British psychedelic rock band, Demob Happy, has been making serious waves in the stoner rock scene for quite some years now, yet for some reason, I had just learned of the band 2 months ago after seeing them as the opening act on the “Peace Across The Wasteland Tour”. The music was definitely “love at first listen”, after their sensational debuting performance in Vancouver.
Demob Happy triggered an excruciatingly curious desire to know more about what the band offers beyond their seventies inspired aesthetic, and what they are contributing to the rock’n’roll scene. The band definitely looked the part of a classic rock band, they also played kick-ass psychedelic tunes with captivating enthusiasm, but I wanted to know what makes them different. It’s easy to exude the embodiment of a rock-star, write a catchy tune or two, and then ride the “fame-wave” while letting things roll from there.
However, there is something different about Demob Happy, something I can’t quite put my finger on just yet, but has inspired me to investigate more into. When I write these articles, I go in with caution, as I don’t ever want to promote to my readers a band that I wouldn’t fully stand behind, which is why one could say that the thesis, if you must, for most of my articles is: What are you offering that other bands aren’t and what do you provide to the rock music scene? And this is what has brought us here today with Demob Happy.
Post “Wasteland Tour”, it’s safe to say that I definitely had a few of their [Demob Happy] songs stuck in my head. So, first and foremost, I did what I typically do best, and shared their songs with all of you on my Instagram page to see the feedback I would get from a crowd that generally has the same taste in music as I do. I wanted to “test the waters” so-to-speak and read what you guys had to say about the band, before I invested more investigative efforts in order to fully promote the band. To no one’s suprise , the feedback was very positive and you guys were eager to know more. Therefore, confirming my looming eagerness to set off on the quest to get these answers for you guys, I set off on my adventure.
The purpose of this article is to scratch beyond the band’s Instagram posts that emit “vintage vibes”, and learn more about what really “Demob Happy” is — so you don’t have to spend monumental time on the internet to only be hit with articles from several years ago. With this thirst for knowledge, and lack of previous information elsewhere, I jumped to work and tried to pin down a member of the band to attain this much-needed information. Despite proving difficult to pry the band away from their dedication to serving the rock scene, I somehow managed to get some answers from the frontman, himself, Matt Marcantonio, who took me down the path of the whimsical universe of what Demob Happy is and partially-explained to me the creation of their incendiary tunes.
Miss Mephisto: “Despite being together for eleven years, Demob Happy is quite the elusive band with not enough information out there. So, I would love to know the story of how the band started
Matt: “Well I can’t tell you too much or the mystery would die…but we met in school and just started playing together. We just shared a love of writing fun stuff together and that hasn’t really let up. We developed into a songwriting force later, we spent the first couple of years together writing 10-minute wig-outs, somewhere between blues and prog, before we thought that maybe we could make them a little shorter and write just one chorus per song. I think you can still hear the remnants of that though…we always struggle with shaving off our precious baby ideas, not the opposite.”
The band consists of Matt on lead vocals and bass, Adam Godfrey on guitar and Tom Armstrong on drums; established in their hometown of Newcastle, the three later moved to the more art-friendly part of England, the city of Brighton, where their career later took off.
Miss Mephisto: “The term ‘demob-happy’ is the feeling of elation after an arduous time period (or event), is that the ultimate goal of Demob Happy’s music? Do you hope that the music provides a sort of relief from this chaotic time we’re currently living in?”
Matt: “Yeah I think so. The name came earlier than any sort of relevance it had to an ethic in the band, it was just an enjoyable couple of words, but I think over the years we’ve kind of stepped into it, quite prophetically. It’s funny, people often don’t know what it means, and I think it can seem an odd name to begin with when you’re unaware of its meaning, but it does make sense when you figure it out. We’re going through a difficult time, but also a time of good change as custodians of this here planet. It’s just the nature of the changing of the guard. Out with the old, in with the new, night is darkest just before the dawn, that sort of thing, etc. All id like to do is fill the world with some decent fucking music, that revels in the joy of its own existence, and that maybe has a little bit of something in it to make you question things. There’s a surface level, and there’s another level, and If I can make someone ask ‘hang on, what does he mean by that?’ then this current paradigm that doesn’t serve the interests of the majority but the few, might receive one more little chip out of its foundations. “
“All I’d like to do is fill the world with some decent fucking music, that revels in the joy of its own existence,” Matt reaffirms the notion that I began this article with. We are all aware that there’s a lot of new music bouncing around in the rock industry at the moment, hell, there’s actually a lot of good music being released into the universe at the moment. However, as I said earlier, it’s one thing to play “rockstar” and another thing to genuinely hold the “rockstar” passion. It eases my mind knowing that Demob Happy doesn’t solely rely on their well-thought-out aesthetic to gain them exposure, but there is also an equal amount (if not more) thought put into their music.
