(Image via ticketmaster.com)
Staff Writer: Rena Danho
Meet Mickey Darling, the world’s sexiest boy band.
Hailing from San Antonio, Texas, Skylar Molina and Austin Medrano make up this indie-pop duo. Their music will get you dancing and be stuck in your head for days.
If you’re looking for upbeat tunes, relatable lyrics, and killer bridges, then this is the band for you.
Although they have a small discography with only 19 singles and 1 EP, you’ll be listening to each song on repeat. Plus, they make up for their small selection through the energy in their life performances and their love for their fans.
If Mickey Darling isn’t enough for you after listening to them, there’s no need to worry; Skylar makes his own music under Sad Brad, and Austin makes his own music under Nico Days. The duo also has two other side projects: Late Night Jog and Xadē.
I was lucky enough to be able to interview Mickey Darling, and if I haven’t convinced you already to start listening to this band yet, then this interview will.
But if you’re already a fan, here’s an inside look into Mickey Darling.
What inspired you guys to make music?
Molina: “I don’t know. Honestly, it’s a toss-up because, obviously, Austin and I have very different reasons but, at the same time, very similar reasons.
I think we can both agree that in the very beginning, you’re so young that you’re not starting out writing music and playing guitar to necessarily get good at it. It was never like, ‘I need to be great at that thing,’ it was more like, ‘oh, I want to be a rockstar because the rockstar life seems cool,’ or ‘I want to do this to impress people,’ or ‘I want to do it because my friends play guitar, too.’ That’s why you start, at least for us.
Then at some point, you get decent enough at it that it becomes self-fulfilling, and it solidifies those feelings that you’re pushing away because it’s easier for some reason to say it in a song, which doesn’t make sense. You’re still just as vulnerable and still saying just as many honest hard things.
Then at some point, you get good enough where it becomes this self-fulfilling thing instead of trying to impress people. You get a little confidence boost because you’ve made something, and you want to achieve that feeling again, and you want to keep making yourself proud. Ten years ago, we were just trying to make our friends proud, but now it’s about making something that we’re proud of.
Then, even further down the line, it becomes therapy. We need to write. It’s the closest thing to therapy and talking to a therapist – or even talking to a friend. You can actually vocalize and solidify those feelings that you’re pushing away because it’s easier for some reason to say it in a song, which doesn’t make sense. You’re still just as vulnerable and still saying just as many honest, hard things.”
Medrano: “Yeah, it’s like a journal in a sense. It’s a way to express ourselves and any ways that we’re feeling.
I know that any time I feel a strong emotion, I’m more inclined to write a song, and I think that’s when the best songs come out– when I’m in that feeling, and I let it go.
That’s now, of course. I wasn’t good enough to be able to achieve that back then.
Back then, I did it because my friends did it, and it was a way to connect with people. That and it just looked cool.”
Molina: “That it did, and it still does. And another thing is performing. Being on stage in front of people who know your music is such a surreal experience. It’s such a specific feeling, and not a lot of people will ever get to feel it, and it sucks that a lot of people can’t feel that.
A lot of people are chasing that, just like us. That’s why at the end of shows, I always try to touch on the ideas of, like, ‘We’re nothing special, we just worked hard and got really lucky that we’re in the right places at the right time with social media, and all these things, but we’re just chasing that same rockstar dream lifestyle that everyone is chasing too.’
We definitely don’t let that go unnoticed in our own minds. This is super rare and super weird that people know who we are and listen to the music we make. It’s so crazy and so cool. It is wild. Bonkers, actually.”
Which artists are your biggest inspirations for both Mickey Darling and your solo work?
Medrano: “Sad Brad.”
Molina: “Nico Days.”
Medrano: “Late Night Jog.”
Molina: “Xadē personally for me. We always have our go-tos that have been there for the last decade, but obviously it’s ever-evolving.”
Medrano: “Originally, when we started making music, he came to me with stuff like Boy Pablo’s Dance Baby. Then as we started forming our own sound, I started getting more into indie pop. I took what I liked about those songs and tried my best to adapt it into Mickey.
