Somebody's Darling Grow Up Together on Adult Roommates
Amber Farris and the boys are a stronger, more mature unit than ever
Will Von Bolton
On "End of the Line," the bluesy, smoky fifth track from Adult Roommates, the newest album from Dallas' Somebody's Darling, lead singer and songwriter Amber Farris sums up the heart and soul of the new record with a few simple words. "This is the oldest we have been, this is the youngest we will ever be," she sings, and in that one line lies a lifetime of wisdom.
Now together for seven years, Somebody's Darling are one of Dallas' most popular bands, with Farris backed up by lead guitarist and co-songwriter David Ponder, drummer Nate Weden, keyboardist Mike Talley and bassist Wade Coffer. Drawing on all those years spent as a unit, Adult Roommates takes a mature, sometimes stark look into the future while dissecting the past, proving to be a killer follow-up to 2012's soulful Jank City Shakedown.
"More than ever, a lot of this record is about us being in a band together," Farris says outside of a Starbucks not too far from the house she shares with a couple of bandmates just off of Northwest Highway. "It's tough being broke and touring in a crappy van, but we don't express those feelings outright on this record. Really, those feelings just come out in the writing."
It's still relatively early on the morning following Ponder's 30th birthday celebration, during which he and some friends closed down Adair's Saloon in Deep Ellum. But he's here too, behind the shield of his yellow-framed shades, caffeinated and ready to talk about what makes the new album special to him.
"So many of the songs are about how this type of lifestyle affects our relationships," he says, singling out two of the record's tracks, "Set It Up" and "Generator." He continues, "They're also how we feel about ourselves individually. A couple of the songs are about a relationship of mine that's been over for a long time, but it has taken me awhile to be far enough removed from it in order to process it fully. We're not exorcising demons here, but we're being honest about what has happened with us in the past."
Much more than in the past, Farris and Ponder were open to new ideas and philosophies from the rest of the band in creating Roommates. For that, they believe this full-on rock album with Southern soul flourishes is a more complete statement from the entire band than their previous records have been. It's a direct result of how the group has grown together and come to know each other so well.
"Maybe the coolest thing about this record is that there's more writing from everyone in the band than ever before," Farris says as she and Ponder pound their venti-sized iced coffees. While the band's debut was largely penned by Farris and Jank City was a collaboration between her and Ponder, Roommates features a mix of songs with contributions from each of the members. "The blending of personal influences has been an important part of our growth and that's made us a better band," Farris adds.
For Ponder specifically, an unexpected left turn into new territory aided his ability to write in a new, more direct manner, which in turn helped him express his thoughts in a fresh, unapologetic way. As an immensely talented guitarist, it was a revelation for Ponder to come to appreciate that even a guitar god has to understand his place on the stage and on an album.
"In the time between this album and the last one, I've bizarrely learned how to connect with rap and pop music," he says with a slight chuckle, citing Kanye West's Yeezus as a specific lyrical inspiration, though such an influence isn't evident on the album's surface. "As a guy that mainly just plays an instrument, it's easy to forget that people usually relate to the words of a song. Most people don't care how I'm using a scale to improvise over a cool chord progression. I put myself in the audience's shoes to see what I could connect to."
Having a group of stellar musicians in a studio together can often be a comedic tale of warring opinions and inflated self-importance. In this case, however, the band had no problems not only working well with one another, but putting a lot of trust into the album's producer Beau Bedford (returning to help after producing Jank City) and Matt Pence, drummer for Centro-matic and the head knob-turner at the Echo Lab studio in Argyle where Adult Roommates was recorded earlier this year.
Many of the record's songs have been in the group's live rotation for a few months now, as the five-piece has been up and down the roads of the great 48 on more than a couple of occasions since the start of the year. But just because a tune sounded one way in concert a couple of months ago doesn't mean that's how it now sounds as the CDs make their way to store shelves.
"Beau is like a song doctor," Ponder says. "He went through the songs word by word, verse by verse, and he would have something to say that we would really take to heart. He gets everything to a really high level really quickly." But it wasn't just Bedford; together with Pence, the band was encouraged to try different things, whether it was a new guitar tone or a different drum sound. "On 'Bad Bad,' we over-drove the drums so there's a great distorted drum sound, which is new for us," Ponder recalls. "Matt was perfect for that kind of guidance."
In the end, the group was in such impressive lock-step with one another that the occasional change of plans or suggestion from the control booth only helped them make the final product that much tighter and more cohesive. At this stage in their career, adaptability is one of Somebody's Darling's strong suits.
"As a band-unit wolf pack, we were all really adaptable," Ponder explains. "There's no ego with us, which is rare, so we were able to make a lot of really quick changes to some songs in the studio. We would try it, like it and record it."
More than any other trait, security and trust in one another are gained only through mature growth. This is something Farris sees with her mates every day, and not just when they're recording a new record. "If someone doesn't like what we just did, whether it's David or Nate or whoever," she say, "we do it again until we're all confident with what we've done."
SOMEBOY'S DARLING play an album release show with the Suffers and Wesley Geiger, 7 p.m. Saturday, August 23, at Trees, 2709 Elm St., treesdallas.com.