A judge and prosecutor ... a sports medicine teacher ... an orthodontist office administrator. That doesn't scream "all-female horror-punk/garage-rock band that tours the world."
Don’t judge a band by its music or clothing, even if the former is punk and the latter lingerie. The Darts band members do have quite respectable day jobs, and yes, founder, vocalist and keyboardist Nicole Laurenne is someone you’d face in a courtroom should you break Arizona law.
Her current night/weekend/touring job fronting the band was basically an accident. As the dust was settling from the dissolution of the garage rockers Love Me Nots, Laurenne and Brainspoon guitarist Michelle Baldaramma began writing songs with the intention of sending them to radio and moving on to other projects.
“After we wrote the first couple songs, the songs just kept flowing, the demos were done quickly and thought, ‘Why don’t we just press this thing?’ said Laurenne from Arizona.
Sometimes years of hard work is rewarded. Sometimes a situation takes on a life of its own.
“That’s pretty much how this band is,” said Laurenne.
“We still have our drummer (Rikkie Styxx, late of the Dollyrots) in L.A. and the rest of us ( Laurenne, bassist and also Love Me Nots alum Christina Nunez, and guitarist Meliza Jackson) are here in Phoenix. That doesn’t allow for much rehearsal time, so I knew I had to have all pros, and people who could listen to a recording and be ready to tour immediately. And that’s what I got,” she laughed.
As The Darts have been doing, the garage rockin’ Love Me Nots toured the world and cultivated a rabid fan base before disbanding four years ago. But the Darts have an infectious energy not always evident in Love Me Nots. Laurenne was happy someone else could hear what she’s experiencing.
“Love Me Nots was a great band but there was a lot of seriousness involved in it and tension between band members. We did a lot over 12 years … that’s a long time to keep a band together. Once The Darts started, Christina and I said, ‘All we want to do is play with great musicians, go see the world together and have a great time.’ It’s come true in every possible way. Anytime we get together, whether it’s in Belgium or Serbia where we were last week, it’s a party and we have a great time together. That’s the key to the whole thing,” said Laurenne.
That party carries over to the stage, where The Darts in addition to often wearing lingerie, are unabashedly sexual. Intentional?
“Not necessarily,” said Laurenne. “We like to have fun with the audience, we like to make it interactive, we all are fans of other women in other bands. I’ve always thought the visual for a band is as much a part of the joy of seeing a band live as anything else.”
She said clothing was something they quickly put together without a lot of thought.
“We went, what would Ann-Margret do,” laughed Laurenne. “And that’s what we did.”
Does that mean seeing other bands, thinking guys here, who dress in clothing they either slept in or picked up off the floor after a few days as a rug are an eye roller?
“That doesn’t bother us that much,” said Laurenne.
“It’s the guys who look like they just got off work after casual Friday and then went out to their show in their khaki pants, that’s a problem. We actually have some good friends who help style us when we need help, and we’re always saying, ‘Hey, these are our stylist friends, you should call them,” she laughed again.
Bloomington-Normal has been on Laurenne’s radar since her high school days in suburban Chicago. She studied classical piano and made occasional performance trips with her school mates to Illinois Wesleyan University and Illinois State University.
Why punk? The easy answer, she said, is time. The not so easy answer? Fun.
“When I was playing piano, I had a lot more time as I was a full-time student. Then I went to law school, and time got more crunched. I didn’t have the hours to put in to keep my classical chops up,” said Laurenne.
She eventually moved to a jazz combo during law school, which she said took less time.
“Then I became a lawyer and judge, then a mother, and had even less time. So now those three chords are about all I have time to crank out and all I want to do because it’s so much fun,” said the admitted fan of jazz piano legend Bill Evans.
And similar to McLean County Assistant State's Attorney David Rossi, who played and toured with the suburban Chicago punk outfit Allister for a number of years and now owns Bombsight Recording Studio in Bloomington, Laurenne said she needs both law and music to feel whole.
“That’s true of everyone in my band. My drummer is a sports medicine teacher, my guitar player runs an orthodontist office … I don’t know how to put it except we feel like whole people this way. We can have a conversation at the merch booth and have a conversation with anyone who walks up and really get it. On the other hand, I can sit in court and listen to what people are saying and understand that underworld also. It really helps with both things, no question about it,” said Laurenne.
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