Interview: Ought’s Tim Darcy Pushes New Boundaries on Solo LP, Saturday Night

Tim Darcy

Drawing from his deep reservoir of talent, Tim Darcy is a Renaissance man by any estimation. He is best known as the lead singer for the Montreal-based rock band, Ought, whose last album came out two years ago. It was around this time that Darcy began the process of writing for his debut solo record, Saturday Night, out now on Jagjaguwar. The band’s influence on the new LP is undeniable, but what defines it are the other details–such as his own emphatic vocals or use of bowed guitars–that make it all Darcy’s own.

Tim Darcy will play Resident on Tuesday, June 12, supported by Hand Habits!

Grimy Goods: It’s interesting to read in past interviews that you grew up with no discernible music taste, and no clear influences. When you began creating music, were you ever trying to achieve a certain sound?

Tim Darcy: I would never say that I’ve had no discernible taste. I have a broad taste, and love music from many different genres. The same applied for Saturday Night. It was an interesting album to make, as the recording and mixing processes were pretty blended. We would start down a path and then listen to a Vaselines track or something and then come back to what we were working on. Roy Orbison definitely came up. Cat Power. Stuff like that.

GG: Your new record, Saturday Night, feels like a healthy middle ground between the music of Ought and the album you recorded with AJ Cornell entitled Too Significant To Ignore. Everything about that record is loose yet your lyrics and Cornell’s production were a perfect complement. Where did this love for drone and ambient music come from?

TD: I’m not sure exactly where my love of ambient music comes from. Definitely it was a big thing in the Montreal scene, but even before then. I had a friend in high school, Cooper, and he and I bonded over lush ambient stuff like Deaf Center and Gas. More recently, Alice Coltrane is my most listened-to music. I think that lyrical music can provide catharsis while more ambient music can provide release.

GG: Many tracks you’ve written for Ought have been pastoral and expansive, especially on Sun Coming Out, and yet Saturday Night seems to be far more introspective, though it was written around the same time as the last Ought record. Is this a line you plan to maintain between the projects?

TD: Lyrically, the solo record was an opportunity to turn the lens inwards.  I think its safe to say there’s something pretty personal stuff happening in Ought though.  “Habit” isn’t like a diary entry or anything but it was definitely influenced by me dealing with addiction, not just to substances but also to mental tics and ways of being.  Even when the songs look outward, I usually write from an emotional center, which sounds obvious but I just mean to say it’s not like I’m outside or inside the house writing whatever observations.  Making a solo record gives me more opportunity to be intimate just by its nature but I don’t think that’s a given for me going forward.

GG: Several songs on the record are, well, just plain sad: from the compassion for a suicidal friend in “You Felt Comfort,” to the grim “What’d You Release,” which wonders what happened when you “became one more than one with anyone.” Perhaps it is the instrumentation itself that brews discomfort toward the end of the record, but there is no denying that there is a great deal of melancholy throughout Saturday Night. When you’re writing, do you notice this dark change in tone?

TD: You’re not wrong.  Those are sad songs.  But in both there is a kind of humanness and compassion that cuts through.  That feeling is very important to me.  I’ve done purely morose and its doesn’t feel good.  You’re not making the world a better place.  Even in the saddest songs that are meaningful to me, you can hear the love in there, or the longing for love, which is beautiful, relatable, and human.

GG: Especially in the track “Beyond Me,” the less structured and occasionally discordant parts on the record can be illuminating. It seems like perfect fodder for expansion into a film score, or another multimedia project. Have you worked on any other artistic projects, music related or not?

TD: I definitely wrote poetry before I was in bands but Ought started because we lived together and wanted to make music.  We jammed every day for weeks writing our first couple of songs. We actually work in an interesting way… More and more we construct the song musically and then I work on lyrics.  Having done it both ways, I don’t have a preference but there is something really magical about even one phrase coming out while we’re jamming and writing.  Especially in Ought, it makes it feel like a kind of cosmic nametag has come through on whatever we’re working on. Sometimes it changes a whole lot though.

Occasionally I write a poem that becomes song lyrics.  The song “St Germain” was like that.  Writing poetry is still really important to me, and I read a lot of it.  More and more I think of them as very separate artforms.  There is something about the utter sparsity of poetry that is soothing.  It demands an aura of silence.

Words: Zoë Elaine

See Tim Darcy perform at Resident next Tuesday at Resident! Get your tickets here. For more information, follow Darcy on Facebook and Twitter.

Stream Tim Darcy’s debut solo LP Saturday Night.


Watch Tim Darcy’s music video for “Still Waking Up.

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