Dark Circles has just released their debut album “One Golden Day”, which is already garnering rave reviews from the cultural vanguard:
“I’ve been listening, basking in Dark Circles “One Golden Day”…it is wonderful. I am struck by the vintage feel that it possesses without sounding trite or corny. It’s like homage to a generation of music, our generation, our music! And somehow in all of its production both the simple and complex, the lyrics, the harmonies, the instrumentation…it stays well clothed in a spirit of humility. And…like all things humble, there is tremendous power in its ability to elevate.”
-Charisse Cooper, Philbrook Museum Of Art
Adds Fred Mill of Blurt Magazine: "Deep blue indeed - and a remarkable album in every sense of the word."
Currently, they are holed up in their Nashville TN multimedia bunker, The Pomegranate Room, working on their follow up album, videos and other warped goodies.
Celeste grew up in New York, where her father was a professional piano
player/ accordionist, and her mother was a music teacher. She and her
siblings (including John Convertino of Calexico) formed a band and hit the road early on. From Anchorage to Atlanta and everywhere in between. Since then she’s fronted a diverse array of bands; most notably, Downgirl.
Pat, a Los Angeles native, is an artist as well as a musician. His
grandparents were silver screen hoofers during the golden age of
Hollywood. He too has participated in a vast assortment of musical projects;
from the improvisational Sunz of Zorro to the garage punk DAVE.
Together they have given birth to Dark Circles. A strange and haunted
Celeste Millius - Vocals, Guitar
Pat Millius - Vocals, Guitar, keyboards, Harmonica
Duane Spencer - Vocals, Drums, Percussion
Mitch Laney - Vocals, Bass
One Golden Day- Bristlecone Songs/CDbaby
Gulf Of Mexico (Salt & Oil)
Giving Birth to Grasshoppers On A Yellow Dashboard
Under the Ride
Cicada (Pt. 2)
Another Last Chance*
Single Clear Morning
Blurts best kept secret #17: Dark Circles
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BLURT’S BEST KEPT SECRET #17: Dark Circles Aug 16, 2011 With one delightfully eclectic album und...BLURT’S BEST KEPT SECRET #17: Dark Circles
Aug 16, 2011
With one delightfully eclectic album under their belt and another one in the works, the clouds are gathering nicely for the Nashville indie-rockers.
BY FRED MILLS
As previously announced, the latest selection in our Blurt/Sonicbids "Best Kept Secret" series of new or under-the-radar artists is Dark Circles, from Nashville, and our 17th BKS since commencing the program back in 2008.
Meet the band: Celeste Millius (vocals, acoustic guitar) and Pat Millius (guitars, keyboards, percussion), both with extensive musical backgrounds. Celeste grew up in New York and, as a member of the Convertino clan - her brother is John, of Giant Sand/Calexico fame, while her father was a professional piano player/accordionist and her mother was a music teacher - started performing early on with her family. From there her travels took her all over the country and she subsequently played in numerous bands, notably the all-girl Downgirl, which released the Smooch album in '98; she describes the group as "a foray into many new and exciting experiences... one word sums it up: fun." Adds Pat, "Tough, badass guitars, with Celeste purring like a kitten over the mayhem. One of the best live bands I've ever seen - they presided over numerous block parties under the 4th street bridge in downtown L.A." Trainspotters may also recognize her name from Giant Sand's 1990 LP Swerve: Sand mainman Howe Gelb tapped the Convertino talents further and had her sing backing vocals on several tracks.
Pat's from L.A., is an accomplished artist and muralist and has also been in a number of outfits over the years, among them the improvisational Sunz of Zorro, garage/punk outfit DAVE and surf/garage combo The Fugitive Kind, which featured none other than John Convertino on drums (the band's Bone Dance album was released in '88). As you'll read below, it was Convertino who introduced his sister to Pat. A romance blossomed, as did a musical partnership; the duo eventually gravitated to Nashville and established a home recording studio, and earlier this year they released their debut album as Dark Circles, One Golden Day, currently available via CD Baby. (That's Pat's art gracing the cover.)
