The moustached, curly-haired Darwin Smith, frontman of the band Darwin Deez, leaves quite the impression on music lovers.
Known for his eccentric style, stellar dance moves and indie-rock tunes, Smith has released a multitude of songs that might bring to mind niched indie bands such as Matt & Kim and Ra Ra Riot but Smith has a sound all his own, which shines through in Darwin Deez.
After the band’s three-year hiatus Darwin Deez’s most recent album, Songs for Imaginative People, dropped just last month, and now the band is headed to The Echo on March 8.
The band’s sound is reminiscent of the songs that fill Urban Outfitters stores or offbeat Los Angeles cafes, and Songs for Imaginative People keeps the eclectic sound, incorporating wacky guitar riffs, chimes and idiosyncratic rhythms.
But interestingly enough, Smith does not reflect the zany character of his music videos or his free-spirited album covers, which are flavored by the inclusion of strange objects and visuals. Rather, his serious and pensive nature resonates in his choice of words to describe himself and his music.
“My identity came from open mic nights at a cafe. I watched people express themselves using lyrics and that’s how every Monday night I figured out who I was,” Smith said.
Still, his sense of humor shines through in his music videos. In particular, the video for “You Can’t Be My Girl” — a juxtaposition of hilarious stock footage of glamorous models paired against Smith lingering awkwardly in the background — shows off his funny side, though Smith doesn’t take much of credit for the video itself.
“I don’t have that much of a say as far as these music videos go, but it does come down to little bits of direction from me,” Smith said.
Smith’s multifaceted persona rings true in his music, and in catchy instrumentals in songs such as the afrorementioned “You Can’t Be My Girl” which emphasize the band’s overall creative strength.
Still, other songs such as “Chelsea’s Hotel” exhibit a deeper side of the quirky musician, incorporating slow-paced crooning and lyrics such as, “I’ve been homeless since the dimples on her simple face / And I’ve spent my fortune, I’ve torn the town apart.”
Smith attributes various gigs he was involved in before Darwin Deez, such as playing guitar for the Creaky Boards, drumming and even rapping, as the impetus behind his bold lyrical style and unorthodox musical arrangements.
Songs for Imaginative People shows off this range. Tracks such as “Moonlit” and “(800) Human” showcase his ability to craft distinct choruses while “All in the Wrist” and “Redshift” feel more nebulous with dreamy lyrics and slower beats.
Though he grew up in Brooklyn, Smith denies that his city influenced his style today, unlike most musicians from the borough. That’s not to say that his childhood in general didn’t have an impact on his style.
“When I was about eight I found my sister’s tap shoes in the class and went to town in the kitchen,” he said. “My sister and I used to have a good time dancing together.”
Now living in North Carolina, Smith devotes his time to furthering his career by touring all over the country and constantly penning songs.
“My lyrics mostly come to me when I’m sitting with my guitar,” he said. “I’ll get a little beginning of something in an organic way and then I have to make a decision whether or not I should finish it.”
He finds inspiration in other artists and doesn’t shy away from crediting the legends: Smith believes that if given the opportunity to grab a drink with any musician in the world, it would have to be Jimi Hendrix.
“There’s just so much energy around him. He seems like a really sweet guy and a really soft spoken one at that,” Smith said. “I would love to have a memory of being with him. I would really cherish that.”
Though Smith himself might not be the Hendrix of the new age yet, if you’re seeking a break from the Bruno Mars-and Justin Timberlake-occupied airwaves, check out Darwin Deez’s Songs for Imaginative People — maybe you’ll discover the oddball within you.
Darwin Deez will play on March 8 at The Echo in Los Angeles. Although pre-sale tickets are sold out, a limited number may be available at the door.