Let’s call it a breakout album. The word ‘debut’ just doesn’t cut it for David In The Dark’s first full album,‘Fire’; it’s not sauntering about the room in an evening gown, it’s kicking down the doors .
Right from the first track, the most readily apparent quality of ‘Fire’ is just how damn catchy it is. We can supply any number of cliches about what this album is: summer anthems, coming-of-age songs, sunshine glinting off of too-warm beer bottles. It’s all of these things before we even get to the lyrics.
‘Fire’ is a genuine unabashedly pop rock album. It’s dangerous territory, considering the scope of the genre and who shares it, not to mention daunting, given the hubris of creating a deliberately ‘popular’ album. There’s an element of risk to it. If done well, it can come off as a brilliant marriage between heart-on-your-sleeve lyrics and whatever makes Drake move his body that way. Done poorly and it’s twice as embarrassing: you’ve spilled your guts and sandwiched them between choruses of ‘ooh, baby baby baby’. Fortunately, ‘Fire’ falls squarely in the category of the former.
“I think genres are always a little strange and hard to define; pop can make its way into everything. I’d consider us a pop styled band, but the songs are kind of disguised as rock or folk tunes,” says bassist Dylan Ward. “Evan writes very catchy tunes.”
“All of the songs were written to be a lot slower and quieter actually. I think I’m more of a folk writer, but then that gets a little boring. Adding the band ramps up the tunes and we are left with what’s on the record.” – Evan Leblanc, chief lyricist
Even at their most grandiose, with the massive sound of the organ-filled track ‘Hard To See’ , David In The Dark are still making catchy pop songs like Mozart never got a requiem. Give them a banjo and a pan-flute, and they’ll still work out a catchy pop song. The mastery of it comes in the five-piece producing a versatility in ‘Fire’ that could could give Arcade Fire a run for their money.
“I definitely wanted the album to sound diverse,” says Ward. “Most of my favourite records are like that, where each song kinda has its own feel to it. It makes for listening to the record as a whole more enjoyable.”
At times, that meant changing recording studios, from Shiftworks, all the way down to keyboardist Jane Blanchard’s basement. “We have always had sort of a DIY mentality with this project,” says vocalist and songwriter Evan Leblanc. “We make most of our own merchandise and we like to be in control of everything that’s going on. So I think it was important to us to find places to record where we could be in charge and to find rooms with different feels and sounds that captured different songs. The more poppy songs needed a small space to get that nice and tight feel and then ‘Fire’ and ‘Hard to See’ needed to feel huge, so that’s what we went for. I guess mainly just keeping that feel where people will be like, ‘Hey, these kids did this themselves and it sounds alright’.”
For all the deliberation put into the album’s sound, the lyrics place this as a coming-of-age album, full of questions. It’s never less sure-footed as it is in ‘Come With Me’: ‘But I’m not who I’m supposed to be, cause I’m not sure who that is, and I don’t know who I want that to be, I just need a little more time.’ Knowingly self-aware or not, the album seems to embrace a series of uncertainties, whether it’s a whole life, or the duration of a nap. It’s the lead-in to discovery, and that’s what makes it exciting, poignantly insightful, and wrapped in a candy-crunch coating. In any case, David In The Dark could sing about watching paint dry, and they’d still have you dancing. Expect to see them knocking out festivals in the near future.