Darlingside first toured as a five-piece indie rock band with drums, but finding the right delicate balance of voices and instruments was a challenge early on. Then, in 2013, the band parted ways with their long-time friend and drummer. “In our first few shows without Sam, we felt naked,” says Auyon. Listening to the current quartet, you can hear fingers on strings, breathing in the singing, squeaks and pumps from a harmonium. The band now performs the songs the same way they practice and write them—seeing them live is like sitting in their living room. There are still vestiges of the rock format: electric guitar fuzz and ambient feedback creep into otherwise acoustic arrangements. But in the new format, voices and melody have shifted to the forefront—a shift that has become important to the band. Harris explains, “we try to write songs that exist out of the context we set them into, songs that can just be sung.”
After six years of playing together and a decade-plus of knowing each other, the band’s collaborative process has evolved side by side with their friendships. “We’ve become intimate with each other’s childhoods, families, fears, goals, insecurities and body odors,” Auyon notes. “That kind of closeness is typically limited to romantic relationships. It’s gotten to the point where we often mistake each other’s stories and memories for our own.” Birds Say is a patchwork of the artistic and personal visions of four equal songwriters—a mashup of their individual and collective experiences and dreams. “The process is so entangled,” Don says, “I sometimes can’t remember what I wrote, or what anyone else wrote. We don’t consider a song finished until we’re all satisfied with it. It may not be the fastest process, but we know that when we all agree on something, it’ll sound like us.”
DON MITCHELL‘s oldest memory (age 2) is of a colorful dragon kite that folded down into a can on his parents’ sailboat ‘Acacia.’ More pertinently, he remembers growing up in rural Connecticut, where his musical training began as a boy alto in Chorus Angelicus and as a liberally-freckled cast member of such regional theater productions as “How to Eat Like a Child.” Adolescence came and went in its unflattering way, leaving Don with a repository of skillz including guitar, juggling, and uncanny Dr. Claw impressions. At college, he studied songwriting, music theory, and animal tracking, each of which is indispensable to him now as his alter-ego Doug, the band’s official Road Food Scout. Doug’s greatest finds, which include a vegan/vegetarian buffet located inside a Hare Krishna Temple in Dallas and a toothsome kombucha bar-cum-sandwich shop in Richmond, are traditionally celebrated with hearty pats on the back and rousing cheers for “More Doug!”
A feeble child, young AUYON MUKHARJI‘s lack of athleticism and physical prowess prompted his parents to enroll him in music classes at the tender age of three in the hopes that he might one day be a well-rounded college applicant. He proceeded to play the violin at a mediocre level throughout his youth, drifting in and out of youth symphonies and orchestra summer camps. He began mixing with the wrong crowd in college, which inevitably led to a years-long stint of a cappella singing and frequent experimentation with the mandolin. Upon graduation, he traveled around the world for a year as a vagrant musician, studying folk music in Ireland, Brazil, and Turkey. Auyon has been referred to as “naïve, without financial wherewithal, and most probably very anxious to return home” in the LA Times, and as “an embarrassment and a hooligan” by his mother, Jyoti. He serves as the band’s Director of Special Projects.
HARRIS PASELTINER has been playing cello classically since age 6. He has also played guitar self-taughtingly since sometime in high school. In his spare time, he enjoys playing Dave’s bass, or the organ he discovered at the town dump, or his erhu, or Auyon’s mandolin, or the organ that the band was given in Illinois, or perhaps Auyon’s saz, or Don’s banjo. As the old adage goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” Regarding music, Harris is like a horse that drinks substantial amounts of water whenever it is available. And regarding other things, Harris is often like a horse that is very thirsty and would you mind taking it back to the water, please? (Harris will also happily drink a pour-over, or scotch, or a nice pu-ehr if you were to lead him to one of those.)
As a child, DAVID SENFT would cry at the thought of going to college because he thought that singing was mandatory (his older cousins having all been in college singing groups). Young Dave preferred doodling in class, naming individual trees, and anything involving computers. His first website, at the age of 15, was devoted to the number 8. In college, Dave chose his extra-curricular activities based on which organizations seemed to need a new website, and wound up in a singing group after all. Soon after, he enrolled in a songwriting course with two friends, made a website for the class, and never looked back. Dave then spent two years after college as an itinerant street performer, and began learning bass when the band formed in 2009. If he’s not making music, or this website, he’s often found preparing breakfast, or looking for anything at all that might have been grass-fed.