The Darkness are one of those intoxicating rock bands that constantly make you wonder what it’s like to be up there on stage, shredding in their shoes. What does their show feel like from inside the wild costumes? Or from behind a 1990s Gibson Thunderbird? Amazingly, we got to discuss that and more with the only man who can answer the second question, bassist and founding member Frankie Poullain – just before the release of their fifth studio album, Pinewood Smile, which hits shelves tomorrow. And according to Frankie, the feeling of being up there is unlike anything else.

Frankie & The Darkness


“I love the fact that Justin has this boundless energy that is impossible to contain,” he said of Hawkins, their one-of-a-kind, spotlight-grabbing frontman. “The bigger the stage and the bigger the arena, the more he is almost relaxed on the whole. He has a really feral, primitive energy, but he’s also in touch with his female side as well. He’s very intuitive, and not afraid to get emotional or intimate, you know? Just building off his energy, I feel privileged to do that,” said Frankie. “Some nights, he really comes into the zone, and when it’s spontaneous – almost, when it becomes chaotic and the wheels come off, and things go wrong – Justin actually revels in it. He loves it. When somebody makes a mistake, for example, he actually kind of presents the person. Puts his hands over and kind of presents them; draws attention to the mistakes.” When asked if he’s had one of his own errors presented by Justin in such a flourish, Frankie laughed. “Many times.”

Justin Hawkins


“And the chemistry of the group,” he continued, still weighing the many cool aspects of being a part of it. “We’re all so different from each other. I can never really second-guess anything, to be honest. We have these kind of caricatures and very distinct personalities. I’ve likened it in the past to a family, where Dan is the father, the head of the family. Justin is the trophy wife. Rufus is the child. And I’m the great uncle.” It’s an analogy that would surely be embraced by their loving fan base – who, in fact, initiated a public outcry when Frankie left the band from 2005 to 2011, some calling him their favorite member. “I’m always surprised by it,” he said of their affectionate response. “I have a similar personality type to Justin; we’re both actually quite insecure. Insecure people tend to compensate by dressing up.”

All dressed up

The Darkness


“Sometimes I see similar traits in some of our fans,” said Frankie. “They’re often people who are at odds with the modern world, and don’t really enjoy the way rock is going – it’s becoming all doom-laden and dark. So they cherish the sense of fun; the silliness, and the cartoon aspect of the band. We definitely have a hardcore fanbase, for sure. They’re very sweet people. People embrace childishness, and almost don’t want to leave it. They don’t want to be put into this regimented, grey, sterile, grownup world.” In the same way, as we’d always imagined, The Darkness don’t want to be boxed in, or confined to misfitting labels like “retro” or “80s revival.” “Just as many people say 70s, and the new album references the 90s from time to time as well,” said Frankie. “It’s more a mentality I think; it’s more of an attitude. And the attitude is basically irreverence. A lot of retro bands, they almost curate and worship the past, whereas we tend to see it as an adventure playground – where we can just break the rules, draw from this and that, and just be chaotic and joyful. Ultimately, we’re trying to tap into a kind of euphoria; a communal euphoria. Justin can really tap into that. He’s great at picking people up, even in small social situations. He’ll sense someone is down and he’ll cheer them up in a really nice way. But without making a big deal about it. He’ll just do it instinctively.”


The Darkness fan


That knack of his is captured in various ways on their new record, Pinewood Smile, whose cover art depicts the band members in front of a large, shiny-white set of teeth. “Yes, it’s Justin on the cover. He had braces for two years, and now his teeth are straightened out. He’s very particular about his teeth now,” noted Frankie. He went on to explain the inspiration behind the title. “Pinewood is the British Hollywood, you could say. The film studios where all the Alfred Hitchcock films were filmed in the 50s and 60s, and James Bond films as well. I guess it symbolizes, for us, a type of class and style, and authenticity. It’s not nationalism; I don’t want to be misunderstood. But it evokes a time when people had talent, style, class, grace, and things were less tacky.”

The Darkness

The Darkness


Even so, The Darkness inject their sense of humor into every song in some way – sometimes, ironically, in ways that could even be called tacky. At the beginning of “Happiness,” there’s a hilarious, unexpected introduction about a kid shitting himself at the beach, retold in a high-pitched voice before the romantic song begins. “I’m glad you noticed that – that was really good fun,” Frankie said with an instant laugh. “That’s Justin. There’s always a lot of clips of us mucking around in the production process. This time, Justin came up with some great ones and was really inspired, and he had us in stitches. I think it’s a nice way to offset the song as well, because it gives it something extra. It’s like a love song, like something from Grease, the musical, you know? It’s very straight for us, and Justin doesn’t like stuff to be too straight. It’s self-sabotage as well,” he admitted. “We do self-sabotage. For example, the most commercial song on the album, ‘Solid Gold’ is just littered with expletives and coarse language and offensiveness. For some reason, we do that. Maybe subconsciously we’re just scared of getting famous again. Because when we did, we all fell out with each other.”

The Darkness


When asked if they’d ever discussed that fear as a group, Frankie just grinned. “Guys don’t talk about stuff like that. American guys maybe, but not British men. British men don’t talk about our emotions. We just take the piss out of each other.” But to our great satisfaction, there was one thing he definitely knew how to talk about: whiskey. “I’m Scottish, so good question. Cheers!” he said. “I like a Talisker sometimes. I also like a good Glenmorangie. Sometimes if you don’t want anything too heavy, like a Glenfiddich, you know?” he paused for a moment and thought carefully, as if sorting through an imaginary liquor cabinet. “Or a nice Oban whiskey,” he added. “I’ve been there too. It’s a lovely place in the Western Isles.”

The Darkness – Frankie


You can follow The Darkness on Facebook and Twitter, and pre-order Pinewood Smile here. The awesome new record comes out tomorrow, Friday, October 6th.


Article: Olivia Isenhart

Images from Irving Plaza, NYC 2015: Shayne Hanley



Be first to comment