If there’s one thing bassist Frankie Poullain thinks the world of rock ‘n’ roll is sorely lacking, it’s silliness. And over the past two decades, his band, The Darkness, have worked to fill that void.
Since the year 2000, the British band have tried to fill this niche by behaving in the most childish way possible while delivering hard-rock glam operatic anthems and keeping a straight face.
“AC / DC was an example of great childish rock”, says Poullain new times on Zoom. “Their lyrics are teenage, taking you back to when your hormones made you incredibly stupid. Having Angus Young dressed like a schoolboy made him so special.”
But it was a very different group from the 1970s that pushed Poullain into making music.
“I heard the carpenters in the back of my mother’s car,” he says. “It was a single mom driving us around in a rickety car, and I heard, I think it was ‘Superstar’. It was a mix of twee and cosmic.”
Several years later, Poullain took up the bass guitar, he says, because “I didn’t have the technique to play anything else”.
However, it fits perfectly into the philosophy of the brothers Justin and Dan Hawkins (respectively singer and guitarist).
“A band is a composite of personalities,” he explains. “The classic foursome compensates for everyone’s limitations. It was about sacrificing your ego for the bigger part of the band.”
The Darkness rebelled against rock music that took itself too seriously.
“The worst thing about the ’90s and grunge was that rock grew up. ’70s rock ‘n’ roll was childish,” Poullain says.
On the back of the pompous yet silly hard-hitting single, 2003’s “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”, Darkness exploded in their native England. But the lines between making fun of and experiencing rock ‘n’ roll excess became blurred with Pouillain leaving the band in 2005; the Darkness separated soon after.
“The first album was so high. The high got too strong with all the drugs and alcohol,” Poullain recalls. “Everything got sour and poisonous. Things fell apart, first with me, then with Justin. There was too much money and not enough vision and discipline to resist it.”
Nevertheless, the group remains proud of its first album, Authorization to land.
“You can hear the good times in the album. You can’t fake feel-good albums,” Poullain said. “Well, you can pretend, but then it looks like Maroon 5, which is a crime against humanity.”
When the band reunited in 2011, the members decided to attack the music with the same hard-rock mayhem – but with a little more off-stage composure.
“We have more control now and we have complete artistic freedom,” he says. “You don’t always get a second chance. Now we are encouraged to be as anarchic as we want.”
Poullain thinks that the latest Darkness record, driving heart, fits into that sweet spot. The name came about when Poullain first heard the title track’s backing tracks.
“It reminded me of Motörhead meets that Heart song ‘Barracuda’,” he says, although he clarifies that it’s not a tribute to Lemmy, the lead singer of Motörhead who died in 2015. “We play with Lemmy’s iconography, but it’s not macho like his music.”
For Poullain, the stage is the place where the stupidity of Darkness shines through. South Floridians can see it for themselves when the band stops by the Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale on April 13.
“We are able to tap into the collective euphoria. We don’t do stupid things,” Poullain said. “The songs are always emotionally vulnerable, but there’s something celebratory about what we do.”
Asked to give an example of the band’s characteristic silliness, Poullain cites a recent appearance on a British TV show: “Justin was going to wear a catsuit, but the TV show said he would have to wear a T-shirt underneath to cover his nipples. So instead, he will wear tassels on his nipples.
Darkness. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 13, at Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale; cultureroom.net. Tickets are $28 through ticketmaster.com.