It's always risky to quote directly from a band's own bio, but in this case the description they provided us was what caught our attention in the first place and prompted us to investigate more closely (musicians, there's a lesson in there somewhere): "A woozy melange of pop styles, from the sunshine harmonies of Brian Wilson, to Joni Mitchell's jazzy meditations, to the retro-pop groove of Sergio Mendes & Brazil '66; all shaded in deep blue undertones."
The first thing that strikes you when listening to One Golden Day is how all over the map it is while retaining an essential cohesiveness that might elude less experienced artists. The duo clearly knows what it wants to do, as evidenced by the explicit Latin/bossa nova vibe of "Winter Lullabye," delightfully playful instrumental "Cicada" (which hearkens back to the anthropomorphic song-titling tradition of ‘60s pop and surf bands), and the sleek and jazzy "Giving Birth to Grasshoppers On A Yellow Dashboard."
Giving Birth To Grasshoppers On A Yellow Dashboard by Dark Circles
Elsewhere, Pat's garage roots are on display in the more revved-up psychedelia of "Hills Have Eyes," while in "One Golden Day" both musicians share the mic for one of the sweetest slices of sunshine pop - listen for the midsong choral break - this side of the Cowsills. And the moody, brooding "Under the Ride," with its percussion, piano and viola and echoey production, tips its hat in the direction of early Velvet Underground, with hints of Mazzy Star lining the edges. Deep blue indeed - and a remarkable album in every sense of the word.
Check out Dark Circles' official website or MySpace page for additional details as well as more song samples. They're one of the good ‘uns, trust us. On to our interview.
BLURT: Let's start with the "key influences/heroes" question - what made you want to play music?
PAT MILLIUS: One my earliest memories is my step brother Mark coming home from a "love in" at Griffith Park in the sixties, and painting my whole body in psychedelic colors, and then we freaked out to the Doors and Love's first album. He had an electric guitar with a reel to reel tape recorder as an amp and he taught us the opening riff to Ray Charles' "What'd I Say" on guitar. I used that reel to reel for some of my first ping pong song recordings.
CELESTE MILLIUS: Because I am the 4th of 5 siblings, I shuffled along in the middle. From Peter Paul & Mary to "Onward Christian Soldiers". From Styx to Miles Davis. I wish any or all of them had been an influence on me. Something has always been there, like the smell of my dad's cologne; it's just there and I'm in it. The sounds that come in are nothing like the sounds that come out.
Pat, could you elaborate a bit on your background as an artist? Also - per the note in the Dark Circles presskit - about your grandparents being "silver screen hoofers."
PAT: Yes, paint. Between that & music, if I try to ignore either one, they will wake me in the dead of night and enslave me until they are satisfied. Recently I've been working on a series of nude portraits of Celeste (one of which is the cover to One Golden Day, in which I shaved her head with paint).
My grandfather Kenny Williams twirled the likes of Betty Grable & Rita Hayworth across the screen. My favorite is a cross-dressing song & dance number he did in the early ‘40s with June Haver where he does some seriously nutty footwork in a huge 19th century bustle. Grandma was a Ziegfeld follies beauty queen who went on to skate in the Sonja Henie classics. I guess, technically, you're not a hoofer if you're on ice skates.
Celeste, you're John Convertino's (of Giant Sand/Calexico fame) sister, and I recall from talking with him that he came from a musical family. Tell me a little about what that was like.
CELESTE: It's true we are one of those freaky families that are extremely close. When you're young you think that anything is normal, because that's all you know. So what's so weird about being loaded into the station wagon in matching outfits and headlining national Christian conventions with mom as our fearless leader? (And seamstress.) Johnny, of course, as the youngest became the designated drummer because his voice hadn't changed yet. He definitely has his voice now.
I don't remember whose idea it was to form a rock band, but the road was our only home for years.
So how did the two of you meet, and what's been the musical arc leading to Dark Circles and landing in your current base of Nashville?
PAT: It was Johnny who introduced us. He and I were in a righteously feral garage band at the time called The Fugitive Kind. Within months Celeste and I were at "The Hitchin' Post" in Vegas. Dark Circles germinated over time with us just having fun dismembering jazz standards like "Strangers in the Night". It was always there for us during the years of bacchanal in the L.A. clubs. In fact, some of the songs on the new album are dismemberments of unrealized punk song from those bands.
