The Darcys Explain Their Take on Steely Dan's 'Aja'

The Darcys Explain Their Take on Steely Dan's 'Aja'
As promised, this week the Darcys released their cover version of Steely Dan's Aja, free of charge, only a couple of months after putting out their long-awaited self-titled album. Considered by the band to be more of a reworking of the 1977 jazz rock classic, the whole thing may not be as strange as it first seems, but that doesn't mean the reworking came easy.

Speaking to Exclaim!, Darcys drummer Wes Marskell says the idea of covering Aja "existed solely to redirect conversation" about when they'd be done with their self-titled album. "I had no intension of actually delivering the album. [But] in the summer of 2010, there was a turning point: I realized that we had run our mouths so much that if we didn't put this idea into practice it would seem as if we had two failed records. It was only then that I realized how difficult covering Aja was going to be."

Why they chose to do Aja in the first place stems from a longtime relationship with the album.

"I grew up on Steely Dan," says Marskell. "My father would play me Aja as a child, and by the time I was ten, I knew every word. The real problem was not the creative process, but the reality of destroying our fathers' favourite record. Aja is important to a lot of people, and we realized that nothing we could make would compare to the original. What we really didn't want was the project to be perceived as a tribute, as ironic or funny, and most of all, disrespectful. This is a record we grew up on and a record we love -- we had no idea how to do it justice."

Marskell and his bandmates knew that tackling an album that belongs in the homes of millions would be a daunting task. So instead of doing a straight cover of it, they improvised. 

"We knew churning out literal covers would be an embarrassment to our band," he explains. "The idea of destroying the sterility and perfection of a Steely Dan record stemmed from that reality that we were unable to imitate the originals in their true form.

"I have always viewed Aja as an art project more so than an album. I wanted to subvert Steely Dan's clinical attention to detail and make breezy pop songs angular and dark. We had no chance against the masterly of the '77 version, so the idea was always to claim Aja for our own. Part of our agenda with Aja was to create an atmosphere that dissociates the listener from the original work. Many of the songs begin and end with ambient, instrumental sections that do very little to reflect the Steely Dan originals. We were hoping that when the chord structures and vocal melodies from the original appear in our interpretation they will be considered relative to our noisescapes, not the '77 version."

As previously reported, up next for the Darcys is a Canadian tour with Hamilton, ON rockers Arkells and then a month-long North American jaunt with UK indie act Bombay Bicycle Club. But that isn't stopping the band from planning the third part of their trilogy.

"We have written almost 30 songs towards a new record and are hoping to put out ten of them," says Marskell. "We have been playing with the idea of writing songs without guitars, Rhodes, or a number of other familiar sounds from our self-titled record. I want to make something that is sparse, bass-heavy and focuses on lead and back-up melodies. Most importantly, we are going to make a record that blows our version of Aja and our self-titled out of the water."

For now, you can download Aja at the Darcys' website or stream it below.

Tour dates:

1/27 Kingston, ON - Ale House *
1/28 Montreal, QC - Petit Campus *

 1/31 Moncton, NB - Manhattan *
2/1 Fredericton, NB - The Ballroom *
2/2 Halifax, NS - Grawood *
2/3 Charlottetown, PE - The Wave *
2/4 Antigonish, NS - The McKay Room *
2/9 Kitchener, ON - Elements *
2/10 London, ON - London Music Hall *
2/14 San Diego, CA - The Casbah ^
2/15 Los Angeles, CA - El Rey Theatre ^
2/16 San Francisco, CA - Popscene @ Rickshaw Stop ^
2/17 Portland, OR - Doug Fir ^
2/18 Seattle, WA - Crocodile ^
2/20 Vancouver, BC - Commodore ^
2/21 Kamloops, BC - Blue Grotto ^
2/22 Calgary, AB - Republik ^
2/23 Edmonton, AB - Starlite ^
2/25 Winnipeg, MB - West End Cultural Centre ^
2/26 Minneapolis, MN - 7th Street Entry ^
2/27 Chicago, IL - Subterranean ^
2/29 Columbus, OH - The Basement ^
3/1 Toronto, ON - The Mod Club ^
3/3 Brooklyn, NY - Music Hall Of Williamsburg ^
3/5 New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom ^
3/7 Washington, DC - 930 Club ^
3/9 Boston, MA - Middle East ^
3/10 Philadelphia, PA - Union Transfer ^
7/14 Toronto, ON - Downsview Park (Edgefest)

* with Arkells
^ with Bombay Bicycle Club

  The Darcys - Aja by Arts & Crafts