“It was good for showing how conservative Nashville really still is even though people like to think it’s this liberal city. It’s like nah man, we’re still in the heart of the south.”
Jessi Darlin, singer/guitarist for Nashville country goofs-cum-moody rockers Those Darlins, is on the phone from a parking lot in the middle of Ohio. The band is returning to Music City after a wild, mosh-filled college show, preparing for a week of record release activities before returning to the road. Returning to a Music City, it should be noted, that has seen the bands bare asses—displayed on a 9-foot-by-9-foot banner from the facade of the city’s favorite record store—and reacted about as well as you’d expect from the buckle of the bible belt.
“We wanted to put it up with no name on it and just let people react to it. We didn’t want to people to know it was an album cover,” says Darlin. “It wasn’t like we were trying to get people fired up, we were just presenting it.”
But the Blur the Line cover did get people fired up, the tangled mass of naked Darlins causing a veritable shitstorm of righteous prudishness exploding on the internet the second local Fox-affiliate WZTV dropped a dime.
From condemnations of polygamy to accusations of corrupting the youth, the denizens of Nashville’s internet communities were quick to judge, quick to call for boycotts, quick to throw about homophobic slurs and heteronormative judgements—all because of an ass-quartet banner in black and white. But for every uptight asshole that needed to thump their bible and “protect” the kids from the evils of human anatomy there was a voice of sanity to match.
“One thing I will say that on the [local Fox news site] there were a bunch of comments that were like ‘ the bible says rar, rar rar’ but there were just as many people who were sticking up for it as there were against it,” says Darlin. “A lot of people were like ‘what’s the big deal this is no worse than the Demonbreun circle of naked people.”
(The “circle of naked people” is actually a group of statues entitled at the top of the city’s famed Music Row. Not, ya know, some geometric nudist colony.)
But the cover, even prominently displayed on a main thoroughfare, is perhaps the least attention-grabbing thing about Blur. From the open-lines of “Oh God,” a tale of drunken struggles with childhood traumas set to a tremolo-country shuffle, it’s clear that Those Darlins have grown out of the “I got drunk and I ain’t chicken” phase of their debut and moved passed the wildness of the Screws Get Loose stage.
“Past experiences would come up in blocks, these things that were tough to deal over the course of my life, and I realized these were the things I need to write about,”says Darlin.
“I would just write about it—write as much as I could—describing every detail until I couldn’t get anything else on paper and those end up becoming my favorite songs.”
Years of hard-livin’, years of non-stop road work, and the years of unpredictable family situations that preceded them, have caught up to Those Darlins, but rather than running away from it Those Darlins are staring those issues down and tackling them head on. Produced by Roger Moutenot—whose credits include Tennis, Lou Reed, and Yo La Tengo—Blur finds the band digging deeper into its own psyche, opening old wounds and letting them bleed on to the tape. Blur the Lines gets complex quick, confronts the listener with a web of emotions and evokes a multitude of reactions.
Not unlike, say, a 9-foot-by-9-foot banner of bare asses.
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