Darwin Deez interview

The Michael Jackson of indie-rock’ talks to Time Out


No one’s quite sure how Darwin Deez (real name Darwin Smith) picked up the title ‘the Michael Jackson of indie-rock’, but his brilliantly awkward dance moves and relentlessly upbeat tunes have made him notorious in the music world. Well, either that or it’s because he looks like John Oates playing Napoleon Dynamite. His band – which, like Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson before them, is confusingly named after its American frontman – released their new album, Songs for Imaginative People, recently. Before that, we got Darwin, 28, to tell us some of his darkest secrets.

There’s plenty of history in those dance moves.
‘I can tap-dance well. I’ve studied with the masters, and I performed in a semi-professional ensemble at public schools, dance festivals, and even internationally. In second grade, I found my sister’s tap shoes on the closet shelf and put them on, and my mom signed me up for classes. I ended up dancing way longer than she did, ’til I was 19 or so.’

He’s a Baba lover – a fan of Indian mystic Meher Baba.
‘My parents met each other in the ’70s through their mutual interest in spiritual master Meher Baba, who was popular at that time. They are still married and I’ve developed an appreciation – a love, if you will – of the man and his message, which includes the original quote, made famous by Bobby McFerrin, “Don’t worry, be happy”. So Meher Baba is my guru and spiritual guide.’

He used to be a charity canvasser.
‘I used to have a job canvassing for the Fund for the Public Interest. That means I was one of the people harassing you on the street to donate to Greenpeace, Save the Children and human rights campaigns. This is a high-turnover job with a performance quota, and most canvassers don’t last more than three days. I did it for six months. Then I loafed for six months on my savings.’

You can tell him anything.
‘If I wasn’t a musician, I’d be a psychotherapist. That’s my dad’s job. I find it interesting, and I would do it in my spare time if I could practise without a licence. I think people’s feelings are really important and worth hearing and investigating in every case. Or I’d be a writer of some kind, like maybe a screenwriter.’

A guy in Florida once tried to lick his shoes.
‘While on tour in Tampa, we went shopping and our driver Evan got a compliment on his sneakers. The man asked for a closer look and when Evan lifted his foot, the man licked the bottom of his shoe! After the tour, I told this story to some Tampa residents and they knew the ending before I even finished it. Apparently the Ybor City shoe-licker is famous. I told Evan and he YouTubed him.’

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