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Rock trio Darkness Dear Boy plays local brewery

Mike Easterling
measterling@daily-times.com
Darkness Dear Boy is a high-energy Tempe, Ariz.-based rock trio that occasionally drifts into pop, country and alternative rock.

FARMINGTON — Ted Organ, the lead singer and guitarist for the Tempe, Ariz., rock trio Darkness Dear Boy, loves making music videos and considers them an essential component of his band’s efforts to reach new fans.

But when the time came to shoot the video for the song “June” off the group’s 2015 disc “Cagey Avoidance of a Definite Answer,” Organ quickly realized he and his bandmates had their hands full.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do in my life,” Organ said by phone from Tempe last week as the group prepared to hit the road for an 11-day, eight-city tour that will take it through northwest New Mexico and much of Colorado, beginning with a show this weekend at the Three Rivers Brewery.

The “June” video is an entertaining, Pied Piper-style tale that stars Walter, an enormous and aging VW bus making its way through the streets of sunny Scottsdale, Ariz., while ferrying the three members of the band — Organ, drummer Aaron Ranschaert and bassist Chase Lechner. Walter is quickly joined by a second VW bus, then a second, then a third and on and on. By the end of the video, a procession of 50 VW buses of all colors and conditions is cruising through town, providing an amusing and creative visual accompaniment to the high-energy, 1980s-sounding tune.

Organ is proud of the video and believes it serves as a good introduction to what his band is all about for those who have never seen Darkness Dear Boy perform live. But it’s not likely he’d try to shoot that video again.

“It was like choreographing a war,” he said, laughing and explaining that the difficulties of synchronizing the activities of all 50 vehicles and drivers through the surrounding traffic via walkie-talkies.

Still, Organ believes the accompany videos are every bit as important for his band as the music itself. DDB also shot a video for another single off the album, “Onto You,” this one featuring a princess and the frog theme.

Darkness Dear Boy is touring in support of its 2015 release "Cagey Avoidance of a Definite Answer."

“Yeah, (that’s especially true) in today’s time. When you release the album, you instantly have global distribution through iTunes,” he said. “You just need the exposure that videos can give you. It helps us getting gigs in towns we’ve never been to before. It gives bars a chance to see you and hear you. One of the videos we made has gotten 6,000 views, so that shows it’s being circulated.”

Organ was so pleased with the way both videos for “Cagey Avoidance of a Definite Answer” turned out that he said the band has submitted them for inclusion in various festivals. He especially likes the fact that they are comparatively low tech, with an absence of special effects, and were shot exclusively on iPhones.

That approach characterizes the band’s sound, as well. Organ began his music career as a bass player and backup singer, but quickly found himself gravitating toward lead vocals and lead guitar. By the time he put together DDB with Ranschaert and another bass player, who later was replaced by Lechner, Organ knew the trio format was for him.

“It’s more raw, but I feel like there’s nothing wasted,” he said. “It’s not two guitar players playing the same thing. I tend to see a lot of groups where the lead guitar player is playing the same thing as the rhythm guitar player, and it’s more like a wall of noise.”

Organ favors the less-is-more approach, though he acknowledged it can be a challenge.

“You’re right out in the open,” he said. “You can’t hide behind anything.”

“Cagey Avoidance of a Definite Answer” is the band’s second recording, and Organ said it marks a clear change over the group’s debut effort, “Brand New Carrot on a String,” mostly because of the addition of Lechner. Organ said Lechner has added much more of a reggae feel to the DDB sound, something that is most evident on “Onto You.” But “Cagey Avoidance” also takes the occasional turn into country, pop and alternative rock, making its sound difficult to pigeonhole.

“As musicians, I think we’ve matured a lot from the first album to the second one,” Organ said. “We also recorded it at a different studio with a different person behind the board. So it’s got a different flavor. We got stretched a little bit. This album pushed our creative boundaries a little further and got us a little out of our comfort zone.”

Curtis Grippe — best know for being a member of the 1990s band Dead Hot Workshop that recorded on the Atlantic Records label and emerged from Tempe at the same time as such bands as the Gin Blossoms and the Refreshments — produced and engineered the new disc at his STEM Recording studio. Organ said he found Grippe’s input invaluable.

“He had a lot of experience to draw on,” Organ said. “He’s recorded at some of the top places in the country, and he took bits and pieces from those experiences and recreated them at STEM Recording.”

But working with Grippe also was beneficial in other ways, Organ said, noting that Grippe was a good storyteller and had a lot to talk about after his days on the road with Dead Hot Workshop. Organ enjoyed the whole experience thoroughly.

“That’s the happiest I am — when we’re in the studio, locked in,” he said.

Darkness Dear Boy frontman Ted Organ, right, describes the band's decision-making process as democratic and says everyone in the band is always free to make a creative suggestion.

Those DDB recording sessions apparently feature a minimum of debate, as Organ said he and Ranschaert and Lechner share the same musical philosophy and expectations. He said decision making in the band is done through a democratic process, and he places great value on maintaining an atmosphere in which everyone is welcome to make suggestions.

“It’s so important to have an open relationship when you’re working creatively,” he said. “If anyone has an idea, we try it. If it works, we do it, and if not, we don’t. When I was auditioning people for a band, that was something I talked about extensively.

“I once played with a drummer who didn’t get that. I had a new song I wanted to try, and I told him, ‘It’s a little bit honky tonk.’ He said, ‘Oh, no, I don’t want to play anything honky tonk.’ He wouldn’t even play it. But both Aaron and Chase have gotten that right from the beginning.”

Organ said that shared philosophy extends beyond the creative side of their relationship.

“We tend to fall into our roles over time, and we’ve realized what works,” he said. “I booked all the stops on this tour and contacted all the media. Aaron is a mechanic, so he lines up the van and trailer, and he drives. Chase has booked the hotels, and he and Aaron cook, as well.”

DDB has made frequent trips through Colorado in the past, but this will be its first time to play in Farmington, and Organ said the band is definitely trying to expand its touring footprint. Each of the stops on this tour will feature a longer-than-normal performance — between two and three hours — as opposed to the 60 or 90 minutes the band usually does as a headliner.

“We want to make them count when we go out (on the road),” Organ said, explaining that the extended sets are part of a plan to maximize the band’s exposure in new territory.

Darkness Dear Boy's gig this weekend at the Three Rivers Brewery will mark its debut in Farmington.

Gigs of that duration certainly require more energy, but Organ hardly thinks of them as drudgery.

“It’s what I love doing, so I look forward to it,” he said.

Mike Easterling is the A&E editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.

If you go

What: Performance by Darkness Dear Boy

When: 7 p.m. Friday, July 8

Where: The Three Rivers Brewery Taproom, 113 E. Main St. in Farmington

For more information: Call 505-325-6605