The pop-rock duo, The Darcys, made up of Wes Marskell and Jason Couse have a longstanding love affair with the city of angels. And music, of course, they’ve been recording together since grade school and turned their passion into a career not long after finishing University. With 5 albums, JUNO and Polaris Music Prize nominations under their belt, they’re hardly newbies to the music industry. But they are embarking on a new chapter in their life, marked by their recent move from Toronto to LA. This probably comes as no surprise to fans of the group, with song titles like “Studio City” from their 2016 album Centerfold and “Hollywood Ending” from Fear & Loneliness, the California dream has been embedded amongst crisp percussion and fluttering synths. Naturally, they even wrote a song about the move, and “Running For The Hills” is just the beginning of their American dream. But Canada will always be in their hearts, as they’re coming home to play two shows in Vancouver this month. Catch them at the Biltmore Cabaret or Victoria Lucky Bar on March 29th and 30th, tickets are available here.
Below, Wes chats about life in LA, his love for film, learning new skills, and what’s next for The Darcys.
How’s LA at the minute?
It’s good, it was relatively cold which is not a conversation anyone from Canada wanted to hear last week. Everyone was sending photos of 50 feet of snow and I felt a little like an idiot. It’s beautiful and great! Jason just moved down here; I’ve been here for a while now. It’s a lot easier to be creative in person than it is on a video call.
Talk to me about your love affair with LA—what is the most captivating part about the city?
It’s interesting because growing up as a kid, I always wanted to move down here. It was an exciting idea for me. Doing it was a huge step but being here is so different than the expectation. There is a great community—we’re trying to enjoy that and take every opportunity.
Do you think the city has a mirage effect? Is it more visible once living there or is this a false narrative?
I think it’s both. There are a lot of people who’ve moved here and didn’t realize the dream they were searching for or hoping for. Moving here later in our career and being established, having the support networks and structures in place, made it difficult for us to fully fail immediately— who knows what the next five years will bring! For now, we’re in a good place. If you were to get in the car and move from Wisconsin to LA to be an actress or actor, that might result in a different outcome. The mirage is still very real for a lot of people.
It seems like a lot of musicians, specifically from Toronto and Montreal, have started moving out towards LA. Do you think it’s a natural pull that’s happening?
It’s been like this for a long time, for music and creativity. Canada is also amazing for both those things, and Canada has been exploding with creativity, community, and amazing music— but at the same time, it feels like you can go to a coffee shop or restaurant and someone who is working on something great is often available to you, to engage with and be included in.
I also find being creative—when walking out to depressing weather outside—[it’s] really hard to write songs that aren’t just the worst. On the other hand, LA is fun, happy, and you have to make the time to be creative—otherwise, you’ll just go to the beach every day.
Is that what you do, go to the beach every day?
Yes! There are so many things in LA to take your attention away from whatever else you’re supposed to be doing.
What was that final straw moment where you knew you had to take this leap of faith and move down to LA? Has the gamble paid off yet or is that still up for debate?
My partner was living down here making some movies and that was exciting. I had been spending so much in LA and when Covid hit, it didn’t make any sense to be cooped up and stuck in a house elsewhere. We might as well be together!
It’s been a longer build with Jason because he’s had other projects on the go and we’re very established in Toronto. I’ve been traveling back and forth but I think he felt if I don’t go now, I’m never going to go. He literally moved into his apartment a couple of days ago—it’s still very fresh for him. It’s lovely to have him here but it’s a whole new dose of having him so close again, which is wonderful!
It’s so interesting, the question of it paying off. I don’t know if that’s really a thing. All of a sudden we have our highest charting radio single and all these other positive things are happening and it’s hard to not connect them or see some correlation. There’s no connection between me living in LA and having a single song be successful on Canadian radio but somehow it’s all happening at the same time and it’s a little confusing. But there’s some sort of mad shift happening, I just don’t know what it is.
Did your love for film influence your decision to leave?
