Derek Nicoletto cradles the six-inch chicken in the crook of his left arm as he hails a bus with his right. Sammi Garett slows the bus and lets him on board. Seconds later, the two are belting Stevie Nicks’s “Edge of Seventeen.” Scene. Most New York City bands are formed from Craigslist ads or through mutual friends somewhere in Brooklyn. For Derek and the Darling, this improv scene in October 2009 was the true moment of formation, on a stage at the Upright Citizens Brigade, the improvisation school founded by Amy Poehler and her colleauges that now features weekly shows by students and current castmembers of 30 Rock alike. In this scene Derek and Sammi noticed how well their voices matched. In a conversation immediately following, they discovered that Derek had just finished a stint with an established indie rock band about the time Sammi graduated Berklee School of Music. So, as their classmates began to form improv troupes, Derek and Sammi started an electronica-inspired rock band, because it was “way less nerdy.” A month later, after some time with their keyboard and a guitar (compliments of a Wyclef Jean and Western Union), Derek and Sammi brought all their new material, whether individually or co-written, to producer Jamie Siegel (Whitney Houston, Kid Cudi, The Roots, Taking Back Sunday).
Enter musical director and veteran DJ Mike Fisher (Deep Dish) on guitars, Ableton and synths and British import Will Haywood Smith on drums. By February 2010, a new band had formed and their debut five-song EP, “Rockface,” was complete - including a cameo by Taking Back Sunday’s Matt Rubano on bass. The video for first single, “Hustler with a Rescue Plan,” made its debut a few weeks before the EP’s April 27, 2010 release. “I wrote ‘Hustler’ in September about my own boundary-less ambition. I found Sammi at UCB a few weeks later and learned immediately that her drive to be a performing songwriter fit mine exactly, as reflected in the spirit of this song. It was like Match.com commercial, without the marriage at the end. Or the sex.” After the EP released, Derek and the Darling began to tour in Summer 2010, a lively show including a few moments during the set with audience interaction to inspire musical improvisation.
Prior to the tour, Garett said, “Our live show will have our Derek and the Darling music as a foundation sprinkled with elements of our improv training and featuring Mike's DJ skills, resulting in a unique electronic rock show none of us have witnessed anywhere else on the music scene. In rehearsals, we’ve been laughing hard and rocking harder. By the way, if you do both at the same time, you’re bound to make your “Rockface.” The EP will be worked into a full-length album under Derek Nicoletto’s own name, due in 2011.