This is what led to Mickey being a little more aggressive and slightly alternative. Yet it’s still bubblegum upbeat indie pop.
Molina: “Yeah, exactly. It’s hard because we didn’t even get put into a box. We put ourselves into a box, kind of on purpose because we wanted to be in that niche indie pop genre. But it is fun trying to break out slowly and experiment a little here and there.
I think that growing up, my version of Austin’s Tame Impala and Mac Demarco was The Kooks, Foster the People, and Two Door Cinema Club. Those were the very base entry-level indie bands that I learned about right at the beginning. Now I’m really into Del Water Gap. I think he’s so crazy good that it’s scary. Maude Latour, she’s crazy too. She’s produced by one of our buddies.
Also, Remi Wolf. I know that Austin is a huge fan of hers, too. I haven’t really dove into Remi that much, but I’ve always been blown away by the songs I have heard because she has insane melodies, production, and an amazing voice.
Same with an R&B artist named Don Toliver. One of our buddies we travel with, Hugo, showed him to us, and this dude is on another level. He’s a melody god, and I love people that are good with melodies because that’s what I strive to be. These people are on different levels. It’s crazy.
What’s the process for making your songs?
Molina: “That’s a loaded question. It’s pretty simple, honestly. We try to make it as easy and uncomplicated as possible.
Austin and I have our own unique and individual roles in the band, so we don’t like to muddy it up, but we help each other along the way.
We’ll both make demos, but most of the time, Austin’s demos always get picked over mine because he’s Austin, and that’s what he does best. He’s a beast.
So we’ll both make demos individually, and let’s say we only have the instrumentals. We’ll put them in a shared notes folder, and then when we decide that we’re ready for the next single, we’ll go through the demos we have saved, and we’ll pick whichever one excites us most.
Once we choose that song, Austin will go into his own separate world and redo that demo. Remake it, repolish it, and dress it up to be just as perfect and exciting as we can make it. While he’s doing that, I’m in my world working on the lyrics and the melody. It’s so weird because we both have our little duties, and then we just come together to glue it all together. We’ll record vocals for a few days, and then he’ll mix it and make it amazing, as always.
Typically the process always takes longer than it needs to because we’re always in our own worlds trying to exist and not always so focused on making the next hit single. We also want to exist and just be humans too. It’s a two-week process, but usually, it takes us 2 months just because we’re never completely grinding on it as much as we used to.
We felt too much pressure to always endlessly be grinding just to say we were. Just to put out the next single, and literally, you put the single out, and then it’s just a reminder of how insignificant you are. We have our own little niche fan base of people who know who we are and will listen to anything we put out. We might put something out on Friday, and by Sunday, people will be DMing us, saying, ‘that was amazing, can’t wait for the next thing, super excited,’ and it’s like they’ve already listened to it enough where they’re just craving the next thing. It’s like a weird paradigm in our heads. It’s like, you worked so hard on something, and it kinda just immediately fades into oblivion. And that happens to everyone.
We’re not the exception, Ed Sheeran isn’t the exception, Taylor Swift isn’t the exception. Everyone’s stuff fades into oblivion because there’s always new stuff coming out. So what’s the rush? There’s no real rush except for the self-imposed ones or the endless societal standard of go go go go go.”
How much did Covid affect making music?
Medrano: “I was living with Skyler at the time. I lived with him for the first half of 2020, and then I moved out in July 2020. That year, we released ‘Protein Shake.’
I don’t think it affected our process as much. As I said, we’re both in our own worlds, so we don’t ever technically need to be in the same room as each other to finish a song. There was a time at the very beginning of Mickey during the second song, Em Rata when I had just moved out to California. We still needed all the vocals for Em Rata. So I just did them on my computer and sent them over to him.
If anything, it just slowed everything down on a real small, day-to-day basis where we just took care of ourselves, our mental health, hung out, and just relaxed and let all the pressure of the world wash away. That was so nice. I miss that. Just chillin’ all the time.”
