A Daring Blend: ‘Olive Dares The Darkness’ on Creating the Unconventional

Olive Dares The Darkness
Olive Dares The Darkness, from left to right: Becca Darling (lead vocals and keyboard), Danielle Carlson (drums), Mr. Minister (bass), and Mike Baum (guitars).

Let’s cut through the usual fluff and dive in headfirst, shall we? Allow me to introduce to you ‘Olive Dares the Darkness‘, a four-headed hydra of harmonious rebellion, spitting fire in the face of the ordinary. Readers with a penchant for industrial rock, gothic metal, darkwave, and post-punk are likely to resonate with this band, though their sound also holds appeal for classic rock and pop enthusiasts.

The Charleston-based hodgepodge of personalities began their story in 2014 when Becca Darling (lead vocals and keyboard) and Mike Baum (guitar) met on the online bazaar of the bizarre, Craigslist. The duo shared creative vision and a desire to experiment with new sounds, shaping the early phase of their musical partnership and setting the stage for the band’s gradual evolution into a progressive art collective.

Catalysed by the addition of Mike’s brother, Mr. Minister (bass) and solidified with the arrival of classically trained percussionist Danielle Carlson, (drums) in 2018, it didn’t take long before the quartet hit the live circuit, where their on-stage chemistry and performance skills were put to the test.

Their debut album, ‘I,’ hit global streaming platforms in 2021, with the opening track ‘All Right Now’ kicking the door in with an insouciant swagger, laced with indie sensibilities. Mid-album, ‘Drop Gun’ plunges you into the depths of industrial rock with its aggressive energy and powerful guitar riffs, echoing the introspective angst of Nine Inch Nails. And ‘Bier Bitte’, a tumultuous amalgam of heavy metal and psychedelic rock, with Type O Negative-esque gothic glamour, ends their early foray. These tracks collectively encapsulate the diverse and bold spirit of the band’s early musical journey.

Their debut, the band laid down a foundation that was as much an audacious experiment as it was a rock manifesto. However their latest release, ‘II,’ hitting global streaming platforms in December 2023, marks the re-emergence of a band that has matured and evolved, tapping into a vein of raw, unfiltered, and unapologetically fierce energy, reflecting their growth and signifying a deeper artistic connection.

Opening track ‘Not My Fault,’ embodies the band’s newfound aggressive synth-rock sound, marked by an intensity and emotional depth that was only hinted at in their earlier work. Listeners can expect Olive’s latest release to deliver powerful guitar riffs, driving rhythms, and potent, emotionally charged vocals. They’ve cranked up the volume, taking the essence of new wave and throwing in a healthy dose of industrial mayhem.

Olive Dares the Darkness deal to those who feel too much and think too deeply, leading them on a crusade against the beige backdrop of mainstream. Mr. Minister tells us the band are “…making something from nothing, for nothing, and seeing what comes back”. So… we wanted to turn the spotlight back onto them.

We recently had the pleasure of speaking with the band, peeling back the layers of their intriguing musical journey. In a candid conversation, the band share insights into the distinctive blend of humour and the diverse personalities that shape their music. We delve into Becca’s unforgettable jam session with Stevie Wonder, and discuss the significance behind their name, ‘Olive Dares the Darkness’, and how it challenges and inspires their creative process.

Listen to ‘II’ from Olive Dares The Darkness on Spotify

MIKE: Mr. Minister and I are brothers so we’ve played together since we were teenagers. If we’re being honest, we didn’t get along very well before we started playing music together. I’m the older one and I was a jerk to him when we were little. I’m kind of amazed we’re as close as we are, but as soon as we started playing music, all bets were off and now he is just as much my friend as he is my bro. Anyway, I moved to SC, met Becca on craigslist and started writing. Mr. Minister moved here shortly thereafter and joined the writing. We played with a drum machine for a bit… which sucked. After a while we had an opportunity to go on tour. We knew Danielle and asked her if she would be interested. She had never been in a band before but a strong part of her personality was her brazen attitude towards all things music. She joined in the final months of 2018 and we were on the road by April of 2019. We haven’t looked back since.

MrM: Yeah, Mike and I had played in various iterations of bands since I started playing bass at 15. I didn’t immediately join after moving to SC, Mike and Becca had a duet going which eventually developed into a full band, mostly. The drum machine was almost a good idea, but it was boring. A rhythm section needs some personality, and a drum machine has none.

DANIELLE: Where one person lacks, the others make up for, and vice versa. Having so many different backgrounds in music certainly allows for the creativity to flow! Becca’s mix of education and sarcasm adds a layer of intellectual wit to our discussions and songwriting sessions. Her ability to blend serious topics with a touch of humor brings a unique perspective to our lyrics and overall approach.

