gig at iconic London venue The 100 Club. How did that come about?
Fun Lovin’ Criminals, we shared a stage with at a festival. Enter Shikari are a fellow local band originally, so there was definitely some St Albans support there. The Darkness comeback gig was a mysterious and unexplainable gift from the heavens, like U2 picking ‘Bad Machine’ for that promo stunt.
And how was they as experiences for you all?
They were awesome. All totally different experiences, the Shikari gig was at The Forum in Hatfield on a large stage and big audience with three or so other great bands on the bill.
The Darkness was really intimate with just us supporting and had Brian May and other legends just wandering around at the 100 Club.
The festival slot was CockRock 2012, and had Fun Lovin’ Criminals headlining, but we also had a good chat with The Subways afterwards who were really friendly and supportive, another good Hertfordshire band.
What are the band’s plans for after the album comes out?
We’ve already started rehearsals and tracking for our second album, so with our studio banging out the tracks now, we’re looking forward to getting stuck into more new material and getting it out there for our fans to enjoy.
‘DARKER DAYS ARE HERE TO STAY’, THE DEBUT ALBUM FROM DARK STARES, WILL BE RELEASED ON MAY 11.
FURTHER INFO ON THIS, AND THE BAND, CAN BE FOUND HERE.