I recently got the chance to sit down with Midnight Larks, who just put out their self-titled debut LP and celebrated it with a release show at The Earl on March 31st. I had seen them on local and festival lineups, but honestly didn’t know a ton about the band. Before meeting up with them I listened to the record, trying to figure out what type album a band that had already played Music Midtown and shared the stage with groups like Run The Jewels would make. By the time I got about halfway through the album, I could tell that it was a labor of love made by artists who had something to say. I was really excited to sit down and talk about it with Sasha, Nikki and Pietro who make up Midnight Larks. We grabbed some drinks at The Earl and started talking about how they met. Sasha and Nikki connected through a Facebook post about an all-girl Misfits cover group. That group never quite came together, but they found a kinship and wanted to get a project going. A mutual friend put them in touch with Pietro who had recently quit another project. We talked for a while before coming to how they got started in Atlanta.
Sasha: We just played a lot around town and had a good reaction from people.
Jason: So you were pretty active during the time the album was coming together?
Sasha: Yeah very active, Mainly we were playing to actually pay for the album.
Jason: That can be hard to do with $50-$100 payments at a time
Sasha: *laughs* Yeah, it takes a while so we were taking any and every gig.
Pietro: When we got the Music Midtown gig they told us they wanted to give it to a band that deserved it and worked hard.
Sasha: Yeah we couldn’t quite believe it ourselves, we were so stoked. We had played a few festivals before but this helped out a lot.
Nikki: We played 420 fest and PBR Fest
Jason: That was the year with Run The Jewels right?
Nikkie: Yeah that was really fun.
Jason: So maybe Shaky Knees soon?
Nikki: That would be amazing
Sasha: Yeah really want to play Shaky Knees, but you have to be pretty big to be asked.
Jason: Well it seems like you’re getting the good gigs.
Pietro: Yeah well, we definitely played a lot of crappy gigs before we got to this point.
Jason: Good to know. I hadn’t heard a ton about the band and was pretty curious what had gone into you getting the attention you’re getting.
Pietro: Yeah we work hard, but I wouldn’t say the gigs were crappy since people usually would come out, it’s just those rooms with no A/C, or when you can’t hear yourself at all.
Jason: I think we know exactly what you mean *laughs*. Well it definitely seems like you’ve been putting in the work and I know I want to know more about you. Let’s start with, the name Midnight Larks, where did it come from?
Sasha: Well we just wanted something mysterious and loved the idea of it having to do with night and the witching hour. Originally, we were going to go with Dark Larks but Nikki couldn’t pronounce it with her southern accent.
Nikki: I still can’t *laughs*.
Jason: Well Midnight Larks definitely rolls off the tongue. I also like the witchy theme, it definitely plays into the subject matter on the album. Going through the song names we have Shady, Drawing out the Flame, Moontown… even though some of the songs sound very upbeat there’s a darker subject matter at play. Can we talk about the themes of the album?
Sasha: Of course.
Jason: As I was listening to the album I noticed each song on its own was good, but it was when I got to Drawing out the Flame (which I love) that I noticed that I was listening to an ALBUM. Each song is unique and covers a different recognizable style, something that is memorable while still being cohesive.
Sasha: That’s something that’s important to us. We love retro but we also don’t want to be a retro band, we want to be a modern band with a modern sound.
Nikkie: I would say there are 3 central themes. We talked about the upfront danger and revenge that you hear in Gunfighter and Summer of the Preacher, some songs about loneliness and abandonment…
Jason: All the good stuff
Nikki: Yeah *laughs* all the fun stuff. Then the happier and friskier songs like Tonight and Tease that are more fun, not as dark.
Sasha: Love, pain, revenge
Jason: A little bit of seduction?
Sasha: For sure.
Jason: I like it. It also seems somewhat character driven, with a western vibe at the beginning seeming to tell the story of a lone gunman. Was this album meant to tell a story?