Mike’s programming skills and playful riffs infuse a technological and experimental edge to our sound, along with his knack for pushing boundaries and challenging us to explore new sounds and unconventional arrangements. Mr. Minister’s silent yet impactful presence is like the anchor that grounds us. He adds so much depth and resonance to our songs, and can convey every emotion through the sweet sounds of his bass. With my training and theater background, I hope to always bring an element of surprise and support to our songs, both melodically, and rhythmically. In my writing, you’ll hear some drums that reflect typical drum corps styles, and some piano phrases that may sound a bit like a musical, as I’m not the true “rocker” that my bandmates are! Off stage, our diverse personalities foster a strong sense of camaraderie.

We believe our friendship translates into a more cohesive and powerful performance both on and off the stage. This is a testament to the strength of our collaborative spirit and the magic that happens when different personalities come together in pursuit of a shared artistic vision.

MrM: Musical individuality, oddly enough, is what makes our creative process more cohesive. Any member of the group can present an idea for a song and everyone else puts their influence in, we really don’t stifle any ideas or approaches. Seeing a song come together can be interesting, if I show them a bass line or sequence, I like to just put it out there and see what everyone else wants to do with it.

BECCA: It was a memorable night, indeed. It was a total freak occurrence. I lived in the US Virgin Islands for 6 years and had a standing gig with my band on Monday nights at a local bar. We were doing our thang when Stevie walked in with his family. The manager of the restaurant told us to not draw attention to him, so we just kept playing. We actually regularly covered one of his songs, Living for the City. I called the song, hoping to get a rise out of him, but alas, nothing. We dove into a cover of House of the Rising Sun, and then he walked towards the stage. He got his harmonica out, demanded a microphone and we proceeded to jam out. Ironically, Dave Mason from Traffic was there that evening and he jammed with us too. It was epic. It made the front page of the local paper and the gossip section of the Huff Post. I didn’t sleep for two weeks. For the record, Stevie was incredibly complementary and warm. He’s a real gem.

Mr. Minister (bass), Olive Dares The Darkness

MrM: It absolutely does. When looking at the question of “who do you write your music for, yourself or the audience?”, there is no audience without the music, without the art. So the name, Olive Dares the Darkness, is almost a challenge really. We are making something from nothing, for nothing, and seeing what comes back.

MIKE: I think it means something different to each person in the band, but Mr. Minister named it so what he says goes. Originally, I had this idea that we should change our name each album. For example, we’d only be Olive Dares the Darkness for the first album and then we’d become Olive and the Eternal gloom for the next, and so on. Becca said that was “pompous, arrogant, avant garde nonsense” so Mr. Minister saved the day and named us. For me, it means being able to utilize all parts of yourself effectively, even your darkest parts.

MIKE: There is this thing that happens when you’ve played together a really long time where you stop acting like 4 people that play in a band and start acting like a musical organism. It is probably the most fulfilling aspect of playing live and writing. We know our strengths and weaknesses, and each other’s vulnerabilities. Until you’ve played with a band a long time you don’t get to experience it. I’ve been playing with Mr. Minister the majority of my life and Becca a quarter of it so it is natural and refreshing. Before Danielle was in the band, I had worked with her on other projects so we probably have at least 7 years working together under our belts. This kind of musical bond doesn’t come cheap or often so I value it above all else, and I think it comes through in our sound. I think the musical jump happened right after COVID. A lot of bands were destroyed by the pandemic but when we came out the other side with a desire to not only keep going but go deeper musically, I think we realized that what makes us special is our bond and none of us wants to let that go.

DANIELLE: If band bonds were currency, we’re the Bill Gates of the music world. So Mike is right with the musical organism thing. COVID didn’t destroy us, nor did we really even skip a beat when it came to producing more music, it actually showed how time apart makes for some great ideas too, and found we are actually pretty good at working on parts separately (distanced), and then combining them and knocking them out in rehearsals once we could gather together again. I’m actually more comfortable sitting WITHOUT my drumset when generating new ideas anyway, so the band has agreed to now cut the weekly “set up and play” rehearsal, and just get together for a writing session every other week in Mike’s lair. It’s been going well. The boys have bourbon, the girls have ideas, it’s great. A positive turning point in our rehearsal processes for sure.

BECCA: I don’t think there was a conscious decision to make a more aggressive sounding song, but rather the theme of the song called for an aggressive sound. We had the main riff mapped out, and then the lyrical content came into place. I’ve always fancied myself as a sort of storyteller, but in recent years, I’ve come to realize that our most standout songs are often the ones that are most personal to me. As much as I want to fight against it, adding personal flair to each song can help strengthen the overall impact of the song. I was angry and hurt when we wrote the song, and I think it’s reflected in the overall chaos and aggressiveness of the sound. Hopefully it’s something that people can identify with.

