Last year, they conquered Europe. This year, humorous hard rockers the Darkness have their sights set on North America.
Nearly four months after its U.S. release, the band's debut album, Permission to Land, is rocketing up the Billboard albums chart. Last week it jumped 81 slots to #92, and this week it shot up to #39.
"It's like the three stages of rabies," frontman Justin Hawkins explained. "First people fear us, then they start foaming at the mouth because they want us. And then they start attacking other people."
Hawkins compared the band's Stateside success to what the Darkness experienced in the U.K. when they were just starting out. "We've divided the public into people who either love us or hate us," he said. "And that percentage is about the same: 90-10 against."
In other words, there's still a lot of work to be done, which is why the Darkness will tour North America from March 24 to April 18. They'll return this summer to finish the job. "We're looking forward to hitting the Midwest," said bassist Frankie Poullain, "places like Pittsburgh that helped define rock music."
"The only British bands that have made an impact here are the ones that toured relentlessly," Hawkins added. "And we've already made an impact having played about 10 shows."
Some have argued that the Darkness are too English to captivate audiences here the way they've done back home, where Permission to Land debuted at #1. Hawkins disagrees, claiming the band's flamboyant rock and colorful costumes were created to shatter barriers.
"I think rock is a nation in itself. It is one of the few genres that can transcend the cultural boundaries mankind puts in place," he said before getting somewhat incomprehensible. "If you say certain parts of America are different animals to other ones, if you have a blunderbuss it's gonna hurt whether it's a weevil or an elephant. It's gonna hurt and it's gonna make some damage."
Whatever that means, one thing's for sure: The 10 shows the Darkness have played in North America have raised eyebrows but only hint at the heights they intend to reach. "You haven't even seen the tip of the iceberg," Hawkins promised. "It's the tip of the tip. It's like a snowflake atop the iceberg. ... The question is how many snowflakes does it take to build an iceberg? And only the Lord above can answer that because he's the one who makes them."
Considering how much traveling the band plans to do this spring, they'll have to be careful when entering U.S. airports if they want to stay out of trouble. Not that they'll necessarily try to smuggle drugs across the border or stuff their trousers with cucumbers wrapped in tinfoil (as their forefathers Spinal Tap once did), it's just that Hawkins' looks have proven problematic.
"I had to go to New York for a photo shoot and then go back to the U.K. the same day," Hawkins said. "I ended up being late for the shoot because immigration held me for an hour, asking me questions like 'Where were you on July 4?' and 'Have you ever been to Atlanta?' Apparently there's another bloke named Justin Hawkins who is from Atlanta and who looks a little like me, and he has done some bad things in his life and is on the most-wanted list. We're probably going to Atlanta on the next tour, which could be interesting."
The tour will launch around the same time the band's second U.S. single, "Growing on Me," hits the airwaves. The track, a cross between '80s power rock and '70s glam, will be accompanied by a humorous video that features a pterodactyl humping the band's spaceship. The sexual innuendo is obvious, but some have misconstrued the song's meaning.
"People have said it's about pubic lice," Hawkins said. "But that's obviously wrong because pubic lice don't grow on you, do they?"
So what is the ditty about?
"A sweet lady woman that you will never fully fathom or understand, but you love her so much that after a while it doesn't matter."
The same could be said about the Darkness.