Dari Bay Chart the Emotions That Inspired Their Reverent New LP “Longest Day of the Year”

Zack James unpacks the nuanced feelings behind each track on the band’s innovative alt-country album.
Track by Track

Dari Bay Chart the Emotions That Inspired Their Reverent New LP Longest Day of the Year

Zack James unpacks the nuanced feelings behind each track on the band’s innovative alt-country album.

Words: Devon Chodzin

Photo: Connor Turque

January 27, 2023

For Vermont’s Zack James, who spearheads the indie rock outfit Dari Bay, the guitar is just as important for provoking haptic sensations as auditory. As much as his guitar-led tracks cultivate beautiful swirls of rhythm, the fuzzy, chugging lo-fi charm of a Dari Bay record inspires a warm feeling all over, one guaranteed to elicit a smile even when his lyrics veer toward the existential. Where previous release DB 17-19: A Perfect Eruption leaned into some of James’ experimental curiosities, which he’s cultivated over years of DJing and toying with improv, the new Dari Bay record Longest Day of the Year foregrounds indie Americana to amp up his emotive potential.

While Longest Day features a curated patina that previous records might have deemphasized, James never sacrifices his weirdnesses, beginning with the breadth of his subject matter and inviting instrumental twists. Tracks like “Walk on Down” in particular lean into this Americana impulse, with James ruminating on the quotidian beauty he sees daily over a sentimental choir of acoustic guitar that welcomes otherwise disorienting bells with grace. “Same Old Bumpy Road” celebrates rare glimpses of solitude James finds in the countryside, yet again identifying a peculiar beauty in what might get overlooked. The layers of rock undulate throughout, darting between bare-bones arrangements and full-band eruptions with grace.

At just 24 minutes, each track on Longest Day of the Year packs a sonic punch that commands your full attention. With the album out today, James sat down to identify the emotional landscapes from which he drew inspiration for the record’s 10 tracks, which prove some of his most gently poignant yet.

1. “Wait for You”
“Wait For You” is about the issue of momentum in a relationship. Also, I’ll add that codependent behavior in romantic and platonic relationships is something I especially try to avoid, but maybe at times it is inescapable—this song somewhat deals with leaning into that tricky dynamic.

2. “Shy of a Nurse”
“Shy of a Nurse” is a somewhat-absurdist meditation on evil jinxes, close calls, natural disasters, overdosing on kush. This one was written pretty stream-of-consciously. I think I wrote it on the way to go play a solo set just so I’d have another song to put in the set. I’ve written a lot of songs really quickly over the years, with lyrics that don’t really make sense, and a couple of them stood the test of time. This is one of them. 

3. “River”
“River” is inspired by how important memories and ideas often hold their significance better if they’re somewhat obscured.

4. “Walk on Down”
“Walk on Down” is about embracing the mundane. I think there’s a lot of beauty in repetition. Also, there are lyrics about transitory spaces and objects that are used to construct a world. At the end, the background vocals go, “I don’t want to live in another world,” which is true.

5. “Same Old Bumpy Road”
“Same Old Bumpy Road” is about trying to get lost driving through the Vermont countryside. Really it’s about separating myself, and the therapeutic effects that solitude can have especially as someone who spends a lot of time around other people. Driving is maybe when I feel the most unreachable. If I’ve got nowhere to be, why be anywhere?

6. “Secret”
“Secret” is inspired by the blending of dreams and memories, the idea of strategic misremembering and the subconscious trying to solve some kind of puzzle.

7. “Imagine What Could Happen”
“Imagine What Could Happen” is a collage of childhood memories, dreams, and recent experiences loosely tied together by dark but ethereal energy.

8. “Moon”
“Moon” is also very stream-of-consciousness—I kept the “placeholder lyrics” which often come with the initial melody of a song and are hard to replace in terms of phonetic value.

9. “Circle of Birds”
“Circle of Birds” is about feeling unrestrained and my fear of relying on others to stay grounded.

10. “Stay Awake”
“Stay Awake” is about always being the last person at the party, having unlimited energy, the melancholic feeling of seeing the sky begin to brighten and hearing the birds chirp.