DANIELLE: Thank god for Becca’s dramatic life! She really is a storyteller, and, like I mentioned in a previous question, her ability to blend serious topics with a touch of humor or chaos brings a unique perspective to our lyrics and overall approach. As the percussionist (yes, that’s right, not drummer) I’m often not listening to lyrics when I listen to music other than theater: they bore me usually. I’m listening for the guitar riffs, bass drops, and drum styles. However, I catch myself more often than not focusing on our lyrics in a LOT of our works. Becca has the ability to say a lot without using too many words, and still putting it in a context that the general audience can understand. We do have a lot of lyrics that I think only 1-5 people know the true meaning behind, which makes it extra special to us and our friendship. Becca is a queen at making us interesting. I’m about to give her some WILD old text messages from my crazy exs and let her go to town. Stay tuned, y’all.

MIKE: We usually get together as a band and try and jam it out on the spot, then go back and try to figure out how to make it work in a studio setting. This time, we flipped it. We started by writing concepts in the studio then figuring out how to make it work live. We’re digging that process a lot more because it gives us more freedom to experiment and play to our individual strengths.

DANIELLE: I touched on this new process in a previous question! We love writing and then coming together. The melting pot of goodness happens there, and then we were able to practice what we wrote and play it live!

BECCA: Mike and I really leaned into each other’s strengths during the song writing process. Because we’ve been writing for over a decade, it feels very natural to bounce ideas off of each other, and quickly come up with the product.

Olive Dares The Darkness, from left to right: Mr. Minister (bass), Mike Baum (guitars), Danielle Carlson (drums), and Becca Darling (lead vocals and keyboard)

MIKE: We don’t usually swear so we’re hoping that’ll draw people in.

BECCA: There’s a certain danceable rage that accompanies this song. I hope people dig into that aspect and just let it all go!

DANIELLE: This song has one of the best breakdowns and buildups so far in my opinion. The last bits before the final chorus where Becca is whispering to yelling “I take it” while the band just lets loose is one of my favorite moments thus far. I also hope people just jam out to it.

BECCA: Woof. I was hoping no one would ask this question. Let’s just say that there was a young kid in my life who explored recklessness and ambition, and the song is written from his perspective. Even the curt lyrics were intentional. The whole situation was embroiled in a power struggle, and with no regard for anyone who might be in the path of destruction. As disappointed as I was in him, I was more disappointed in myself. That’s why I wrote the song from his perspective. I was able to therapeutically self-deprecate while also trying to make sense of where his head was at. I said to the band the other day, that leading with this song on the album starts us off in a full sprint. I feel like that’s how that entire situation went. The whole situation was a frantic sprint.

BECCA: Sometimes you get synth tracks that just slap. There was a moment of cosmic intervention when we were writing this. The lyric content timing lined up perfectly with the discovery of these parts. There’s a certain formula that we sometimes follow to write our songs, and we leaned into that for this process. because we have fine-tuned that process, we were able to bang this one out. I wouldn’t call it anything less than divine intervention, coupled with years of songwriting experience with each other!

DANIELLE: I’ve yet to put any Britney influence into our music, but I’m trying really hard to get the band to cover at least one of her songs. If we’re making me talk about my love of Britney, then let’s ask Mike about how Type O Negative affects most of our music! As far as our influences in the latest single, I think Not My Fault has a whole lot of the Nine Inch Nails aggressiveness and rebelliousness, and also plays with the innovative use of sampling. Some Siouxsie & the Banshees post-punk gothic influences are also present in the juxtaposition between the spoken versus that barrel into a huge chorus. What I love most about our sound is that no matter what style we go with on a new track, it always sounds like “us”. I’m not sure how else to describe it, but all of our music influences have made our own sound so unique, that I think we’ve created our own genre.

MIKE: I try to keep my love of Type O out of our sound but it is hard to avoid it. I found Type O when the final version of my personality was forming so it is kind of baked in. For Not My Fault I was really going for a John Christ era Danzig guitar vibe mixed with some movie clips like early 90’s Ministry. I don’t know if I succeeded in conveying that message but I hear it.

MrM: I unintentionally add to the Type O negative sound. Without intending to, I have a similar sound and style with some of my bass lines, so we can’t really blame Mike for that.

DANIELLE: It’s Britney bitch… and also.. Musical theater (specifically Mean Girls, Next to Normal, Heathers, Matilda, Hadestown, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame are some of my go-tos). When it’s not that, you’ll find me busting out some Jay-Z, Kanye, Kendrick, or Nicki. I also listen to us a lot, the more I listen, the more I learn what I want to push for in our next album/song. I firmly believe listening is half (if not more) of the art of practicing your instrument, and I also think we simply rock. I like us!

