David Darling owns a “Piece of the Valley,” but he doesn’t like the view down the barrel of a gun.
The lead singer-guitarist of Boxing Gandhis lives in Van Nuys, Calif., part of the sprawling San Fernando Valley. As a suburb of Los Angeles, more or less, it comes with similar big-city drawbacks: crime, tension, car alarms going off in the middle of the night, double bolts and then some on every door and window.
Darling laments about what has happened to urban America in “Piece of the Valley,” a contemplative rocker off the seven-member hip-funk band’s new Atlantic Records album, “Howard.” How bad has it gotten? He bought a “piece” to protect himself.
“I’m a hippie, in a sense, in that I don’t like guns,” he said recently. “They’re absolutely beyond my comprehension. I don’t think anybody should have any, and I wouldn’t buy one.
“But just because of a couple things that happened here at my house, it disturbs me that I gave in. ‘Piece of the Valley’ isn’t about anybody shooting anybody, it’s the feeling of needing to carry a gun just to feel safe enough to walk around.”
He didn’t feel safe after gang members “tagged” his house, painting graffiti on his walls. All in all, Darling said, it’s harmless stuff compared to what else gangs are capable of, but the tagging was happening at least once a month. Then one afternoon, his dog’s barking alerted him to someone tagging a neighbor’s wall across the street.
“Very casually, the guy starts walking toward my house, and I had just repainted it the day before,” Darling said. “I said, ‘Hey, hey, hey! Stay the (bleep) away from my wall!’ There was a car idling with three other guys in the street. At this point, he diverted his walk and the three guys all pulled out guns and pointed them at me. Luckily, he changed his mind, got in the car and flashed some gang signs and drove away.”
Scared out of his wits, Darling bought a shotgun a few days later, and now painfully admits he feels more comfortable having it around.
“The idea that the suburbs are just as dangerous as anywhere else is a pretty good indicator of a theory that I have, that urban violence is not just in the cities anymore,” he said.