Ears Wide Open: Darkplay


One can never go wrong with post-punk. It’s a genre that has emerged from the cold, grey English skies of its birth into a style that can be easily spotted in much sunnier environs. Darkplay confirms this with their latest offering, “Knuckles.” Sticking with the recipe, the L.A. duo cooked up the single with all the right ingredients, trash-can drums, a hint of goth, a dash of darkwave, a wash of ’80s synth, and just a pinch of shoegaze. Sergio Soto’s emotive vocals encircle Max McDonald’s lush synth instrumentation in a way that could be best described as if New Order went somewhat organic.

The duo, who are also members of the band Cold Violets, released their debut album “Worked Up” in 2019 and have been working to finish up their follow-up LP, “Goner,” due March 5. The forced downtime due to COVID-19 has been a double-edged sword in terms of their creativity.

“The pandemic has been both a blessing and a curse for our music,” Soto says. “On one hand, the shutdown allowed us to write and record a lot of material without outside distraction. Aside from the songs written and finished for our upcoming album, there are a whole bunch of other finished songs and work-in-progress ideas that we hope to release within the next year. On the other hand, we miss organizing and playing shows with our friends. It felt as if we were part of a good community of fellow bands and artists in eastside L.A. Many of the bands that we would play alongside (and often perform with) had such performance-art aspects to their live experiences. It’s a shame that we cannot express ourselves in that way anymore. We really miss it.”

Los Angeles is not the same place it was 10 months ago, and like most local acts, they are frustrated with the present situation. “I feel that when we are all ready to safely return to spaces where we can be shoulder-to-shoulder, the state of the ‘scene’ and the places we go to enjoy live music may be unrecognizable,” Soto says. “At the very least, it will be different. (The loss of the Satellite hit us pretty hard.) I have faith that whatever is still standing when this is all over will have a ready and eager audience. There was also a certain period of time during the pandemic, where it was a huge struggle to write at all. The state of the world became less of an inspiration and more of a nightmarish distraction. It was, and continues to be, all-consuming and concerning. However, I do believe the sense of isolation that everyone is currently going through was the thing that seeped into this album most directly.”

Soto and McDonald have also been working on Cold Violets material along with bandmates Eliot and Wes Dewberry. They released a couple cover songs in 2020 but now “are toying with the idea of another EP, depending on how things go. … Our last show as Cold Violets was at the Troubadour, December 2019. We had a horn section with us that night. We had no idea that was gonna be our last show for a long while. We’re all clambering to get back to performing.”

||| Stream: “Knuckles”

||| Also: Stream two of their singles from 2020, “Needle’s Eye” and “Only You”