MIKE: Mr. Minister is the one to ask that question because he listens to the weirdest music… but I’m into a lot of indie bands right now. We host a radio program so we get to hear some of the most interesting, cutting edge music. I listen to a lot of Wet Leg, Dead Pony, and Mickey 9s. And of course Type O Negative.

MrM: Yeah, I’m all over the place on that one. My playlist will go from Dean Martin to Combichrist to Edvard Grieg, all with a good bit of funk mixed in.

BECCA: I’m also all over the place, but recently I have been on a deep, DEEP dive of Parliament Funkadelic. Right now, I can’t get enough of the tracks “Handcuffs”, Super Stupid” and “Testify”.

MIKE: Bier Bitte is our anthem. It is off our first album and we play it every show. Something about me screaming in German, demanding people drink beer really turns people on.

DANIELLE: This!! I’ve even considered getting the lyrics “I’m on my way to work but I’m three days late” tattooed on my body. It just slaps.

MIKE: I think the obvious one is Not My Fault. It feels raunchy and aggressive live and everyone seems to be vibing on it. But I clearly don’t know what I’m talking about, I thought the banger was going to be Gods of Virtue and that one is getting virtually no attention.

DANIELLE: I also feel Not My Fault might take over. It’s short, sweet, and to the point, which is what the general audience typically eats up. Obsession is getting a lot of clicks, but I feel that’s because it’s a cover. Maybe I’m wrong. I’m not sure, I just hit things and hope people like it.

BECCA: We have had an absolute ball playing and traveling together. There was the time we caught a homeless guy peeing on our trailer in Pittsburgh and I tried to start a fight with him. There was the show in Buffalo that felt like a teenage Battle of the Bands. We ate wings and then left. Perhaps the most notable show was when Mike leaned over to me mid-set and asked about ordering pizza. We’ve never let him live that moment down. Overall, we have had a ton of fun meeting different bands and sharing these experiences together. Just realizing that we have actual fans on the East Coast who seek out our music is stellar. It gives us the drive to continue onwards!

MIKE: Oh Pissburgh… how we miss you.

MrM: Speaking of Pissburgh, we actually had someone at our most recent show there that came out because she had seen us a year prior when we played as part of a music festival there. I didn’t get to talk to her but I believe Becca did, and having someone see us play before and be that excited to see us again was motivational for all of us.

DANIELLE: Before touring around Pittsburgh..oh sorry… Pisssburgh….my friends from that area listened to the album a few times, but when they came to see us live, drooled over how different and more energetic and “fun to watch” our show is. We really do have a different energy when you see us live. I’ll mention here the one time Mike’s wireless guitar crapped out at one of our first few shows and he had a meltdown for all to see, but that’s all I’ll say.

Olive Dares The Darkness, from left to right: Mr. Minister (bass), Danielle Carlson (drums), Becca Darling (lead vocals and keyboard), and Mike Baum (guitars).

BECCA: My advice to youngins would be to identify what success looks like for your group and to run with it. At this point in my life, living in a van with 3 other people and playing dive bars nightly in an effort to “get famous” doesn’t sound like fun. I want to be creative with my friends, and drink some beers while doing it. I wanna see the world comfortably with my band, and keep my health insurance. I’m almost always on the brink of death, so the last part is integral to the success of the band.

BECCA: Ironically, we were just discussing this. We are already deep into our third album. We have a new producer and he is challenging us both musically and thematically. We are looking forward to exploring our collaborative skills on our third album. Some albums are led by specific members or groups of members within the band. Now that we are confident in our communication and musical skills, we are ready to fully take an equal approach to this album. We have an incredible set of complementary skills. Ken brings groove and clarity, and Danielle brings her arranging skills and pragmatic musicality to each song. Mike is the beast behind it all, and I like to think that I bring sensitivity and good looks. Joking!

DANIELLE: My dad wants us to do a John Denver song, so we’re probably going to ditch this whole Olive shtick soon and go country. I’m just having a hard time getting Mr. Minister to wear a cowboy hat.

MIKE: I have a picture of Mr. Minister in a cowboy hat… he’ll do anything for money.

MrM: Not an untrue statement, in any way. Wearing a cowboy hat is far from the worst I’ve done.

We are incredibly grateful to Becca, Mike, Mr. Minister, and Danielle for taking the time to share their experiences and aspirations with us. For readers keen to explore more of Olive Dares the Darkness’s music, check out their website, give them a follow on Instagram and Facebook – and head over to their Spotify (and other global streaming platforms). For more intriguing stories and interviews, check out our previous reviews and interviews.

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