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Stephen Karl & Handsome Animals & Darlin Darlin | Stephen Karl & Handsome Animals / Darlin Darlin

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Stephen Karl & Handsome Animals / Darlin Darlin

by Stephen Karl & Handsome Animals & Darlin Darlin

Vivid and rich storytelling in the folk-Americana tradition - a lovechild of Bruce Springsteen and Dolly Parton.
Genre: Folk: Singer/Songwriter
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Cyndi
Stephen Karl & Handsome Animals
4:50 $0.99
2. Shelter
Stephen Karl & Handsome Animals
3:59 $0.99
3. Easy
Darlin Darlin
3:52 $0.99
4. Katy, TX
Darlin Darlin
4:21 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
New York has long been a hotbed for songwriters, from the Folk City-centered explosion of the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s, to the anti-folk uprising of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, to the vibrant current scene that supports the ten-year-old Brooklyn Folk Fest and a healthy open mic milieu that finds true believers like Stephen Karl and Joanie Leon Guerrero pouring their hearts and guts out every night of the week.

Once upon a time, three-chord buskers and punk-fueled sensitive singer/songwriters ruled New York’s song-oriented clubs. These days, a new melding of singer/songwriters and highly skilled post-conservatory musicians are harvesting elegant, noisy, impassioned, and timeless tunes, as exemplified by this split single by genre-pushing comrades-in-song Stephen Karl & Handsome Animals and Darlin Darlin.

“There’s definitely a scene in New York of people who are in their late 20s to early 40s who went through serious academic music training, from Julliard and Yale, and now they’re [returning to basics] as songwriters,” said Karl, whose resume includes a master’s degree in classical guitar performance, guitarist for Antony and The Johnsons, and the driving force behind the experimental instrumental ensemble Redhooker. “I missed words. I missed writing words, and a lot of these people found a similar trajectory as me, where I’m not honoring my musical heritage if I’m just practicing Bach all the time. My community is more people like that, which is outstanding because it means a lot of the players are high level and we can put a band together where everyone’s got the chops and the ears.”

“I think we’re all just trying to create a community,” said Guerrero, singer and co-guiding light (with romantic partner and multi-instrumentalist Brett Parnell) behind Darlin Darlin. “I grew up in Virginia, and I really got into music after I graduated from high school and moved to [Washington] D.C. right after. There’s such a strong community of musicians there. Everybody goes to everybody else’s shows, and people are really supportive there. I feel like New York is all about curating a vibe. D.C. is more like, ‘Here, you guys have a good thing going on, do it here.’”

Towards making a scene, the two Brooklyn-based bands have played gigs together and collaborated musically and communally. The marriage is made official with a four-song split single EP released today. Karl’s tunes, “Shelter” and “Cyndi,” are pretty slices of life that evoke his Dylan-Minnesota roots and highlighted by trippy Bowie-worthy pop vocals, while Darlin Darlin’s haunting “Easy” and “Katy, TX” suggest fellow New Yorkers Ollabelle and the Golden Palominos. Both bands bring a raw freshness to a time-honored tradition.

“Joanie likes to describe Darlin Darlin as ‘Dolly Parton meets Nick Cave,’” said Karl, of his friends’ dark lilt. “My heroes are Prince, Springsteen, Tom Waits, Townes Van Zandt. A lot of these tunes that were written around this time deal with romantic relationship struggles: ‘Shelter’ is an honest story of a relationship that is failing, but it does it in an honest, compassionate, and not-too maudlin way by acknowledging what I’m experiencing, and what I love about the woman I’m losing, and how I basically do want the best for her. I felt like it was important to show that side, but I also wanted to present a fun story, and ‘Cyndi’ is that—about a night when I was 25 and got a kiss from Cyndi Lauper.”

“My dad is from Guam, and in Guam they love country music,” said Guerrero, who has been singing since she was six years old. “It’s kind of a strange thing in the Phillipines. I have a huge family, and everyone loves Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton. It’s crazy. Two-step is a big thing in Guam, so I was kind of secretly a country music fan, but as a teenager I was into riot grrrl music and indie rock, but still a closet country fan. So when I started writing, it was country music. Dolly Parton is my biggest influence, for sure.”

Seven years ago, the band switched from Guerrero’s solo performing moniker, Wayward Daughter, to Darlin Darlin, but her songwriting subject matter remains the same.

“Brett and I call each other “darlin’” all the time,” she said. “We’d be on stage and say, ‘Hey darlin’, what should we play next?’ ‘I dunno, darlin’, what do you want to play?’ So we just started calling it ‘Darlin Darlin.’

“I write a lot about family, and marriage, and heartbreak. They’re break-up songs, divorce songs. I think I’m really bad at explaining myself and talking about my feelings, so music is really my way of just saying exactly what I’m feeling. It’s been an emotional outlet for me, like most musicians I guess, but I really write from experience. I’ve been through a lot of heartbreak in my life; my parents were divorced when I was young, and I had a very unstable home and bounced around a lot between different family members. So yeah, it’s just kind of like… what comes out.”

For both Darlin Darlin and Stephen Karl & Handsome Animals, “what comes out” is beautiful. And from the sounds of things, this four-song EP is just the beginning.

“In December 2015, I thought to myself, I’ve never done the open mic thing,” said Karl. “Here I am in New York City, and you can find an open mic night every night of the week. So I started going to them once a week, and that’s when I started writing these songs. I really loved that process. I loved the community around these open mics, and I’ve loved the new challenges it presented me with. I had made instrumental music alone, and I missed making music with other people, and I was reminded of the fact that I like stories, and I like words.”

“I’ve had debilitating performance anxiety, and that’s how Steve and I got connected,” said Guerrero. “He was doing all these open mics to kind of work on his performance anxiety, and he was like, ‘You should do this, too!’ And I said, ‘OK, I’ll try!’ I’m not very good at putting myself out there. People are always trying to get me to do stuff, so I think Steve and Brett are my biggest advocates. It’s been a really awesome experience playing music with Steve, and this project has been really inspiring.”

Stephen Karl & Handsome Animals


Darlin Darlin




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