Medrano: “And we haven’t focused on live shows until this past year, so in that sense, it was not a huge deal.”
Molina: “That’s true. We were supposed to go on a tour. We had been asked to go on a tour with another band that was similar in size to us. We were going to bring out random artists from different cities, and if they were bigger than us, they would’ve been the ones headlining. I was like, ‘well, how do we promote that on a poster?’ It was a little confusing, but we agreed.
It was supposed to be May of 2020, but it didn’t happen, but it was good that it didn’t happen because we were so small then. I remember talking to Austin about it and feeling like, ‘Oh I’m super excited to do this, but I wish we had a year or two to prepare.’ We wanted to wait it off and build a bigger fan base. And that’s exactly what happened, weirdly enough.
Covid obviously sucked and impacted the world in a negative way, but, in a sense, it gave us a chance to step back and reevaluate everything.”
What was the hardest part of getting out there and getting people to notice your music?
Molina: “That’s the name of the game. It’s what everyone is dealing with – how to get noticed, how to keep attention. I remember in the early stages of Mickey, I was worried because everyone seemed to have a hit, but they turned out to be one-hit wonders. You can’t endlessly make Sweater Weather, you can’t endlessly make life-changing indie songs. We decided to only release songs that we were genuinely proud of. No settling.
And I’m sure everyone does that, but it takes a lot of self-awareness and self-evaluation to look at what you’re making and say to yourself, ‘Is this good enough? Or do I just think that it’s good because I was the one who made it?’ It’s very hard to get far enough away from your work to see the whole picture in third-person.
A lot of it is about being personable. We were endlessly DMing people back then, having conversations, asking them to pre-save our singles. It wasn’t a game-changing thing, but it solidified a lot of fans because we were being genuine and unique and really raw.
My biggest pet peeve in the industry is when people think they’re this really cool, untouchable rockstar. In reality, we’re all just losers. We’re all just hanging on this weird floating rock in space. It just rubs me the wrong way because nobody is that cool. Mick Jagger’s not that cool, Freddie Mercury wasn’t that cool, Kurt Cobain wasn’t that cool. We’re all just weirdos. Trying to be something else is pretentious.
If you can be genuinely grateful, then you’ll make good stuff that people want to listen to.”
Where do you hope to see your music in the future?
Medrano: “We barely know what the next single is, honestly.”
Molina: “I don’t know exactly. I feel like Mickey is always going to maintain the sound we have. We like how it’s upbeat and fun, but we want to experiment more with different things, like bass or drum-heavy songs. But we definitely want to experiment with different sounds.
As far as music goes, ideally, we’ll still be pumping out singles. And I’m sure Nico Days and Sad Brad will still be putting things out and killing it.”
Medrano: “There might be more Late Night music, too.”
Molina: “I know we’re still going to be doing side projects. I want to expand into other genres. Like Austin said, we don’t know what the next single is or even what we’re going to do in 2023. There’s no telling. Who knows, the next demo that we fall in love with could sound completely different than anything we’ve ever done before.
I used to be scared of that uncertainty, but now I get excited by it. And it’s exciting for the fans, too. Even if it sounds different, it’s still Mickey, it still has goofy lyrics and self-deprecating stuff. As long as that energy is still there, we should be fine.
Obviously, it is scary to change to random stuff, though. We’re not going to do, like, country or folk or anything. That might be a little off.”
Medrano: “It might be cool to do an album in five years.”
Molina: “If we don’t have an album in five years, that would be so sad. I would at least settle for an EP every year, though, because then that still equals an album.”
Right now, “Reverse Cowgirl” is your number-one song on Spotify. Do you feel like that song is a good representation of your band, or do you wish a different song was number one?
