Five Questions With Ska Auteur Darrick Lucas
Darrick Lucas has a unique ability to write songs that are as tragic as they are uplifting. On his newest single, 'The World's On Fire' he tackles the ongoing environmental crisis with trademark empathy and humor. Here, he explains his thought process making music during a time of near constant catastrophe.
JW: This song deals with the incredibly difficult topic of climate change, yet the music is uplifting and easy to listen to. Can you talk a little about that juxtaposition? DL: I have a history of making pop parody. It’s a way for me to deal with the fact that I think most consumable music is void of what humans really need music for, but if you want success you have to use that medium since the majority of the language is lost (please don’t say this, it makes me look like an arrogant prick - but an honest one) In this particular song it is supposed to be poking at the overall laissez faire reaction to the world literally being on fire. We should be screaming this song and panicking - but culturally none of our music reflects the situation we’re in. So in a way, the singer is kind of going crazy because they are crying wolf and everyone is dancing like nothing is happening...if that makes sense.
JW: You grew up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. How did that environment affect the development of your music when you were starting out?
DL: Not a lot. I had little encouragement and there weren’t any role models for what a professional musician looked like besides a band teacher or a rock star. Through serendipity alone I formed a rock/ska band called Isaac’s College Fund and my quiet mountain area created one of today’s top session drummers in LA (Matt Musty) who currently tours with Train, played on Keith Urban’s recent record, is on Gwen Stefani’s xmas album etc - he really has made it. We had a great experience in high school making music together and I think THAT experience has held with me and instilled a love of creating original music. But I could have met someone like that anywhere, I don’t think where I grew up was particularly a big factor.
JW: The song has very unique structure and instrumentation. What can you tell us about the process of composing and recording it?
DL: It was my first shot at writing everything in full score and then sending the music, that nobody has played before, to musicians and having them record piece by piece. I have written arrangements in full score before but usually you get a chance to get everyone in the room to get on the same page. This was different because my drummer was in London, bassist in Miami, guitarist Boston, sax player was in Orlando at the time I think and my brass player is in Denver. It’s tough because I am not the greatest composer and often just make things I like - but then you realize when you’re working with the bassist that a voicing you made with the horns creates weird motion for them, so you adjust it but then you have to change the voicing with the guitar, but they already recorded...it was kind of a mess and there are little spots in this where me and my partner Lucas at our label (Lucas Squared Productions LLC) can point out to each other, in secret, flaws in the recording that were beginning pains of us figuring out how to do this when nobody knows each other, the music is brand new and untested - how to you maintain that human element of creativity that gives a project a sense of prosody? I am happy to say that we learned a lot and our production method has improved by levels already and we are set to be releasing loots of material. We have chosen to release singles just because we think it makes the most sense for where music consumption is at right now.
JW: How specifically has Covid-19 affected your creative output?
DL: The covid situation has been tragic as we see norms of society melt and empathy lacking from all directions. I am a little embarrassed to admit that I benefitted tremendously from the isolation. Lucas and I were planning on launching our label in the next few years - we had the idea of a low to the ground operation where we could use our rolodex of amazing musicians who have access to studios so we can make awesome relevant art that was consumable on a larger scale while building an economy for our musical friends. When covid hit, the majority of my friends are full time musicians who gig out, tour or teach private lessons. All of them lost almost all of their income and were available doing nothing. I started buying their time and working on projects. We also watched as covid forced the industry to speed ahead towards a more online, streaming, subscriber, creator-user direct marketplace we have been seeing slowly evolve since Napster.
JW: What’s your next project going to be?
DL: We have lots of songs that are somewhere along in the production range - whether it is the writing process, storyboard, lyrics, harmony, arrangement, recording, art, etc - I would say we have about 7 open tracks. So a lot of it has to do with who is available and what project is flowing right now. But here is a short list
Baby It’s Cold - its a chill non-denominational winter-time love song about how bitterly cold it gets in New England - setup like a jazz trio with a back beat (acoustic piano, upright bass - we hired Matt Musty, like the worlds greatest drummer)
Instant Relapse - it’s a grungy tune about struggling with addiction, currently going through artwork development
Enjoy the Scenery - also with an all star cast of musicians including guitar licks by a world renowned Berklee professor of guitar. It’s about taking time to notice the space between the lines, enjoy the little things etc
Life is Inherently Meaningless - another tune about existential dread where hero deals with size of universe, their overall insignificance in the grand scheme and how to come out of that and find meaning in the mundane (sonically think ‘theme from Wonder Years but also a full orchestra’)
Forwards and Backwards - it’s a piece that deals with suicide. It’s also was an interesting piece to write/how it wanted to come out. It will play like ‘rock orchestral’ I think?
tl:dr - idk really, we’ll keep it loose.