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Darius Koski: Punk's Troubadour Goes Solo With Sisu

13 April 2015

For Darius Koski, _Sisu_stands as a testament to his versatility. His debut solo record boasts all the hallmarks of his extensive career with Swingin’ Utters: diverse instrumentation, poetic lyricism, and sincerity. The troubadours of Punk have spanned over two decades but Koski affirms he always wanted to be a solo artist. Serving as the band’s guitarist and songwriter, he revealed he had been saving these compositions for years.

“I started writing in many different genres, not just Punk because I never wanted to pigeonhole myself. A lot of these songs are well-over twenty years old. Swingin’ Utters is obviously my main outlet and I’m proud of our legacy but it can limit you. People expect you to be a certain way all the time,” said Koski.

After years of silence due to lineup changes and growing family roles, Swingin’ Utters resumed with a flurry of output beginning with 2011’s Here, Under Protest. For Koski, new opportunities presented themselves thanks to the additions of Jack Dalrymple and Miles Peck. Longtime supporters were reminded why Swingin’ Utters were more than a Punk band. Themes of fatherhood, personal evolution and spiritual restlessness peppered each subsequent album. Koski believes Sisu is a natural progression in his songwriting and the themes remain constant.

“I feel any one of these songs could be the proverbial closing ballad for an‘Utters record.
The process is no different because usually the melody and words emerge at the same time. I have a difficult time just sitting down and writing in a calculated way.”

Swingin’ Utters records have been reveled for concluding with haunting ballads courtesy of Koski. His eerie violin and accordion have become showcases for his diversity and desire to tread new songwriting paths. Sisu is no exception and features Country narratives and ballads.

“I never liked the whole ‘street punk’ label with Swingin’ Utters. I think we’re good songwriters and that is really what it comes down to. I understand people have the need to place labels on things,” stated Koski.

For Swingin’ Utters, the 90’s remain a pivotal point in the group’s legacy. Critically acclaimed records such as A Juvenile Product Of The Working Class and Five Lessons Learned demonstrated their unique ability to distinguish themselves from the street punk label. Koski reflected on the group’s growing popularity and career.

“There was a time for us to reach that next level, like us not needing day jobs. Being critically acclaimed doesn’t always equate to money. I don’t mean to sound bitter because I am grateful. I still can do what I love. For Five Lessons, we just didn’t get to tour hard enough for that record because that was around the time I had my first kid, Mathias who is 16. My other son Jack is 13. It would be easy to say something like some bands just don’t get there but we pick and choose our path at times.”

Sisu poses new challenges for Koski’s career path. He stated he feels new pressures and commented on the contrast between solo songwriting and collaboration with ‘Utters singer Johnny Bonnel.

“Going solo is absolutely more challenging. It’s naked, harrowing, terrifying. I have a binder in front of me to help me remember words. With the ‘Utters and maybe rock in general, you have this safety net of volume or speed. If I make a mistake it’s not as glaringly obvious but with these songs, it’s painfully obvious,” he sighed.

Despite well-earned acclaim Koski doesn’t view himself as a fully accomplished songwriter. The evolution of the Swingin’ Utters to become the missing link between The Pogues and the oft-dubbed U.S. ‘working class punk’ wave has Koski cautiously assessing his career.

“I think it’s awesome if people hold us in high regard and say our new records are a true return to form. That’s interesting because we have a new lineup and new songwriters with that. As a solo artist, I still feel I’m not a strong singer and there are always things to work on. I strongly considered taking drum lessons but I guess I wasn’t meant to do three things at once,” he laughed.

Sisu may not stand as the lone document of Koski’s solo career. He stated he plans on recording again in the near future, providing Fat Wreck’s willingness to release his material.

“I plan on hitting this solo thing hard. If Fat is willing to put it out I’ll give it my all. I have more songs but I don’t know if I’m willing to let go of them just yet. Ultimately, this is for me but you want to share your writing and communicate. To start a conversation if you will,” concluded Koski.