I had an art studio in our basement overlooking Echo Park Lake, and one day some guy from the city came and said that it was a codes violation and we were ordered to clear everything out. That's when we headed for Nashville. We can do what we do just about anywhere so music didn't factor into our choice of where to go. I'd done some mural work here in the past and it was one of the few places where we could afford to live. Celeste's brother Marco lives here too, and he's really helped us get our bearings.
Under The Ride by Dark Circles
The music: what are some of the musical and aesthetic inspirations behind it? There's a lot of stuff going on in it.
PAT: Difficult to analyze. We have a modest recording studio in our house and it's like a playground for us, although a far cry from a grand piano in a sandbox. It's our playground and our shrink. A lot of insomnia [is] in this music, and frankly the next morning we'll listen and wonder who invaded the studio.
And the videos: what inspired the "One Golden Day" and "Gulf of Mexico" clips? The home movie excerpts in the latter in particular resonated - they reminded me of my childhood.
PAT "Gulf of Mexico," the song and the video, all sort of came together as one. Partly about a beach camping trip we took to Grand Isle, Louisiana, exactly 15 years before the Deepwater Horizon disaster, at a difficult time in our lives, full of transition & uncertainty. We took a video camera and visited friends and family along the way. So right around the time of the oil spill, I was digitizing video tapes with this gadget I'd just bought. This footage was in there along with the old Convertino family home movies we were transferring. Their mother had not much longer to live at that point. She's that dazzling blonde in the video. And there's footage of their father who died before I ever got a chance to meet him. A mythic, towering figure in family lore whose loss is still felt strongly. It was all very resonant with the sense of loss we felt as we helplessly watched the news of the gulf.
Much of "One Golden Day" was actually filmed on Easter morning. I couldn't sleep so Elvis [see the video] and I drove down to the school where I clap erasers together for a living to watch the sun rise. Made sense at the time.
How about live performances? Touring plans? With everything that's going on in your songs I imagine it's a challenge to recreate some songs live.
PAT: Live performance for us has always been in excessively loud and unhinged situations. Dark Circles happens when the tape starts rolling. That's why it sort of took me by surprise when my buddy Mitch Laney, who is the absolutely blood-curdling bass player from our band DAVE, called after hearing the CD and asked, "When we were gonna hit the road?" A bolt of lightning from the sky! There's a lot of directions this can take and we're really excited about it.
CELESTE: The challenge is just getting through a song without bursting into tears.
Nashville's been shedding its reputation as an all-country mecca reputation, with an indie rock scene emerging. What's your take on the city?
PAT: Very healthy scene here. The energy is palpable. It's spilled out of the clubs and into everyone's living rooms. If there's an empty space somewhere, it gets turned into a music venue. But then we really don't get out much.
And of course - what's next? A new record?
PAT: Yes. Working title is Squall and the clouds are gathering quite nicely so far.
Nashville nominees from Sonicbids submissions:Junkyard Girls, Dark Circles,Resident Scout
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Congratulations to Junkyard Girls, Dark Circles, and Resident Scout - the three artists who were sel...Congratulations to Junkyard Girls, Dark Circles, and Resident Scout - the three artists who were selected from Sonicbids for our Band of the Year Poll.
Junkyard Girls (top picture) could be described as a darker, more ambient blend of Antony and the Johnsons; Dark Circles is a folk duo that could be compared to an equally as relaxing Jimmy Buffet, while Resident Scout (bottom picture) has more of an indie vibe, 90's alternative thing going on with some ska thrown in to make things more interesting....like Foo Fighters meets Cold War Kids. It was a tough choice, but all three of these bands stood out to us with their originality. They will be moving on to the next stage, as well as the ten bands who were selected in the Open Submissions category last week. Keep checking back for developments with our Best of Nashville Emerging Artists Poll! - Erin Manning
1.Ague De Beber
2. Be My Sanatorium
3. California Soul
4. Corona, Corona
5. Ashes Of The Sun
7. Single Clear Morning
8. Way Down
9. Winter Lullabye
10. My Favorite Time
11. Giving Birth To Grasshoppers On A Yellow Dashboard
12.And Your Bird Can Sing
13. Gulf Of Mexico (Salt & Oil)