The Darkness lead singer and Norwich City fan Justin Hawkins says he’s optimistic about the club’s fortunes this season because “when Norwich do well, The Darkness does well.”
With their new album, Easter is Cancelled, out on Friday, canaries.co.uk caught up with the band’s vocalist to discuss the excitement around the new record, supporting Norwich City, and winning an East Anglian derby against Ed Sheeran.
canaries.co.uk: Your new single, Easter is Cancelled, came out recently. What has the early response been to that?
JH: It’s one of those tracks that you put out that is just supposed to be a teaser for the album, like a ‘listen to this’ kind of thing. It’s not supposed to be on the radio or anything like that, it’s just a ‘look at this and don’t forget to pre-order the album’ kind of thing.
It’s quite a heavy song, showing the heavier side of what we have on the record.
canaries.co.uk: One of your new songs that has been received well on the radio is Heart Explodes.
JH: Yeah, that’s the first time we’ve had a song in the BBC Radio 2 playlist since 2005. 14 years in the wilderness and we’re finally allowed back in, so that’s really cool! I’m well chuffed with that.
"The problem with simple stuff is you've got to get it just right"
canaries.co.uk: Meanwhile, you’ve had Live ‘Till I Die written since before your first album in 2003. What’s it like sitting on a song for that long?
JH: [Laughs] It’s one of those ones where you always think you know how that song makes you feel because you’ve had it for such a long time! We had two decades of trying to record it, and every time we did an album, we tried to record it in some form or another.
It never really worked until we had Rufus Taylor on the drums and suddenly with him playing it made it feel a bit different. Suddenly, it became exciting and worth recording so it made it onto the album. We’ve been trying to get it out there for ages because it used to be really popular live when we were doing pub gigs as a young band.
It was always one of those songs that our little fanbase enjoyed, so it’s nice to finally get it out there.
canaries.co.uk: It’s been through a fair few iterations then?
JH: Well, kind of, it never really changed. That’s sort of part of the problem. Every time we try to change it, it becomes less simple, less immediate, and less fun to play. The problem with simple stuff is that you’ve got to get it just right. Everything has to be really well played for it to work. There’s a sort of magic element in the track we haven’t been able to pull off before. Now we’ve got it, but as you can tell we’re pretty fussy!
canaries.co.uk: What are your emotions at the moment? You’ve got your album coming out on Friday and you’re going on tour again soon.
JH: I’m really excited about the tour. Leading up to the album release, everything has been so busy. I seem to be travelling for about four hours every day doing loads of promo and press, as well as rehearsing. My brother and I do bits of work outside of The Darkness as well music-wise so we’ve been really busy.
When we go on tour it’s a bit of a break because all you’ve got do is play gigs and they’re always fun. The rest of the day, we’ve got people who do stuff for us! We go for a run, do a workout, have a sleep, someone goes to get us a coffee, and then we do a big show. It’s a really great, comfortable system on a bus full of people we really enjoy working with. We’ve got a great team around us and it’s great fun, so I’m really looking forward to it.
canaries.co.uk: One of the venues on that tour is UEA here in Norwich. What’s it like playing at your hometown?
JH: Well that’s where I went to my first gigs as a teenager! I always hoped I’d get to play there one day. The other place I used to really enjoy in Norwich was the Norwich Arts Centre. I saw Oasis in there on their first album tour. There were about 200 people in the room and it was absolutely brilliant.
The Waterfront was always great as well. I saw Jellyfish there, as well as Thunder at the UEA and the Australian Doors, so that was a laugh! I would have been about 14 or 15 when I was seeing these bands. It was brilliant.
"The first album was heavily influenced by East Anglia"
canaries.co.uk: What are your memories of growing up in Norfolk and did it influence your music?
JH: Yeah, especially on the first album, there are a lot of references to local landmarks and mythology, for example the story about the Black Shuck which attacked the church in Blythburgh. In one of the songs, called Stuck in a Rut, we’re talking about the Barnby Bends, which is one of the roads that comes out of Lowestoft and leads up to Norwich. That’s really you’re only way out of that town, to get to anywhere civilised anyway!
I feel like that first album is really influenced by East Anglia and our experiences growing up there.
canaries.co.uk: Onto football then, you’re Norwich fans, correct?
JH: Yeah, well as a young child I used to enjoy watching Manchester United but when I started going to games it was always Norwich. I remember enjoying watching Robert Fleck and Robert Rosario. I saw some amazing games at Carrow Road, including a 4-4 draw with Southampton in 1989!
canaries.co.uk: What does the club mean to you and how do you think we will do in the Premier League this season?
JH: I’m really excited about this season. I always feel like when Norwich do well, The Darkness does well. Last time they had a good run was when our first album came out, so it’s a good omen for me. Also, I met Tim Krul recently at a barbecue stroke music festival event and we’ve actually kept in touch, so whenever there’s something fun to do I always text him. That adds an extra personal reason to be excited for Norwich.
More recently, I used to go to Norwich games as a guest of the Lotus Group because I love anything East Anglian and local. While Lowestoft is in Suffolk, my local team was certainly Norwich. It’s much easier to get to than Ipswich.
"Ed Sheeran made me promise that nobody would ever see my photo of him in a Norwich shirt"
It was on the news the other day where, because of the contrasting fortunes of Norwich and Ipswich, there isn’t an East Anglian derby this season, so Ed Sheeran decided to set one up. His team was Ipswich and The Darkness was Norwich. We won 7-5, but there exists a picture on my phone where we swapped shirts! Ed made me promise that nobody would ever see him in a Norwich shirt, so I’m going to blackmail him for a million quid!
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canaries.co.uk: It’s funny what you said about Norwich and The Darkness being successful at the same time. Liam Gallagher recently said that Oasis were always doing well when Manchester City weren’t doing well and vice versa.
JH: Ours is definitely a positive correlation! We always get good news when Norwich have had a good result. When they’re in flight we’ve usually got an album coming out that’s quite well received, so that’s my experience of it.
canaries.co.uk: The Visit Norfolk website says you’ve ‘threatened to record a song for the club’ in the past. Is that right?
JH: Threatened! I think offered might be a better word! No, I don’t think we’ve offered nor threatened to do that, but if they don’t watch out maybe we will! Maybe I have done that in an interview because I do have a habit of telling massive porky pies.
"I once threatened to buy all of Southwold"
What I did threaten to do was buy Southwold! I think that was taken the wrong way by the residents of Southwold. Someone asked me if I would think about buying some property around the area, and I said I’d just buy the whole thing! That was assuming we’d make a billion pounds or whatever it would cost.
Some people thought I was serious about that! We’re one of those bands where you say things that you don’t mean and everyone thinks it’s serious and vice versa.
canaries.co.uk: It gets taken out of context! Finally, would you ever play at Carrow Road?
JH: We’d love to. Once upon a time, we were talking about that, but it wasn’t appropriate because they had just been promoted. We were just coming through as a band and they had just gone back up and they didn’t want us to ruin the grass. We could always do it in a bar or restaurant!
canaries.co.uk: Thanks for chatting to us Justin and best of luck with the album and the tour!
Images courtesy of Simon Emmett.