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Don't be afraid of The Darkness

The Darkness -- from left, Dan Hawkins, Frankie Poullain, Justin Hawkins and Ed Graham -- pose with their Brit Awards in London.
The Darkness -- from left, Dan Hawkins, Frankie Poullain, Justin Hawkins and Ed Graham -- pose with their Brit Awards in London.

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(CNN) -- The Darkness is turning heads with an irrepressible mix of '70s glam and '80s power rock.

The foursome, led by flamboyant frontman Justin Hawkins, picked up three prestigious Brit Awards on Tuesday night, winning best British group, best British rock act and best British album for their debut "Permission to Land."

The band -- Hawkins, his younger brother, Dan Hawkins, bassist Frankie Poullain and drummer Ed Graham -- is known for its spectacular stage shows, which often culminate in scissor kicks and headstands by a catsuit-clad Hawkins.

The Darkness is slated to kick off a U.S. tour on March 26 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The band recently chatted with the The Music Room about its start and the serious side of making music.

TMR: How did The Darkness form?

POULLAIN: Dan and Justin are brothers, and Ed went to school with Dan and Jus, and they played in bands together when they were younger. ... I met Dan in London seven years ago. We played in quite a few

different bands, always hiring and firing people. That's one thing in common is we're both very ambitious, and Justin was always the kind of guy who didn't like to take himself very seriously, so that was one hurdle we had to overcome. Dan and Justin are the opposite in many ways.

I went to Venezuela for nine months, jungle trekking round there, and then I got an e-mail from Justin saying, "We're starting this band called The Darkness" -- which then I thought was a terrible name, but which I've since grown to love.

TMR: What were your influences?

DAN HAWKINS: Blimey, anything by Thin Lizzy really. The second the guitars started pairing off and playing together the tennis racket would come out. But we were lucky enough that there were always guitars around the house, so we didn't have to air guitar. That makes a difference, I think, between being a fan and a musician.

POULLAIN: My elder brother's record collection -- he was into Deep Purple and Pink Floyd and Rush -- a lot of heavy rock and prog rock -- '70s kind of stuff.

The band arrives for the Brit Awards.
The band arrives for the Brit Awards.

TMR: You bring humor to your music. Does that sometimes cause problems with people wondering how seriously you take it?

POULLAIN: The only things we don't take seriously is ourselves as people. In terms of writing songs, performing, recording, we take it all very seriously. But because we don't take ourselves very seriously as people we're often mistaken as being a joke band, as being a novelty, gimmicky. That was in the early days in [the United Kingdom], but we've converted pretty much the majority in this country because we've got all the ingredients, the songs, to be a great band.

We got a lot of advice in the industry telling us to ditch this or ditch that. Justin was told to get rid of his tattoos, and I was told to shave off my mustache. That was just at the superficial level, but there were many more things in which we were told to represent ourselves in a much more serious way. We refused to do that.

DAN HAWKINS: For starters, we're not a joke band, and secondly, there's no reason why you can't be a serious band and have fun at the same time, just because everyone else in the last 10 years has been a bunch of miserable bastards.

TMR: What's behind the band's name?

DAN HAWKINS: We were looking for a name, and we were so [annoyed] that we couldn't come up with something decent that we went for the worst thing we could find. In a way, it's the perfect thing for us because the second you hear the music and hear the name, people put the two together and say, "Why?" Within five seconds of hearing the band, they're asking themselves, "Why are they called The Darkness?"

POULLAIN: Is it because their aim is to part the darkness and enter the light? Or is it because they're being ironic and putting preconceptions on their heads? Or is it because they are named after one the band's states of mind?

Then again, literal meaning in bands never really work, do they? I mean the Beatles, Radiohead -- they haven't got radio on their heads, have they? The Beatles haven't got six legs -- still a good name though.

TMR: How did you develop your stagecraft?

JUSTIN HAWKINS: In the olden days, everyone used to say, "You're too big for this pub." And when you look at videos of us playing in those smaller venues, it looks like we're caged animals trying to get off the stage because we didn't have enough room to maneuver. But then the actual time we took the step up and the first couple of shows we actually struggled, like we were trying to do too much with the space.

But having watched [Def Leppard] and seeing how they maneuver in order to have a presence as a unit was a real eye-opener, and by the end of the tour, I think we were giving Def Leppard a run for their money.

Obviously nowadays we're the best in the business at that because we've had so much experience. In the olden days, we were ambitious, but now we're accomplished.

GRAHAM: A lot of people say to us, having seen us in small pubs and clubs in London, that it makes a lot more sense on a bigger stage and at festivals. ...

TMR: Why have you made the thumbs up gesture a part of your act?

JUSTIN HAWKINS: In the current climate, in a culture where almost every musician is using his middle finger as a gesture, it's more rebellious to be positive and do that [thumbs up]. And be positive and try and unite people, and to that extent that's become a punk gesture on one level.

And also if you're trying to encourage people to clap at the end, they're often holding a glass of beer in their teeth and that's dangerous. I wouldn't want to put our kids through that -- we've got a responsibility to them. So one thumb's fine. Hold the glass carefully, don't spill it, don't drop it, don't roll around in broken glass. Just give us the thumbs up, and we'll be on our way.

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