U.K. import the Darkness will play arguably the most important show of its career tonight (Sept. 18) before a sold-out audience at the Bowery Ballroom in New York.
U.K. import the Darkness will play arguably the most important show of its career tonight (Sept. 18) before a sold-out audience at the Bowery Ballroom in New York. Having polarized audiences across Europe with its update on '80s hair metal and arena rock, the English quartet is enjoying its third week atop the U.K. albums chart with its debut, "Permission To Land." The set was issued Tuesday in North America via Atlantic.
Acrobatic frontman Justin Hawkins sports animal-print spandex body suits while belting out such songs as "Get Your Hands off My Woman" and "Love on the Rocks With No Ice" in a soaring falsetto that elicits both smiles and winces. Hawkins says he doesn't mind if that reaction is the same in the States.
"We've always been a band that's divided people, really," he tells Billboard.com. "The people that loved us absolutely loved us, and the people that hated us f***in' hated us. It was always a good indication that we weren't going to be a coffee table band. But we are going to be a band that has a really strong, devout following."
Although the Darkness' performances, songs and videos are undoubtedly over-the-top (the clip for lead U.S. single "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" finds guitarist Dan Hawkins wailing in front of a mountain of Marshall amplifiers), Hawkins insists the band is not being ironic.
"I think there's a difference between being ironic and having a sense of humor," he says. "Our goal is for everybody in the building to be having a good time together. It's not about rebelling, it's about being positive and having a euphoric experience."
Hawkins, who cites Thunder, Whitesnake and Neil Diamond as influences, notes, "we're not a revivalist band. I think what we do is very fresh. There are nods in the directions of some of the most classic rock the world has ever been a party to, but that doesn't make us a homage or a pastiche. It just means we have influences that are classic. The way we write is different -- it's almost like macho rock without the misogyny."
The band is ready to put in the extra miles and hours touring and promoting themselves in America. Its members are quite proud of the fact that after years of being dissed in the tastemaking British music magazines -- the NME reported that Hawkins should be hung -- they've finally conquered the country. Now they have their sights set on the States. After tonight's show, the Darkness will play Toronto and Los Angeles before returning to Europe. The band will begin a larger North American tour in November.
"This is what we've worked towards," Hawkins says. "And now we're here -- it's a window of opportunity. And we're not in the habit of making the sort of mistakes that would lead to that window being slammed shut, never to be opened again. We feel ready, so it's just a matter of plugging in and going for it now."