In making their second full-length, Seattle-area indie rockers Daphne Loves Derby turned to the past to pave their own forward-looking musical path. After returning home from several months of the road life, the foursome opted to immerse themselves with a variety of albums from respected artists like Frank Sinatra, The Eagles, Janis Ian and The Cardigans. It was in these classic albums that the members of Daphne Loves Derby discovered inspiration to forge ahead into crafting its own future.
But that doesn’t mean the act created an album that exclusively nods to yesterday’s hit makers. To the contrary, the songs of Good Night, Witness Light are about as current as it gets, rubbing shoulders with the genre’s best. Having racked serious mileage and a notable stage tally touring with artists like Copeland, Paulson, House of Fools, Waking Ashland, This Providence and Sherwood, Daphne Loves Derby had undoubtedly found itself surrounded by solid musical companionship, gaining immeasurable experience.
Though the band traces its roots to the earlier part of the decade, Daphne Loves Derby is best known for its 2005 Outlook-released full-length debut, On the Strength of All Convinced. Bolstered by an impressive online presence — which continues to this day (as of this writing, the band had racked nearly 4,000,000 plays on its MySpace page) — On the Strength of All Convinced found many takers and garnered its share of praise from the music media. That’s an impressive feat for a few musicians that weren’t even of drinking age at the time of its release.
On the Strength of All Convinced also gave the band a well-deserved opportunity to hit the road (with the addition of guitarist Spencer Abbott) across the nation and overseas in Japan — even if Daphne Loves Derby vocalist/guitarist Kenny Choi doesn’t think he and his bandmates should’ve been sharing bills with such high profile and influential acts.
“I had the time of my life because I got to tour with some of my favorite bands,” says Choi. “Copeland, I’m still obsessed with that band, I love everything that they’ve put out. I couldn’t believe I was on tour with them. Jack’s Mannequin was one of my favorite bands too. We got really lucky, those are all tours that we shouldn’t have gotten yet, but we were lucky enough. It was good because you’d learn so much. Those bands are real experienced, and such good musicians, and we’d watch them every night.”
Taking into account what they experienced on a nightly basis — as well as the aforementioned listening of albums — Daphne Loves Derby took a break from the touring life during the summer of 2006 and entered the Maryland home studio of production prodigy Matt Squire (Panic! At The Disco).
“He seemed the most interested in us and we wanted to work with someone that was excited for the project,” says Choi. “I’d only heard a couple of his CDs but I liked everything he did on them, plus he had a home that was connected to the studio, so I think it was an amazing idea to live in the studio the entire time. We could be focused on it, away from home.”
Such focus led to an album process that offered plenty of fresh angles for Daphne Loves Derby, including the ability to spend hours writing parts to incorporate new instrumentation on its tracks. “We had some friends in the area that could play cello and French horn,” says Choi. “We brought them in and we were able to record real instruments on the CD and that made it sound so much deeper and classier than a fake MIDI track. It was a lot of fun and I think it came out well.”
The marching band intro to “That’s Our Hero Shot” was inspired by the movie, “Drumline.” “We rented out the marching equipment and Stu stayed up all night one night and wrote out this entire marching band part,” says Choi. “We recorded it the next day and it was just a whole lot of fun.”
The resulting two months in the studio produced an album with an expansive variety of material, from the Radiohead-inspired melodies of “How’s It Going To End?” to the powerful “Stranger You And I” and the acoustic-based “Cue The Sun.”
On writing “Cue The Sun,” Choi says, “I didn’t think it would end up on the CD but I’m really happy it is now. We really needed a quiet song because all the other songs are dense with instruments. It’s about leaving home and not being ready to give up everything in your personal life. You’re changing as a person and not enjoying the way you’re changing, it’s just helplessness, I guess.”
“Stranger You And I” was actually three different songs meshed together. “I remember writing the chorus for that while we were on tour and it came together when we were in the studio,” he says. “We realized we could add other instruments and make parts really simple, but still pretty. It’s about a breakup and how it took too long for me to realize that it was my fault.”
The album’s title was inspired by Choi’s favorite poem by Robert Frost. “That poem to me sums up life, growing up and the moments you feel when you’re alone,” says Choi. “It’s complicated, but it’s a pretty dark album. And I think a lot of the songs wrap around those ideas.”
Shortly after the completion of Good Night, Witness Light, longtime bassist Jason Call exited the band on good terms to pursue school and mission work.
With another album under their collective belts, the members of Daphne Loves Derby will head back out on the road, hopefully feeling a bit more deserving of the success and respect of their peers that they’ve attained. After all, an album like Good Night, Witness Light should be the confidence boost that Daphne Loves Derby needs.
This band is a former Absolutely Unsigned artist. They were signed by Outlook Records.