Brookings register | Surprise hit on TikTok

BROOKINGS – Sarah Darnall and her Hot Freaks band mates never dreamed that a song they released would become a massive hit on TikTok years later.

The song, “Puppy Princess,” was written and recorded about a decade ago, but didn’t launch on TikTok until early this year. As a result, Darnall and his band mates talk about getting back together and playing a few shows.


Darnall grew up playing music.

“I started taking piano lessons when I was probably 8 years old,” she said.

She continued to play in harmony and jazz orchestras and sing in choir through middle and high school. But she also had a few concerts alongside music.

While still in high school, she performed in a band.

“It was me and four friends; we all went to Brookings High School, ”Darnall said.

“It was kind of a friend of mine who came to an agreement, and he knew I was playing bass in a jazz band in high school, so he asked me if I wanted to play bass. in her group, so I did it, ”she said. “This group probably lasted about two or three years.”

She moved to Minneapolis in 2007 to attend college.

“When I was almost out of college (2010 or 2011), I was asked to be in a different group through people I knew from that original group,” Darnall said.

This group was called Hot Freaks.

hot monsters

Darnall played bass guitar and sang backing vocals. Another Brookings resident, Cody Brown, played the drums. Darin Dahlmeier from Flandreau played the guitar. Celeste Heule from Wisconsin played the keyboard and sang backing vocals. Leo Vondracek of Wells, Minnesota was the singer and wrote songs.

Darnall describes their music as “mostly pop”.

At the beginning of the group’s existence, Vondracek wrote a song called “Puppy Princess”.

“And it’s not about puppies or princesses,” Darnall said with a chuckle.

“It’s just a really fun song, like poppy, catchy,” Darnall said. “(This) is about feeling like you have a crush on someone, but they don’t have a crush on you and you start to feel bad about yourself and feel like you just don’t fit in. maybe not… It sounds like it can be a little sad, but it’s really fun.

“We recorded the song in 2012 and released it in 2013,” Darnall said.

The band continued to play for a few more years, and “everyone got busy doing other things, and a few people moved on and … it was just kind of an amicable breakup,” Darnall said. .

In 2014 or 2015, Hot Freaks was on a permanent hiatus.

Life goes on

Life didn’t end for Darnall. She received a commerce degree from the University of Minnesota and returned to Brookings to work at Medary Acres and earn a Masters of Higher Education at South Dakota State University.

“I’ve been dividing my time between Brookings and Minneapolis for quite a while now,” she said.

When the pandemic struck, she and her group mates touched the base with each other.

“We were joking a little bit, but we were like, ‘Hey, like every time the pandemic ends, and we can play a show, let’s get together and play a reunion show,’ just because we thought it would be fun. and it was something to look forward to, ”Darnall said.

They didn’t know what was going to happen.

The song flies away

While they were planning their reunion show during the lockdown, others were creating videos, posting them on TikTok, and using “Puppy Princess” as their background music.

“We had no idea about any of that until early August of this year. The song has been online for a long time, but, yeah, we didn’t know any TikTok stuff was happening until this summer.” said Darnall.

She thinks one person used a music video for “Puppy Princess”, and others heard it and liked it, then used it for their videos.

“If you watch the videos that have our song on TikTok, it’s people doing all kinds of different things, it’s just random. People just liked the song and used it in their little home videos, ”Darnall said.

She thinks people react to the juxtaposition of lyrics and melody.

“I think people really like the lyrics and they kind of connect with… feeling a little bit rejected or feeling like you’re not being noticed by someone you want to be noticed by,” Darnall said. “It’s pretty funny that the song itself is… so upbeat and catchy, but the lyrics are kinda sad. “

Future plans

The online success of “Puppy Princess” sparked a chain reaction for Hot Freaks, starting with the group’s re-creation.

“We signed a one-song deal with Elektra Records for the song,” Darnall said. “It’s on Spotify, it’s on YouTube. These are the main ways people are listening to it now. “

When asked if the group was getting rich or just having pocket money, Darnall laughed.

“We got a good portion of Elektra for the song – far more than any of us ever imagined, especially for a song we recorded almost 10 years ago,” a- she declared.

Success breeds more success.

“We also just made a music video, which just came out a couple of weeks ago,” Darnall said. “We filmed it in September – it took us two days to film it and about a week to edit it and set everything up, and then we released it on December 8th.”

“I think the song has up to 23 million plays on Spotify,” she said Monday. “And the clip… has up to 102,000 views. “

There’s still that reunion show – or two – in the works.

“Right now we’re just talking about playing a show this spring in Minneapolis and maybe Sioux Falls as well and seeing how that goes,” Darnall said.

She didn’t rule out a mini-tour, adding that one of the band members is from Wisconsin.

“Be fun to do a show there too,” Darnall said.

Anything more than a few dates would depend on the life of each band member.

“I think it just depends on how everyone is feeling and where everyone is at with their job and everything. Our singer lives in LA now and our guitarist lives in New York, so it’s just hard to know what’s going to happen, ”said Darnall.

No matter what the future holds, seeing their song explode on the internet has been a remarkable experience.

“We are excited and grateful and weren’t expecting such a great opportunity to present itself,” said Darnall.

Contact Jodelle Greiner at [email protected]