Darkwing holds a special place in my heart, which is why I don’t throw a bag of donuts through the second story window of Louis Cozza’s apartment. The band is not picking up their phone, and it’s evident why. If I could hear Darkwing’s warbling and smashing from the street, they’re not hearing a cellphone vibrating. But finally Rich Gold says he’s going to buzz me up, flooding my iMessage with “sorries.”
I was force-fed Darkwing via their Lameonia cassette during CMJ 2015. My first snobby, I’m-hot-shit-cause-I’ve-lived-in-Brooklyn-for-five-minutes assessment was, “Ok, they’re basically Soundgarden.” Three tape-flips later and I was eating my words.
Sure, Darkwing borrows (but never steals) essential grunge 101 elements: the seamless shifting between soft and hard, hazy slacker-cool lyrics, riffs that make you slam-sway back and forth, it’s there. But there’s something inexplicable that sets them apart, somewhere between the ironic coos of, “ooh, ooh, ooh” and the casual nihilism. It’s like, when you feel that tremendously heavy drop in “Endo”—yes, feel, not politely bob your head to—it’s life-altering. I wanted to grab breakfast with Darkwing first since they were my first great musical surprise, and because Rich’s recent move to Brooklyn signifies a bold new era. Lyzi Wakefield is touring with Fruit and Flowers and Zach Booth is AWOL, but two out of four ain’t bad.
So yeah, I brought Valentine’s donuts, because Rich is feeling pretty poor right now. But more on that later.
The Scene: The raw wooden stairway has a good “rustic-and-murdery” vibe, but I survive the climb. The apartment itself is clean, with teensy comic store touches all around. Invader Zim action figures here, a stray Pokemon card there, a DBZ sticker on the fridge, et al.
In a shocking twist, there’s actual food on the table: crepes, raspberries, blueberries, peanut butter, honey, syrup, blackberries, it’s like I’m in a goddamn French bakery. This is for Louis’s roommates and Louis’s roommate’s girlfriend (…?), so I politely drink coffee with co-opted almond milk instead of diving into carbs. Not wanting to interrupt the band practice flow, I let the boys resume the jam session as we chat about tomorrow’s video shoot for “Vicious” (quick-cut musicians in dark clothing, Rich’s head hovering Wizard of Oz style). “Why do you wear so much dark clothes?” I ask.
It’s an irreverent answer: “My sister would say I’m metal A.F. But I’m not.” This ultimately inspires Rich to put on our breakfast music, Norwegian black metal band Darkthrone.
1:50 P.M. There’s enough leftover batter and I volunteer to make fresh crepes. It’s okay, I don’t mind the patriarchal undertones of cooking for men; the power dynamic is in my favor because they could easily die eating my terrible cooking. Like, it isn’t my intent, but worst case scenario breakfast manslaughter makes a good chapter in my memoirs. The title I’m partial to is “#Brunchwing.”
Rich interrupts my chain of thought by asking the group what we think of Darkthrone as breakfast music. “It’s real soothing,” I answer. He then switches over to Ugly God’s “Bitch!”
2:18 P.M. The crepes are well-received and Louis has this great money-making scheme. So, it involves purchasing a copy of the exceedingly important game Hello Kitty Kruisers. Apparently, it was a small printing with makes it a rare find, so if we all go in on it, we’d have this very expensive game to profit off of in the future. Nobody takes him up on this, which I think is insane.
2:26 P.M. Rich is lying on the floor, saying, “I’m so broke recently that I’m not eating. And I think my stomach is shrinking. And so now I’ve had two crepes and I’m like…” Holy shit, what if I do accidentally kill him?, I think. But no, he’s just stuffed.
Louis has been New York since at least 2011, and Rich, although he’s been musician-ing for years, just made the formal Leonia-to-Brooklyn move within the past few months. He deems living here “chill,” which I read as “incredibly financially straining, especially as I’m trying to find a new job to facilitate this high cost of living and allow me to pursue my passion.” But I could be wrong. No, Rich is fervently looking for steady income, racking up all the potential bartender/barista/barrister (not really) gigs he would like to get/cannot get.
“I’m not good at jobs, I’m good at rock and roll,” is his summation.
