Darlingchemicalia’s shameless pop songs at Bows & Arrows this Saturday
Is Darlingchemicalia the David Lynch of Sacto rock?
Something is definitely off about Sacramento band Darlingchemicalia.
You perhaps need to look no further than its name for proof. Those two words pushed together with no space in between—“chemicalia” isn’t even a real word—is a pretty daunting jumble. But singer-songwriter and local record-store manager Ian Bone chose it because, he says, “It’s hard finding a band name that nobody could have possibly thought of before.”
Perhaps even more daunting is creating music strange enough to justify such a name.
Despite playing bass prior to Darlingchemicalia in fairly straightforward alternative-rock bands, including popular local trio Red Host, going “strange” was not a problem once Bone became the main songwriter.
His songs, which boast a potent flavor of weirdness, have one foot firmly planted in the bizarre and another in the ordinary. This achieves musically what David Lynch creates cinematically: A haunting representation of “normal” music.
Bone plays it down. “There’s something about the songs that don’t make sense, even though they’re rooted in something familiar,” he says.
Darlingchemicalia’s dark, melancholy overtures give some people a feeling of a dying animal gasping for its final breath.
Bone admits that this can be off-putting. “A lot of bands that do well in this area have really fun shows,” he says. “We’ve never really been on that level.
“We are notorious for being depressing. That’s not necessarily the intention going into it. Our songs in my mind are shameless pop songs.”
But Darlingchemicalia’s style is more complex than the “sad” label it normally receives. A typical radio-worthy vocal hook might unexpectedly jump to a turbulent series of notes. Or an otherwise straightforward chorus might be washed out by guitar overdubs or drowned in reverb.
The sound perhaps belies Bone’s upbringing. As a kid, he grew up in the outskirts of nearby small town Vacaville. He says he had no real options except to sit around in his room and listen to music, and it was mostly standard radio music.
By the time he reached high school, he started meeting people that were into stranger sounds.
“Just being exposed to all these noise bands and experimental stuff. I tried to take it in, but because of the limitations of my own abilities, I could never quite grasp it,” Bone says.
College led him to Sacramento. There he toured regularly with different bands, some, such as Red Host, even got quite popular, but he never felt like he was making his music.
When Red Host broke up in 2009, he recorded a solo record, the first Darlingchemicalia album, Ghost Sketch. He liked it so much, he put together a band to play the songs live.
Before Ghost Sketch, Bone never seriously attempted to write music. His writing, he’d learned, wasn’t as easily digestible as the songs his former bandmates were writing.
“I’ll hear pop music, and I’ll get good ideas for how to structure a song like that and, for some reason, the way it comes out is always different.”
In 2011, Bone and his bandmates recorded a second album, Valleys, which was an even more ominous, surreal recording that featured numinous quasi-pop songs.
Today, as Bone has grown as a songwriter, he understands that he will likely never write fun, standard, radio-friendly pop songs. The dark, complex stuff is just what comes out naturally.
“As you get better you realize more what you can’t do,” Bone says.