The debut full-length from Seattle’s Dark Smith, Degressive, was released on May 24 via Youth Riot Records, but according to a new 17-minute behind-the-scenes exposé directed by Toran Whitaker, “The Rise and Fall of Dark Smith,” its creation threatened to tear the quartet apart forever.
Or so the tongue-in-cheek short film would have fans believe.
Degressive expands upon the gloomy tones, dreamy compositions, and wryly subversive themes found on the band’s 2018 debut EP, Prehysteria, by bringing the songs firmly back down to earth—an Earth that just so happens to be on fire right now, both literally and figuratively.
“It was a lot more atmospheric, whereas Degressive is more raw,” bassist Lia Lovecraft says of Prehysteria. “Although, having said that, there are dreamy elements in some of the songs. Degressive is angrier and more outspoken, even though there was a lot of protest in the songs on Prehysteria as well—it was more subtle on that release.”
“I agree,” vocalist Danny Denial adds. “This record is sort of us taking all of the themes we presented in Prehysteria and then building a seven-track middle finger to every single one. I like calling it a ‘diss track to the state of the world.’”
Drummer Nozomi Momo sums up the contrast between the EP and the new album succinctly. “Prehysteria is what I like to listen to in the bathroom to think about deep shit; Degressive is what I like to listen to when I’m running in circles contemplating my life choices,” she explains.
“One of my favorite tracks is ‘Killer Whale,’” guitarist Ashe Tempest notes. “It wasn’t working as a song at all, and recording was coming up fast. At our last practice before the sessions, the song just happened after lots of frustration and failed attempts. We started getting into this crazy groove and one of the PAs caught fire.”
“‘Killer Whale’ is also my favorite and kind of a lyrical accomplishment, honestly,” Denial concurs. “I’m really proud of how uncomfortable the hook makes people.”
“I love ‘Ghost Me,’” Momo shares, “because I hated Seattle for the first four years or so that I lived here due to the number of flaky people. Now I’ve gotten some incredible friends, so I can tolerate the no-fun twatwaffle vibes from the majority of people. ‘Seamstress’ is also a beautiful song that’s different from all our other songs, and I think it showcases everyone’s voices—everyone who sings, that is—in a new way that’s special.”
The documentary—or, possibly, mockumentary—that accompanies Degressive weaves an often-hilarious tale of Dark Smith’s tortured inner workings, including fallout from fights about everything from rapid hairstyle changes to feline otherkin identities to aggressive dickpiggery. “The Rise and Fall of Dark Smith” initially grew out of Denial’s natural filmic proclivities before evolving into its final form: a drunken hot-mess half-sister of “VH1 Rock Docs” that plays out like Gregg Araki watched “This Is Spinal Tap” one too many times.
“It definitely started with the obsessive filmmaker in me that wants to document everything,” Denial recounts, “and my taking a shitty camcorder to the sessions for Degressive last year. Then, it turned into, ‘Well, what do we do with all this footage that looks like it was shot in ’95?’ Somehow, we ended up with this…?”
“Yeah, it was Danny’s idea, but the direction it took was Nozomi’s fault,” Lovecraft clarifies. “She went first with her interview and was sooo catty that I had to lash out back at her, and things devolved from there. Ashe was super catty too, but in a completely different way. I’m still thinking I might have made the wrong decision giving this band another chance—and I think Danny changed his hair twice in the hour it took us to shoot this, but he changed it back right before I turned around so I wouldn’t catch him. Like, WTF?”
Taking a broader view of the project’s origins, Momo adds, “We’re just a very bizarre mix of people, and when you have diversity in a group, you get innovation and action in ways that you may not have in incestuous cliques.”
When asked about the film’s genesis, Tempest just responds, “Wait—what mockumentary?!”
Despite being doomy and gloomy, there’s often an element of wit and humor at work in Dark Smith’s music. However, with “The Rise and Fall of Dark Smith,” they’ve gone full-tilt silly. Do the band’s members feel it’s important to represent all the different sides of their personalities?
“I love it,” Denial responds. “I love making fun of myself and that I landed myself in a band of people who also like to make of fun of ourselves. With this faux rock doc, we get to embrace the perceived personas we sort of already have and just go to fucking town. We get called ‘goths’ a lot, but honestly, we’re also kind of clowns.”
“Back in Okinawa, the dictionary definition of ウフソー has my face on it,” Momo adds, “and if you can prove otherwise, well then, I commend you for your journalism. Poo.”
“I still don’t understand,” Tempest concludes. “Danny, WTF are these interview questions about?!”
Live Photo by Jordan Martinez