Molina: “There’s a little more to it, but yes. I think that it does represent us and our sound. I love the prehook: ‘I’ve made out with boys.’ It’s so goofy, but it makes sense. I love the bridge, too: ‘All my friends say that you squirt.’ That’s super Mickey. These ideas of silliness and seriousness and the way that we’re trying to marry them within our songs. So yes, I think it represents it really well.
I think the sound represents us well, too. Every time I hear ‘Reverse Cowgirl,’ I’m wowed, and I find the sound so wild and jarring.
Do we think it should be our number-one song? That’s a great question. It’s hard to say.”
Medrano: “I’m thinking about the hook. Do you think we have better hooks?”
Medrano: “’FIND OUT THE HARD WAY‘ is solid, too.”
Molina: “It’s so hard because I do love ‘FIND OUT THE HARD WAY’ as well, but that’s one of the songs that made it where the demo was mine. All the others are Austin’s demos, but that one is mine. So because of that, I’m harder on it. It’s not as good as ‘RIGHT WHEN YOU LEFT’ or ‘SAY THAT YOU MISS ME’. It’s such a weird self deprecating thing, but ‘FIND OUT THE HARD WAY’ is fun, it’s so good, it’s so hype, it’s so crazy, and so aggressive.”
Medrano: “I was mind blown when you made that.”
Molina: “I don’t know. I don’t think ‘Reverse Cowgirl’ will be our number one forever. I guess we’ll see what happens.”
Out of all the Mickey Darling songs, which one is your favorite?
Medrano: “‘You Were Perfect & I’m Sorry’ is one of my favorite songs that we’ve ever done together. It’s perfectly upbeat, the bridge is so good, and the hook is so catchy. I’ve always had a soft spot for that song. Also ‘FIND OUT THE HARD WAY’, and of course all the new ones, but ‘You Were Perfect & I’m Sorry’ are definitely mine.“
Molina: “That one is a great one. As far as lyrics go, ‘You Were Perfect & I’m Sorry’’s bridge is definitely my favorite thing I’ve ever written in my life. But song-wise, I’d probably say ‘RIGHT WHEN YOU LEFT.’ Every time I hear it, I just go ‘fuck.’ It’s just so catchy and clever with the verse.
Which is your least favorite?
Molina: “My definite least favorite Mickey Darling song is ‘Pauly D.’ But to give it some credit, I don’t hate it on its own. I hate the song in context to the rest of our discography. It’s a fine song if I heard it isolated in a Spotify playlist. When I hear it within our discography, I’m like, ‘why the fuck is that there.’
Medrano: “You know, I would have to say any of our first four. Even though they’re kind of our foundations. I don’t ever like to go back and listen to those. But ‘Pauly D’ is down there, along with ‘Shane Dawson’. Like he said, they’re so good on their own, but just not something I’m gravitating towards in the Mickey realm.”
Molina: “I think ‘Em Rata’ is a slept on bop. I just wish that we could redo it. I think that if we could change the lyrics and the hook, it would be so much better. Same thing with ‘Chill Pill‘. I’ve actually rewritten the hook of ‘Chill Pill’ because I couldn’t understand why I thought what I originally wrote was cool. I’ve met so many people who say ‘That’s my favorite song,’ too, but I’m just like fuck, dude, I wish I could rewrite it and put it out again.”
How did your mini tour influence how you will move forwards as a band?
Medrano: “As a band, we still want to focus on the singles because it’s the music that brings people to the show. I don’t want to be known as a touring band. I don’t want to sleep on our music. It’s a struggle to juggle both the tour and making music because the tour really disrupts our day-to-day. There are different periods of time where we write and then tour.
Molina: I agree. Touring is fun, but it’s bittersweet because when we tour, we’re not making music. Then when we aren’t on tour, it’s bittersweet because we wish that we were, especially when the music-making process itself gets stuck.
It’s so easy to get lost in the business of the shows. It’s so easy to lose sight of what’s actually important as an artist. Those live shows are super cool, and it’s so fun to connect with people on a face-to-face basis, but at the same time, these people wouldn’t know who we were without our music. Because of that, we have to always be taking a step back and reminding ourselves that even though it’s fun to play shows and have a good time, it’s just a high. It’s even more important to hide away and actually work on music.
