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Darlins Never Say Die

Originally published on KDHX.org

Nikki Kvarnes of Those Darlins talks “indefinite hiatus” tour in advance of last show in St. Louis at Off-Broadway, Thursday, January 28

Another great band calls it quits. Nashville’s Those Darlins, the alt-country, rock ‘n’ roll, up-for-anything trio are packing it in. But before they go, they’re saying goodbye to fans with a special, two-week tour, performing in some of the band’s favorite cities. They play their last show in St. Louis on January 28 at Off Broadway. The group made the announcement that there were taking an “indefinite hiatus” on the band’s Facebook page in early December. When asked what that means, guitarist Nikki Kvarnes waxes poetic. “It’s not an indefinite hiatus,” she explains. “It’s just temporarily forever.”

It would appear that the strong reviews from fans and critics alike for their last album, “Blur The Line,” was not enough to keep the group going full steam. But when they originally formed in 2006, they were a blast of pure adrenaline, releasing a rousing EP and full-length album, ultimately garnering the attention of Black Keys’ frontman Dan Auerbach, who took the Darlins on tour with him. Kvarnes laughs when asked if Auerbach is a dick. “Not at all. Actually me and Jessi did backup vocals for an artist he was working with — it was cool to work with him.” And it was the hour that Auerbach came a callin’ that felt like the breakout moment for Those Darlins. “That first tour was so cool. It was the first time we ever went out west, crammed like sardines in this minivan. We were gonna murder each other,” she laughs. “But we got to play all these venues that were huge in comparison to anything we played before. That was the first step into feeling like a professional.”

And in the interest of being professional, Kvarnes, along with vocalist/guitarist Jessi Zazu and drummer Linwood Regensburg, are ending their run. The third original-founding member, Kelley Anderson, already departed the band in 2012, with the intention of pursuing other ventures. That moment may have been foreshadowing the creative schism Kvarnes and Zazu found themselves in recently with Those Darlins.

“We were worried that if anything else came out of it, it might not be good,” she says. “When you force something that isn’t working, it’s pretty apparent. The audience can see it, and it doesn’t have the same kind of value as the rest of the work. When it’s forced to work, I just don’t think that’s good art making,” she admits.

The decision feels like it’s been a long time coming. Though Kvarnes cites that the band has been gearing up for the farewell tour, she’s not sure what the other band members have planned, but knows they are ready to branch out too. When pressed about what she feels like the band is missing, she responds carefully. “That connection, creatively speaking. Jessi and I are the main songwriters and it just starts to lose consistency, like the sound is from two different worlds. It’s a connection between my music and Jessi’s music. But we all love each other and we’re all excited about the directions that we’re taking.”

Ten years, three well-received albums and countless fans are nothing to scoff at and Kvarnes, a long time visual artist, is looking ahead to pursuing some of her other talents. “I’m actually in the midst of an art show with an exhibition taking place in Nashville. I’m trying to get ready for that, but we’ve been putting so many hours into the band right now for this last tour that my head is spinning. I’m also writing some music with Tristen and maybe working on a new record,” she says but stops short of offering specifics. “There are still things that need to happen first, so I don’t want to say too much about that project just yet.” We’ll keep a lookout for that.

But even though she’s excited about working on new projects, Kvarnes admits she will miss being a Darlin and is looking forward to ending the band’s run in our neck of the woods. “St. Louis has been one of the best audiences. We’ve played there so many times over the years, it’s so welcoming every time. It really feels like a second home where I can get a little out of control and not get yelled at about it,” she laughs.

And for those of you hanging on the term “indefinite hiatus,” there may be some hope. “We never say die — who knows what the future holds? I don’t really like to go through life ending things in such a severe way,” Kvarnes says.  “We’re still on really good terms, but we need to find what makes us happy. And maybe ending this won’t make us happy and maybe we’ll want to get back together. It’s so much like a relationship,” she deadpans, laughing.

Hopefully, it’s a relationship that Kvarnes and Zazu will realize is worth bringing back together again for a reunion. In the meantime, make sure to catch Those Darlins one “indefinite” last time.

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