2:35 P.M. “Do you guys celebrate Valentines Day?” Darkwing isn’t my go-to band for love songs, but I have to ask. “I would,” Rich says, and Louis has plans to go away the next day, so he’ll just be packing. Having successfully depressed everyone, I decide we’ll celebrate Valentines right now, passing out conversation hearts and Nerds candy that I have hidden in my purse.
Rich gets a blue “<3 UR Self” heart at one point, because that’s incredibly sage advice for a piece of candy.
2:50 P.M. I peel back the plaid blanket forcefield guarding Louis’s album to look through his records and ask what’s his most special purchase, so he breaks out a plastic-wrapped copy of the scrolling-shooter game Aleste II. Very cool, “But I mean in terms of music,” I clarify.
Within minutes my arms are filling up with possibilities, including Japanese heavy metal band Devil Soldier’s Loudness and Beck’s Modern Guilt. He finally settles on two 7 inches from that dog., their self-titled EP and “Grunge Couple” single, and I cradle them all like they are his flat, round, grooved infants.
3:05 P.M. “Have you ever had Special K?” Rich asks, and because I am a delicate baby fawn and this is a breakfast article I counter-ask, “Like the cereal…?” No, not like the cereal. Ahem.
Well anyway, he grabs a donut and starts talking about this song he composed about a salvia trip. It’s called “Ursa Burster” and obviously I’m dying to listen to it.
3:13 P.M. BUT Rich gets a phone call from his dad regarding his car (apparently it’s leaking oil; “very expensive, bad for the environment,” would be distressing if we lived in a seal-rich neighborhood). He closes it off with, “I can’t really talk right now, I’m in a meeting.”
3:36 P.M. So this salvia song sounds starts off all whale noises and heartbeats. “This is great,” I lie, terrified. Rich is explaining how he was imagining his head floating around, approximately at the point where is voice warbles, “I don’t have a body.” “This is fun,” I lie harder, about to have some sort of secondhand anxiety attack, imagining Rich’s green face hovering all over the apartment. And then like a fever, the song breaks with, “DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE BEAR PUNCHER?”
Oh my God.
3:42 P.M. Louis relocated to the drum set and is over-lapping the track with perfectly-timed beats. Rich is loudly droning over the recording with, “So what? Animals fight, scratch and bite, alright” I’m kneeling on the ottoman in docs and my Grimace-looking sweater, thoroughly rocking out (from the waist up). No, it is great, earnestly great. It’s classic Darkwing.
He backtracks on the trip, recounting, “When you’re going through life, it’s like you’re reading a book, and you’re reading one word at a time. Sometimes you get caught up, you just keep reading that word one over and over.” In this case, Rich read an article about a man who punched a bear in the face and wrote about being fixated on the coolness of that, then out of his high, realizing that, oh yeah, there are way bigger things happening in this sick twisted world. Psychedelia and psychoactivity and the down-sweep of reality.
The bear-punching is still pretty great though.
3:50 P.M. They’re filing through Darkwing demos. The first about a faux-acid trip in Asbury Park. The second has Lyzi at the forefront of a dreamy vocal blend (her and Rich are like, boyfriend-girlfriend, and I can hear it when he appraises the song with “that beautiful voice.”) And we close on a demo that’s bound to be, “a really good pop song,” which they reprise once again on their instruments. I ask Rich if he can repeat the lyrics real quick, and he spells out gooey feelings muddled by jealousy:
“You know I don’t do too well at keeping cool, when some slick idiot comes stepping to my boo, I’m sorry that I yelled, I just want you to know, that when I close my eyes we’re never far apart, a big red he-art-art-art”
Ok, Darkwing isn’t my go-to band for love songs, but they do have a big red heart of their own, crudely cut out out of construction paper. Another great surprise, and how seasonal!
4:03 P.M. The guys walk me back to the G train, Louis to start a shift at National Sawdust, Rich to get his car from Jersey. They’re excited about the video, an album in April, tours in spring and summer. And then Rich stops halfway to debate if he can afford the subway, reminding us once again of the unbearable broke-ness of being a musician. Truth is, it isn’t just him, it’s the problem-of-choice around here.
But that thing that sets Darkwing apart? They’re good at rock and roll. And you can’t underestimate the value in that.