But at some point, if we have a big tour bus or something, we could have a studio that travels with us, and we could record on the road.
How did you come up with the name Mickey Darling?
Molina: “It was honestly kind of random. There’s no big meaning or crazy story behind it.
The last job that I had before Mickey was at a wing joint named Pluckers. One day, this random, beautiful girl walked up to me. It turned out that she was another employee that I had never seen before. She said, ‘hey, I don’t think we’ve met before. My name is Mickey.’
In that moment, out of nowhere, the name just stuck with me. I told her right there, ‘I love that name. I’m gonna use it as a stage name one day.’ And, of course, she was like, ‘What?’
But a few weeks later, we had to attend some sort of orientation where we watched a PowerPoint. The CFO of the company’s name was on the screen: Taylor Darling. And the same thing happened. I looked at his last name, and I thought, ‘oh my god, that’s a brilliant stage name.’ I thought that it was so cool and unique that I wrote it down in the notes app on my phone, right where I had written Mickey when I first heard that name.
Fast forward a few weeks. I quit that job and moved to LA. We had just finished our first single, but we didn’t have a band name yet. So I sent a list of potential names, and the first text he sent back was, ‘What about Mickey Darling?’
I still have the screenshot of that very text. It’s bonkers. The rest is history.”
Medrano: “It was a fat list too. There were, like, 30 names.”
Molina: “Late Night Jog was on that list, too. Mickey Darling could have been Late Night Jog. How crazy is that?
Do you have a favorite song to perform?
Medrano: “My favorite is ‘Vroom Vroom.’ And also ‘Protein Shake’ because every time I sing ‘Let me slip inside, and I’ll give back to you,’ for some reason, people sing ‘youuu,’ and it’s so cute. It always catches me off guard that people know to do that.”
Molina: “It’s so fun when the crowd finds an adlib that we wouldn’t think to sing but they do every time without mistake. I only realized it during the last few shows. They sing ‘youuu’ every time and it’s so cool.”
Medrano: “And then ‘Vroom Vroom’ is just so hype and killer during the shows. It’s always fun to surprise people with that one.
Molina: “We would get so many DMs of people begging us for the setlist. Like, just listen to our discography. There’s not much that we’re not gonna play beside our earlier stuff or anything too slow. I would say “Vroom Vroom,’ too. It’s so jarringly hype. The room would fucking erupt every single time without fail.
Did you ever think that this is where you’d end up today?
Molina: “We always dreamed of being rock stars and making music for a living. It’s really outrageously rare to be able to experience something like this. We get emotional about it. Then we start thinking about if there are a bunch of alternate universes out there where things happened differently, and we always say that we ended up in the best one. There were an infinite number of paths I could’ve taken in life, but I was able to do the right things at the right times, and I met the right person at the exact right time. It’s so impossibly lucky that we’re here right now.
But no, to answer your question in a short, blunt way, no. I never thought this was ever going to happen. It’s so weird and crazy and awesome.”
Medrano: “And the great and beautiful thing is that we started this thing for fun and to see what would happen. And we’re here. It’s mind-blowing.
I was in college, about to get a big boy job. He told me, ‘fuck it, let’s take the year off and just make music and see where it takes us.’ And that was one of the best decisions of my life.”
Molina: “No matter how much we ponder it, it’s still pretty unfathomable. We have fans and people who care about us and the things we’re doing and making. A lot of people are chasing this thing, and being able to actually have it is surreal. I can’t put it into words.
I want to continue doing it for fun. There’s a lot more pressure now just because we know that a lot of people are listening, and we want to deliver a wild ride and an experience. But we do our best to make songs without thinking of that pressure because our best songs come when we don’t.
I always think about how if we told our fifteen-year-old selves that this is where we would be, we wouldn’t have been able to comprehend it. I’m honestly just honored.
Medrano: “Honored and so amazed.”