Before Their Dada Show on Saturday, We Catch Up With Somebody's Darling Guitarist David Ponder.
“Put your cold hands in my warm jacket, leave everything else up to me,” Amber Farris instructs in the opening refrains of “Cold Hands.”
It's a fitting sentiment to kick off the Dallas band's latest release. And, to be sure, the long-time-coming Jank City Shakedown finds her alt-country outfit Somebody's Darling in the driver's seat, fully in control, with Farris' wonderfully raw vocals firmly gripping the steering wheel.
While there's a certain unfettered intensity that makes Farris a hard component to ignore, she's no one-trick pony here, either.
Instead, she uses her Melissa Ethridge-like power to draw listeners in as she shows off her range, ably adapting to a wide swath of styles throughout the course of the disc's 10 cuts, no matter whether it's the honky-tonk “Keep Shakin',” the gospel-tinged “The Middle” or the southern rock of “Wedding Clothes.”
But Farris' diverse ability hits home hardest at Jank City's midpoint, as she desperately chokes out lines like, “My own medicine won't make it down my throat” on the aptly named “My Own Medicine” cut.
It's moments like this that show off her band's growth since their debut. Several hundred live shows between releases will do that. What's more, the addition of keys in the interim has allowed the band to incorporate several more styles, such as Texas blues and gospel, into their already heavily-influenced sound.
Before the band comes home from a nearly month-long tour (which included a Daytrotter session) for their album release show at Dada, we caught up with Somebody's Darling's lead guitarist David Ponder to talk about black eyes, living in “Jank City” and why the band won't use Kickstarter to fund their next release.
What was the inspiration for the title Jank City Shakedown?
Like any band, we've kind of developed our own little language of inside jokes and insults and junk. It's like short-hand. It helps things move faster. “Jank” is a general term for run-down or busted up. I started to call my car [a 12-year-old Honda Civic] Jankasaurus because it's just so ugly. From there, I called the band house Jank City. Y'know, lights go out, the city's always after us about broke down cars and overgrown trees and stuff. It's Jank City! It caught on, so now whenever something happens that's discouraging, we call it a Jank City Shakedown. It's a way of keeping our spirits up. When the bad stuff can still be funny, how bad can it really be?
Wasn't the album originally going to be called Black Eyes and Alibis?
Yes, sir! When we launched the Kickstarter [campaign to fund this album], we felt like we had to have a title for the album already because everyone else did. But then, y'know, the album never really shakes out like you're planning, and the title just didn't fit once it was all said and done. The “black eyes” part was actually funny, though, because Amber got a black eye at work and we'd tease her that she was in an abusive relationship with the band.
How has the country scene in Dallas has changed since you guys first started playing?
Man, that's hard to say really. First off, just across the board, I think everything is on an uptick band-wise in Dallas. As far as country, though, Dallas will probably always be Eleven Hundred Springs Land to me. I just saw them kill it at Granada a few months ago. It was tons of fun. Personally, I'm really grateful to [KHYI-FM] 95.3 [The Range], too. They've been spinning the new record a lot. It feels good to get some Dallas love.
What were you guys up to during the gap between Jank City and your previous album?
Well, we were fortunate enough to play a lot of shows in the past three years — probably 300 or so. They were not all good, of course, but we intentionally tried to grow up the hard way, just playing a ton of gigs and writing a ton of songs. We've been demoing for Jank City for what feels like forever. It was time to finally commit to something.
Your mentioned earlier how the album was funded with Kickstarter. How did that work out? Would you guys consider doing that again in the future?
Well, we're in the unenviable position of not having a ton of handy cash around. When you don't have label backing and no one's dad used to play for the Eagles, your options are kind of limited. Kickstarter really did work out, though. Our fans and friends really came to bat for us for us, and we'll never forget it. We raised the dough and all, but I don't feel like I'd want to do it again. It was stressful, to be honest.
Your hometown album release show doesn't come until the album's been out for over a month. Was that intentional? What was the thinking there?
Yeah, I guess it's technically more of a “homecoming from tour” show, but I know what you mean. We've made some significant lineup changes to the band for the recording of this album. We moved Michael Talley from bass to keys and we added Wade Cofer on bass and harmonies. On top of that, we had never played six or seven of the songs live before the tour. I wanted to give us a chance to get our sea legs. We don't want to give Dallas the warm-up show treatment.
There are bits of blues, classic rock, honky-tonk and several other genres in the new album. Do each of you individually bring separate influences to the band? How might each of you influence the final product?
Me and Amber will generally demo songs together before we take them to the band. She and I will both start songs and help each other finish them.
The whole band has a lot of common ground with rock and classic rock stuff, and we're all definitely Texans. In general, though, Amber probably covers more of the folk and acoustic end of things. She's really into stuff like The Everybodyfields and Justin Townes Earle, and she's also the closet pop-fanatic of Somebody's Darling. I just like anything that swaggers. My faves are The Faces, Spoon and The Strange Boys. Between the other three guys, there's so much band experience that everything from punk to blues to hip-hop is covered.
Somebody's Darling performs Saturday, October 6 at Dada