The Darden Sisters’ Alternative Americana Sound is a Family Affair

Their names are as eclectic as the extensive list of musical styles and performers they cover: Selah, Clarah, Havilah and Tabithah. The foursome from Fullerton form the Darden Sisters Band, and it might be a good idea to check them out now, because if they have anything to say about it—and if there is any justice on this spinning rock—they’ll be playing well outside of Orange County for years to come.

“They talk about it all the time, that in 20 years, they’ll be performing and having a serious recording career,” says their manager, Annice Parker, a veteran Hollywood producer and former employee of Gallin Morey and Associates, a management company that represented such well-known clients as Michael Jackson, Elton John and Dolly Parton.”They are singers, musicians and very prolific songwriters who are doing something special that is something you don’t hear every day on the radio.”

The Dardens range in age from 16 to 21 and have performed as a unit for about eight years. The sisters trade off singing duties and play multiple instruments, ranging from guitar and upright bass to violin, ukulele, harmonica, even the accordion and banjo. Whether they’re creating a barnstorming Americana string-band anthem or a slow-burning emotional ballad, the band’s harmonic splendor and polished licks are an instant crowd favorite. They’ve proven they can translate pop hits from a numerous decades, from the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” to Jason Mraz’s breezy mid-aughts smash “I’m Yours.”

In the past couple of years, they have been frequently sighted in and around Fullerton, playing biweekly at the Back Alley Bar and Grill and monthly at Bourbon Street and Joe’s, as well as at Campus JAX in Newport Beach and the Packing House in Anaheim. But those are free gigs, where the quartet display their multi-instrumental prowess, lush harmonies and mostly re-arranged covers of songs ranging from 1940s standards to contemporary pop hits.

Their first headlining gig took place recently to a sold out crowd at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center in Fullerton. And rather than a bar gig, where they often take requests from the audience, this was a structured show, with several musicians sitting in with them, including their grandfather, Joe Tatar, an Orange County institution who has performed a piano-based show of songs spanning from the 1920s to 1970s for years. (To continue the family connection, Tatar’s sons, the sisters’ uncles Eddie and Joey Tatar, have been part of OC punk stalwart D.I. since the early 2000s.)

“These girls grew up in a house with a basement, and their uncles were constantly down there having jam sessions with all the local talent,” Parker says. “They are convinced that everyone who’s passed through here, from Gwen Stefani down, were jamming in that basement at some time.”

The Darden Sisters play exclusively covers, but their end goal is to be recognized as Darden, a band that writes their own songs in what they call an “alternative-Americana style,” Parker says. They are currently wrapping up the mixing stage of their first EP, and Parker believes it’s only a matter of time before major players are knocking at the sisters’ collective door.

“The thing about them is they are authentically themselves—no one else has a sound like it,” Parker says. “When I first met them [three years ago], I took them to Nashville, and people absolutely loved them. They’re kind of a throwback, but also new. There isn’t one person, not one songwriter, or producer or record label person who does not fall in love. . . . They are playing real music, no gimmicks.”

Along with their grandfather and younger brother, Josiah, they will be joined at the Muck by Sean Oliu, a 15-year-old singer/songwriter/wunderkind from Anaheim who is a cast member for Club Mickey Mouse, and Reinhold Schwarzwald, an Austrian-born jazz musician who has played extensively in Europe and America.

Muckenthaler Cultural Center, 1201 W. Malvern Ave., Fullerton, (714) 738-6595. 7:30-9 p.m. $25. For tickets and other 411, visit here.

Joel Beers has written about theater and other stuff for this infernal rag since its very first issue in, when was that again???

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