I’ve always loved the idea of America and LA has its own version of that which includes the walk of fame, the Hollywood sign, and all of that stuff. I love all of it. Being closer to it has been really fun. Just being able to walk down the street or go places and seeing things that you recognize from movies is exciting, even just as a fan.
On top of that, you’ll be getting coffee, and Chris Pine is there or Joaquin Phoenix, there’s just so many people that are present. It makes you feel, well at least for me, inspired to be more creative and more active and step things up. I think living here is encouraging me to be better at what I do more consistently.
From a viewer’s perspective, Canadian musicians’ careers often get branded as Canadian content and have fewer opportunities than bands from the US or UK. Do you think this move will give your career a push?
At least it puts it out there for us and makes the opportunities possible. Canada is amazing for fostering musicians and artists but then it also creates a sound and style that is really successful in Canada but doesn’t necessarily export as well. There are bands that do, but a lot of them don’t. I don’t why that is. I never really felt that we were in that style, it’s probably why we struggled to get on radio or whatever for a long time. But it’s amazing when it gets exported and all we can hope for while we’re down here is that we put ourselves in the position that allows us to have those opportunities happen. There are just so many great artists and so few positions to do everything.
How does film impact and/or inspire your creative direction?
There are a lot of different ways to write songs, we’re vaguely professionals at this point, but I’m not better than anyone else. I feel that there are two ways to create these images in your lyrics; you can just tell somebody what’s happening, or you can be a little less descriptive and make the listener do more work. That is something we really attach ourselves to and enjoy doing in our writing so that we can have more imagery in our style of songwriting and make it more cinematic in that sense.
On top of that, sonically, trying to create these spaces, sounds, and atmospheres and trying to make it more cinematic is fun. Pulling from movies and scenes, those colors and palettes, it’s exciting! Personally, nothing for me is more fun than going to the movies. It’s so magical and great and we wanted to find a way to take it over and not be so focused on… I don’t know, it freed us and let us be more creative in our songwriting.
Moving forward, do you plan to be more hands-on in the creative direction of all your visuals?
I’m a firm believer that as an artist, especially smaller artists, you need to do and learn as many skills as possible to be able to create things and not rely on others. We experience that now more than ever. No one is ever going to believe in your project or art as much as you do. If you really believe in something and need to create a video or whatever and the only option is for you to do it yourself, I fully believe that is a great way to do it. We’ve been doing our own producing for years but at the same time, if I was in a songwriting session with John Legend, I wouldn’t shove him off the piano and say “I’m going to show you something” because I know he’s infinitely better at it than I am. I know there are so many great directors out there that could realize our vision much better than we could. We’re in a position where we can pay those people and allow them to be creative and enjoy being a part of it.
My partner initially worked in music videos before jumping over to film and television and so it’s hard for me to be like no, I’m going to direct. I don’t think it would go over as well as I would like it to. She’s amazing and she keeps connecting us with amazing people that are great and it’s nice to step away from something and let someone else do something great.
How important was it to express that moment in time transitioning from Toronto to LA? What did “Running for the Hills” feel like to complete and release?
It’s funny you say that because we had the idea of the mirage/fever dream; moving to LA and becoming something and writing it through this fictional person who goes through this wild journey. It’s been nice to just focus on real experiences and writing those songs as a catharsis or as a form of therapy for myself and immortalizing that in song. It felt very rewarding in that way. We always joke now that because we live here we have to start writing songs about Montana or something because we wrote so many songs about living in LA and Toronto.
What would you say is the one biggest thing you miss about Toronto life?
Toronto is so good for food, the food is just amazing! I don’t miss the snow, I’ve thrown out my back real fast while I was home visiting. I’m really lucky to live in Echo Park and walk to some stuff but Toronto is such a great city you can walk from one end to the other in an hour it feels like. There are so many great little pockets and different things. It has a special community vibe that I will always love. It shifts, you come back a year later and there’s a condo where the Honest Ed’s used to be and the city looks so different now and it makes me feel disconnected from it more and more. There’s a nostalgia for a place that used to be from when I was younger and growing up.
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