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Boys and men 

The Darcys are all work and all play.

At their heart The Darcys manifest dualism. They are one thing; they’re another. They’re both at the same time.

The fellows in the group, who just released their debut full-length Endless Water, might appreciate such an analysis of human nature, since they’re made up of mostly King’s College graduates and soon-to-be grads of the Contemporary Studies program. Basically it’s philosophy. But according to Jason Couse, guitarist/backing vocals, that term is contested in the academic world.

“The program’s really consuming,” says a weary Couse, in his final scholastic days.

Wes Marskell, drummer and Couse’s boyhood pal---both grew up in Etobicoke, Toronto’s furthest west end---also graduates this spring. Singer-guitarist (and lyricist) Kirby Best and bassist Dave Hurlow already graduated and moved back to Toronto, making The Darcys a dual Halifax-Toronto band, for now. (Keys, guitar and trumpet player Mike LeRiche, a University of Toronto student, recently joined as fifth member.)

The original four formed The Darcys in 2005 and released an EP You, Me and the Light in 2006. Couse and Marskell met Kirby and Hurlow at King’s. To counterbalance the “consuming” nature of their degree, the band members once shared a house on Edward Street and thus immersed in music. “I couldn’t go to the bathroom without kicking over an instrument,” Couse recalls. “Writing a song and playing it really feels good.”

That sense of fulfilment is affirmed in “free moments,” as Couse calls them, on Endless Water when the playing becomes forceful and spacious. He offers “When We Were a Wilderness,” as an example.

The collection’s dominant water metaphors and imagery suggest a band comprised of people who always lived near the element (if you count the influence of Lake Ontario highly) or who only just moved within its sight and smell (the salty tease of Halifax Harbour in their adopted city). Both could apply. The cover art supports the idea of being at once far removed and at the water’s edge---again, dualism. It’s a watercolour of a landlocked ship, tipped to one side on its keel in a sea of reddish sand or clay painted by fan and designer Adam Nathan.

Kirby Best’s lyrical use of water still mystifies Marskell, who observes this about “Subsequent Ghosts,” the second last tune on Endless Water: “It’s a weird sailor song,” he says, sounding unsure of his own conclusion. Marskell’s concern is drumming, which he does with an energetic, spirited, yes, buoyant character---much as he talks.

Couse doesn’t hide his loss of words over the lyrics either. “I’m famous for not knowing the lyrics,” he admits.

From these two of the five members of The Darcys, you get the sense that good-natured, school-days ribbing goes around among these friends. Even while they make the thoughtful melodic pop of In-Flight Safety crossed with the powered-up pop of Two Hours Traffic, it sounds like they’re having fun.

After all, these young men recorded Endless Water in the Waterloo Regional Children’s Museum where Marskell’s father, David, is CEO. (There’s a picture of him in a suit and tie, silver-haired and holding a microphone for a little girl in a semi-circle of wee ones.) “It was kind of a favour he did for me,” Marskell says. “Basically I said, ‘Listen, we have to make a record and you don’t want us to record at your place.’”

The band set up in the four-storey atrium close to the dinner-hour closing of the facility. They sometimes placed microphones on the upper floors and the faint sound of rushing water from a living wall nearby was welcome, as was the laughter and excitement of the kid-visitors. Listen close for those. Though the band usually recorded overnight, the sessions (produced and recorded by Matt Durante for a school project at Ryerson University in Toronto) occasionally and deliberately let the ambience in. “A lot of things happened by chance,” Couse says. They used the toys and materials at hand, clapping building blocks and shoes
together for the album opener, “Strange Fits,” to send up the “cliche” of handclaps
in much of today’s indie music. “We needed to make noise all night,” Couse says.

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