Pietro: I don’t know that the album is telling a single story, but we definitely wanted to almost feel like a soundtrack to a movie, if you were to listen to like a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack. Some of the songs do tell a story, but we want to let people create that image in their heads.
Jason: Yes, I completely get the Tarantino vibe.
Nikki: We did talk about doing a series of videos for the songs that could tie stories together, but that’s a whole money thing.
Jason: Might need to play a few more gigs to fund that *laughs*.
Sasha: Or maybe someone wants to help us out.
Jason: Were there different versions of the album? Different songs or different orders of songs?
Sasha: It’s mostly the way we played it live, since they flowed well from one to the next.
Nikki: It also depended on how many songs Pietro wanted to use a tambourine *laughs*.
Pietro: Yeah they make me spread those out *laughs*. I really like styles that don’t rely just on the kit, I appreciate percussionists.
Jason: So now that the album’s out, what’s the next bar that you’ve set for yourself?
Sasha: We really want to do a tour. We’ve done a lot of great things in Atlanta and we’re hoping to get out on the road in front of more people.
Pietro: I think if we keep doing well in Atlanta and bringing people to the better gigs we’re getting hopefully a bigger band will bring us out and let us play to their crowd.
Jason: You’re definitely in a great position to do that. What bands would you want to tour with?
Pietro: I would love to open for the Brian Jonestown Massacre, I don’t know if we could survive a tour with them *laughs*.
Sasha: There’s a chance we could tour with some bands, so we’re just keeping our fingers crossed. We’d love to keep playing festivals.
Pietro: I think 2018 will be good for us playing bigger shows.
Jason: 2017 I think felt pretty rough for a lot of people, so I’m hoping 2018 is great for all of us.
Sasha: It’s off to a good start, we finally got the album out and we’re excited.
Jason: Album’s finally out! So since you’ve been working on it so long, what would you say is the oldest song that survived the process and made it onto the album.
Sasha: I would say “Shady,” it’s one of the first songs I ever wrote. I wrote it when I lived in a rough neighborhood in Birmingham (England), just feeling afraid all the time.
Jason: My one understanding of Birmingham comes from Peaky Blinders so if it’s anything like that I’m sure that was tough.
Sasha: My dad actually met one of the original Peaky Blinders. He was an old man when my dad was a kid.
Pietro: I didn’t know that!
Sasha: Yeah he told me recently.
Jason: Well that’s cool *laughs*! Do you have any favorite songs on the album?
Sasha: Well Nikki and I both contributed songs, my favorite song of mine is “Sometimes,” it’s very dark and I just love the way it turned out. My favorite of Nikki’s is “Summer of the Preacher,” it’s kick-ass and I love the story behind it.
Jason: Is that story worth sharing?
Nikki: Yeah, they might be sick of hearing it. It’s a true story that happened in my home town in Alabama during the 70’s. There was a family friend that was an attorney in town, I was googling him and saw he defended this serial-killing preacher who was into voodoo, who ended up getting shot at the funeral of his latest victim. So the song is from the perspective of man who shot the preacher, who was a Vietnam vet with PTSD.
Jason: That seems like the premise of a True Detectives series. I’m definitely picking up on the spooky, darker themes in the album from these stories. Having such rich experiences to pull from ties into that visual element that you said you want people to have in their minds while listening to the album. Well thank you for sharing all of this. Is there anything you’d like say to the person that you want to come see you and support you and the record?
Sasha: We’re not really tied to one genre, I think there’s something for everyone.
Pietro: Yeah I don’t know many bands that sound like us.
Sasha: So even though each song ties together I really think there’s something for a lot of different people.
Jason: That’s cool, Nikki how about you?
Nikki: We’re just a scrappy band that did all of this ourselves with a couple other people. I’m really proud of everything that we’ve done. Now I need a break.
Needless to say I really enjoyed my conversation with everyone in the Midnight Larks. They recently played Record Store Day, the new Atlanta Music Festival w/ Black Lips, Gringo Star and more. You can catch their next performance and pick up a copy of their album at Vinyl on May 11th.
By Jason Murray