If you're looking for a band that exemplifies the muscular, tensely melodic style where emo, pop punk and garage rock crossed in the mid-'90s, you could do worse than check out the Flash Darlings. Formed last year by former McCarthy Commission bandmates Justin Cimba and Joe Melba with John Huffman (Counter Action, Sixty-Four, Landmonster), the Darlings picked up steam with the addition of drummer Rob Markowski (A Light at the End) in August 2006. Now they're pushing their simply titled debut, The New Album E.P., which sports their trademark "keystone and crossbones" logo.
"I've had a keystone tattoo on my wrist for a long time," says Cimba, the Flash Darlings' guitarist and singer, also a member of Johnstown faves Endless Mike & The Beagle Club. "Any time I drew a flyer, I signed my name with that logo." Other local bands that have used the keystone logo in their artwork were Hurl and Teddy Duchamp's Army. "When Teddy's was around, all of us really liked them. They were the first ones that we saw from Pittsburgh who were going and doing something, after starting on the same level as the rest of us."
Since the McCarthy Commission's heyday, around 1999-2000, Cimba's seen changes on the local scene. "There's a much younger group of kids playing shows at Small's, and then there's people from our era who are still doing music but don't play there. There's nothing to really bridge that gap." Which is a shame, because if the latest MySpacers bothered to check out the Flash Darlings, they'd find a solid bunch of influences to learn from: Rocket from the Crypt, Alkaline Trio and Archers of Loaf ring out from Cimba's bag of tricks, and Huffman's specialty is the garage revival of a few years back. Meanwhile, Melba sticks to The Minutemen and '90s grunge. "Sometimes I think Joe never moved on from 1994," Cimba jokes.
If the band seems to weave together disparate threads, it also doesn't mind playing a spectrum of venues to get its music heard. Certainly, it's hard to play two more divergent situations than the the group's shows at the Roboto Project on July 26 (opening for Gracer and Daggermouth) and at Diesel on July 28, with local punks Incommunicado and alt-rockers Kill The Drama.
"The one with Kill the Drama happened because Chris from Incommunicado ended up booking the rest of that bill," Cimba says. "And with Roboto, I just like playing there, both with this band and the Beagle Club. It's not like when it started, with a bunch of kids running around and dancing, but it's still a good place to play."