Darius Koski is incredibly modest, talking about his songwriting approach as if it were an afterthought. “I don’t really go into it thinking about anything in particular,” says Koski, “I just write stuff and then choose what I think is the best out of all of it.” But for nearly three decades that nonchalant approach has served him well, building a body of work as a member of the Swingin’ Utters and Filthy Thieving Bastards, as well as launching a solo career a couple years back with Sisu. And while much has been made of Koski’s prolific nature—in his estimation, he always has 60 or 70 songs kicking around in various forms—it’s his work ethic that allows him to constantly push boundaries and expand his creative palate. And now, he’s prepped What Was Once Is By And Gone, his second solo record that will be out on Fat Wreck Chords this fall, and it’s his most expansive work to date.
Where Sisu dripped with Koski’s Americana influences—with everything from folk to country having a seat at the table—What Was Once Is By And Gone is an even more eclectic batch. “Since I was a little kid, I’ve always listened to every genre of music,” says Koski, noting that his genre-less writing approach has long been embraced by his beloved punk band Swingin’ Utters. “We’d always have one song on the album that was a little bit out there,” says Koski, taking pride in the fact that he’s been writing songs that divert from people’s preconceived notions for his entire career.
On What Was Once Is By And Gone it’s still easy to Koski’s masterful hand guiding each of the songs, but you can see the mark of artists such as The Kinks, Leonard Cohen, and even the dark, unsettling works of Nick Cave present this time around. Songs like “Old Bones” and “Stay With Me” are unlike anything he’s done before, as Koski tells evocative stories that ache forward like a tumbleweed in the wind. And when he is returning to the Americana roots of Sisu, as he does on album opener “Black Sheep,” you can see shades of Johnny Cash’s acclaimed American Recordings series.
Though not a concept record, Koski’s work on What Was Once Is By And Gone feels cinematic, with layers of instruments building a distinct world, using instrumental pieces to shift the album’s tone and tenor like a director uses a film score. “A Version” is a somber, desolate moment that sees the record transition into its final act, flush with a trumpet line that could have been lifted from a classic jazz record. It’s a bold move, but one Koski pulls off effortlessly. “The majority of the songs I write are not punk rock songs, so it’s been a torturously long time,” says Koski, “A lot of it was getting the courage to be out there,” noting that Sisu proved he could unfurl his creative energy however he wanted, and What Was Once Is By And Gone is the next step in that creative evolution.
Following the release of What Was Once Is By And Gone, Koski will be taking this show on the road, doing double duty as he opens the upcoming Swingin’ Utters tour. After years of writing songs that never felt like they fit anywhere, Koski’s given them a home on this album, allowing himself to indulge in the uproarious moments of punk, and the introspective space that’s been undercutting it all along. With What Was Once Is By And Gone, Koski proves that, after decades in the game, the results just keep getting better.