Somebody's Darling Always Has Grace Under Pressure.
Behind every great band is a great van. And when these former church vans, daycare buses and plumber's work vehicles have racked up enough miles on the road, they eventually start being thought of by the band that owns them as another member of the team. Hey, we get it: It's hard to spend so many hours with bandmates (both human and machine) without a few things getting broken, a few good fights taking place and lots of great memories being made. We hope that, by exploring these stories, we might get to know some bands from both North Texas and beyond on a more personal level. Check out this feature's archives here.
Led by dynamic frontwoman Amber Farris and ax man David Ponder, Somebody's Darling has pretty much always been a force to reckon with, at least locally. But just being known as a great Dallas band has never really been the band's endgame.
Between the release of their debut album and last fall's Jank City Shakedown, Somebody's Darling hit the road hard, honing their skills over the course of something like 100 gigs around the country. Those gigs made a clear difference on the band, and you can actually hear that difference when listening to those two discs back to back. It's like night and day.
So it's no wonder, then, that the band's made it a mission of theirs to keep on touring with regularity. In fact, just last week, the band wrapped up yet another two-week stint on the road.
And, with the group safely back within the confines of their hometown of Dallas, we caught up with Ponder and the rest of the band at last weekend's Dallas International Guitar Festival to take a peek inside their ride and find out how the band has able to make the most out of their investment on this front.
Band Name: Somebody's Darling.
Van Name: “Our current van is named Grace. Our old van was named Rose. We like old white lady names for our vans.”
Year/Make/Mode: 1996 Ford E350 Club Wagon.
Mileage: “Over 200,000.”
Where did you get your van? How did you acquire it?
“We got her from some gypsy lot in Arlington. Our drummer Nate [Wedan] found her on Craigslist, and we took our car buddy Zach out to the lot and made a move on it pretty fast. We paid half up front and negotiated a two-month payment plan to pay her off. Note to bands: Go to a super small, out-of-the-way lot if you need credit or some type of payment plan. They'll usually work with you, even if you look slightly homeless, like us.”
What makes your van special? What are its best and worst features?
“This van is special because she's a hoss. She obviously has our best interests in mind. In the last six months, we've done more touring than ever, and she's been very reliable. We took out the first bench and laid down some mattresses so three people can sleep while one drives and one rides shotgun. It's very important for us to be able to sleep while on the road. The worst feature is that she still burns fossil fuels.”
Who usually does the driving?
“We break it up pretty evenly. I actually prefer to drive rather than sit shotgun. I go a little stir-crazy. I was a valet driver for tons of Top 40 and hip-hop clubs when I was in college, so I do all the parallel parking and crazy New York, Chicago and L.A. driving. I actually kind of enjoy it.”
Do you have any good breakdown stories?
“We've got a million, but here's one: We bought our first van, Rose, off the side of the road in Wichita, Kansas, many years ago for $400. Our sometimes sound guy swore that it was a good investment, so we took our last $400 bucks out of the money bag and made it happen. I wouldn't recommend this to everyone, but she was an old Dodge 15-passenger, and I swear I see those things run forever. We drove that van to Nashville, the West Coast, and all over Texas for two years without a single betrayal. When her brakes and rust were getting to be totally hazardous, we actually sold her to a carpet layer in Dallas for $450. We made money on the whole deal! Rose is our spirit van for life. She's on a few T-shirts and koozies we sell.”
What are your best memories from being in the van?
“Man, that's really hard to narrow down. A big part of why Somebody's Darling works is because we all have a passion for traveling. The best memories have to be taking in all the craziness from the front window. Also, if the weather is nice, sleeping in the van is actually pretty comfortable for one or two people. Nate and I were sleeping in the van for a few nights when we were in L.A. last month. Kind of makes you feel like someone from a Steinbeck novel.”
What are the best modifications you've made to the van, decorative or otherwise?
“We've been pretty modest with Grace. She's got a CD player, and the AC works. This makes her a luxury liner compared to all our personal cars. With Rose, we actually cut a whole out of the side panel and installed a window AC unit. Seemed like a really good idea on paper, but we could never really figure out the power situation. Simpler is better.”
Anything else we you'd like to tell us about your van?
“Maybe I could give a few tips to bands looking to get a van? SUVs, conversion vans and all passenger-type cars are generally built to crap out on you. This is not the case with big work vans. I'd recommend getting a 15-passenger from Ford, Chevy, GMC or Dodge. We made the mistake of buying a short-bus and outfitting it like crazy for a tour. It got six miles to the gallon and broke down within days. Always carry jumper cables, a spare tire and a jack, and make friends with people that work on cars!”
Somebody's Darling performs at Strauss Square on Sunday April, 28 as part of the Texans For West benefit.