Dec. 8 2010 10:28 AM

Darker My Love aren't just gazing at shoes anymore

Tim Presley (second from left) listens to crass and Grateful Dead.
Photo by Malia James
Listening to L.A. quintet Darker My Love’s latest record, Alive As You Are, is a bit like hearing your opera-loving co-worker completely nail The Stooges’ “Down on the Street” at company karaoke night. The more you listen, the faster your initial reactions—“What the fuck?” and “Naw, it can’t be”— give way to a heartfelt “Hell, yeah!” and a reminder that things aren’t always as they seem.

After two albums chock-full of psychedelic rockers and reverb-soaked drones, the band has embraced its inner iPod shuffle, swapping trademark distortion for a self-proclaimed “down to the ground” sound. And in the process, they’ve released a record that’s a whole lot more Jerry Garcia than My Bloody Valentine.

“It really comes from loving all kinds of different music,” says singer / guitarist Tim Presley. “We’re on the road a lot, and we’ll listen to Jimi Hendrix, then Crass, then Grateful Dead, then Ramones and then The Stone Roses. There wasn’t any kind of epiphany, and it certainly wasn’t ‘I’m into this now.’ It’s all happened very naturally. It’s just been a lot of ‘Hey, let’s try this’ and then going with it.”

Switching things up isn’t new to the band. In 2004, Presley co-founded Darker My Love with drummer Andy Granelli, his bandmate in Bay Area hardcore-punk outfit The Nerve Agents. The two were happy to trade fury for fuzz, as they were known for routinely hanging out together after punk shows and playing their favorite songs from a cross section of genres.

It wasn’t long before rhythm guitarist Jared Everett and bassist / co-lead vocalist / Berklee College of Music grad Rob Barbato joined the group. And by 2006, Will Canzoneri had been added on keys.

Granelli was replaced by Brian Jonestown Massacre alum Dan Allaire in 2009, but until last August’s release of Alive As You Are, Darker My Love were primarily known as a feedback-fueled rock band.

“I’ll admit, the track record of punks trying other stuff has not been that favorable,” Presley said. “But for us, it was something that happened organically. And at the same time, we also really wanted to get away from the noise that we were making before. We wanted to strip it, take a break for a second and boil it down. That wasn’t the mission statement going in, but it fell into that place as the songs kept coming.”

Presley maintains that things are pretty much the same since the switch and that it’s all just a natural progression for a band with diverse interests and a million influences from which to draw. But as their sound has changed, so have the bands that they’ve been booked with along the way.

Tours with once-like-minded brethren such as The Dandy Warhols and Warlocks have quickly given way to pairings with Band of Horses, Cass McCombs and Delta Spirit.

And while Presley and Barbato are able to draw on their shared experience of a stint with Mark E. Smith’s legendary band The Fall—including an invite to be a part of the group’s 30th anniversary in Manchester—they haven’t yet been able to completely reconcile the divergent sounds of their three albums when playing live.

“We’re still trying to figure that one out,” Presley says. “But it also depends a lot on who you play with and what kind of show it is. I feel like we can fit in with a bunch of different bands, but it’s kind of tricky. So far, we’re really still learning how to incorporate all the different kinds of songs we have.”

Currently on rotation in the touring van: Fleetwood Mac, Bread, Scott Walker and Danny O’Keefe, among others.

But Presley is adamant in pointing out that they’ve been listening to a heavy rotation of different bands for as long as he can remember, most of which never translate into an obvious influence on their records—and that no matter what musical inspirations they choose to indulge, their attitudes are the same now as the day they started; they’ll never do something just because it’s expected of them.

“It’s just a record played by some dudes,” he says. “But I think it’s punk rock to do something like that in the first place. It’s a brave move because we’d never done anything like that before.”

Whatever it is, the decision to break from an established comfort zone has ensured that the band can never be pigeonholed into record-store-placard categorization or a quick description. And that’s exactly the way they want it.

“It may just be our weird fear of genre,” Presley says, “but it certainly keeps it all fun and interesting.”

Darker My Love play with Delta Spirit and The Fling at House of Blues on Friday, Dec. 10.