Massachusetts-based string-rock quintet Darlingside released “Pilot Machines” two days ago.

Head to pilotmachines.com, the usual online spots or Bull Moose music to pick up a copy. The album’s title comes from lyrics that touch on the themes of people, places, humans and machines.

Darlingside consists of David Senft, vocals and guitar; Harris Paseltiner, cello, guitar and vocals; Auyon Mukharji, mandolin, violin and vocals; Don Mitchell, guitar and vocals; and Sam Kapala, drums and vocals.

Kapala lives (mostly) in Portland, where he does audio work at The Studio. GO caught up with him to learn about his band and the new record.

Let’s start with a band history. When and how did you form?

We formed officially in the fall of 2009, when we all moved in under one roof in Hadley, Mass. We went to college in Massachusetts, and we’d all played music together in various combinations over the course of our time there. It wasn’t until we’d all graduated that we came together as a full-fledged band, though, and we hadn’t played together as a five-man unit until we set up our basement rehearsal space. The first rehearsals were terrible. 

Does the band have a lead singer?

All five of us sing live and on the record. Dave sings the lead on most songs, but we do occasionally switch it up and Don or Harris sings a lead part. Our sound is characterized by lots of vocal harmonies and textures, though, so many songs feature more than one of us.

The other four guys all sang together in an a cappella group in college, so they’re very used to blending together. I have much less experience singing, so most of my parts are in group-sung sections, or sometimes I’ll take the bottom notes of a five-part harmony. 

You teamed up with producer Nathaniel Kunkel (Sting, Crosby/Nash, Maroon 5) to make the record. How did you connect with him in the first place?

Put simply, his mom is our lawyer. She lives in Northampton, and she passed our self-recorded EP along to Nate, and he got in touch to say he was intrigued and wanted to chat about making a record together. We already knew a little bit about him, too, because I’d been reading anything I could find about engineering and mixing records, and one of the most useful books I’d read had a long interview with him.

I’d found that just about everything he said fit in perfectly with our own philosophies of recording and mixing, so to end up on a Skype video chat with him just a few weeks later was a pipe dream come true. It took us quite a while to work out the details, but it worked out in the end. Of course, we had to get another lawyer in the meantime.  

Can you talk about the song “Drowning Elvis?”

“Drowning Elvis” is one of the most cinematic tracks on the record; it’s got a very spaced-out drum groove, lots of strings and what I think is a really great clean guitar sound. We tracked the drums with the delay that you hear piped back into my headphones so that I could react to it live, which I think really informed everything we built on top of that foundation. The lyrics are adapted from a poem that one of Don’s high school roommates wrote, and the arrangement is the product of many hours in the basement grinding through different options and making tough choices about bass notes and guitar chords.

What else should we know about “Pilot Machines”?

The record is really diverse, with songs like “Drowning Elvis” sandwiched between “The Woods” and “Ava,” both of which have some really big, loud moments. “The Woods,” which appears as the B-side on one of the 7-inch vinyl singles we put out, is another favorite track of mine. It showcases some unique vocal harmonies, has a crazy violin part over the final verse, and includes a short spaced-out outro with some heavily processed vocal pads. 

Another one I think turned out really well is “The Company We Keep.” It’s about living in a house together for two years, and it features lots more harmonies as well as my favorite drum sound on the record. We recorded all of the drums right in our basement, so I’m particularly proud that we didn’t use any samples or “studio magic” to make them sound the way they sound.

What’s happening with the band for the rest of the summer and into the fall?

We’re playing lots and lots of shows! We’ve had a busy summer so far, and we’re hoping to put together a mini-tour or two later in the summer, and maybe one in the fall to get the new album into some towns we haven’t hit yet. We’re also really excited to get back into the studio with some new tunes. Now that this record is almost out, it’s time to start thinking about the next one too.

Staff Writer Aimsel Ponti can be contacted at 791-6455 or at:

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