Miss Mephisto: “You guys have two studio LPs under your belt, so far, and something in particular that I have been enjoying the most from your latest album ‘holy doom’ is that, although it has the psychedelic feel to it, it remains fresh and modern. Has the production of this record come out organically, kind of a “take it day by day and then see what the end product becomes” approach? or, did you guys dive in with a vision in mind?”
Matt: “We’ve had a sound in our head for years, so, although, there’s an element of experimentation in the studio, it’s always been with a clear end goal in mind. Really the process we’ve been through has more been learning bit by bit how to get closer to it. It just takes years of failure to figure out how to get what you want, how to create this abstract thing in your mind. For that reason, we’ve always been very DIY, as we never really trusted anyone to truly understand that vision, or more importantly to not impart theirs on ours. We’ve been very selective who we’ve worked with.
The quality of the songwriting is most important, but after that, the production plays an important part in defining how people hear your music. Humans are very good at contextualizing things based on what they’ve heard previously, so you have to consider that in whatever you do.
Once you figure out what you like and how to get it, then the truly interesting next steps happen where you create something entirely new, and I think that’s what we’re doing now.”
In the eleven years together, the band has been able to experiment in sound progression by utilizing their late 60s inspirations and narrow it down to a “Demob Happy” signature sound that they have packaged together quite nicely with their latest record “Holy Doom”. This, nevertheless, makes me wonder if this fusion of psychedelic-stoner-rock will be an established sound for them or will they continue to experiment with their sound and gradually shift into other subgenres of rock in order to keep things fresh. Furthermore, I am intrigued with what Matt means by “We’ve always been very DIY, as we never really trusted anyone to truly understand that vision, or more importantly to not impart theirs on ours.”, I understand that artists are typically very protective of their work and vision in mind, but my brain can’t help but question what it would be like if the band moved beyond the garage-rock feel that they currently nail, and into something bigger if they allowed a producer, or whatever it may be, that will guide them into a more experimental path.
Miss Mephisto: “What is the song-writing process for Demob Happy? is there a designated “lyricist” or does everyone pitch in for lyrics? As for the music, is there a designated “groove creator” or is the process all teamwork?”
Matt: “I [Matt] write the lyrics, but that’s always at the end of the process really. We have different ways of originating songs. Sometimes I’ll write something in its entirety and we’ll learn it as a band, sometimes we’ll jump off from a riff or the bare bones of a song that one of us has written and developed a song from there, and sometimes we’ll just mess around playing together and songs will reveal themselves in the moment. Regardless of how it starts, we’ll always end up suggesting ideas and writing parts. Once we have a structure down, I’ll fine tune melodies and lyrics and it’ll be hot to trot.”
Demob Happy is definitely in it for the music and not the glory of a rockstar life that attracts most average musicians, they have the passion and the talent, this is all evident through their music (and why I have been so keen to know more and share them with you all). With all that being said, I truly wish I could unpacl the statement of “DIY” that Matt has mentioned. As a music-nerd, it’s easy to conclude that the band has a natural knack for writing a song that involves an interesting concoction of layered classic psychedelic vibes. Every track on “Holy Doom” is worth listening to more than once, because with every listen your ear picks up on a hidden layer. But, since this is a conquest to learn more about the band, and not just recite the obvious, it would have been more satisfying to uncover the “how’s” and “why’s” behind this interesting production process that Matt teases with.
Sadly, Demob seems to be excruciatingly busy with their preparation for their first US headlining tour (see tour dates and ticket information at the bottom), therefore this is the most information I have been able to get. It is for this reason, we, the interwebs, must take Matt’s word and conclude that the Demob sound is simply due to a lot of hands-on-work by the band, to what extent? We shall never know.
Miss Mephisto: “To me, one of the most exceptional parts about being an artist, especially a musician, is the ability to channel your own personal vision into influence and create something that could (and most likely will) inspire someone else along the line. So, what/who is it that inspired you to get into music, to pick up an instrument and take your passion and create your own piece of art? And who/what continues to inspire you to this day?”
Matt: “I think I was initially inspired to start writing because there was something interesting about the music that I couldn’t ignore. There were instruments about my house because my dad and brother played, but I naturally was drawn to the piano. I had lessons for about 3 weeks, but very quickly realized all I wanted to do was just sit at the piano and experiment, to make the connection between what I could hear and what I could play on the keys. That was really how I developed an ear for music, that, and just being fascinated with how its constructed and trying to figure it out. The actual consideration of trying to write a song came to a lot later, and in some ways I feel hasn’t even really taken me. My compulsion has always been to just write musical passages, the extra element of writing lyrics and actually singing them have developed separately. “
Miss Mephisto: What is your take on current day Rock’n’Roll, and how do you feel Demob Happy plays a role in current day Rock’n’Roll?
Matt: “I hear a lot of very bad stuff. I sometimes don’t really know where the hell we sit amongst, to be honest. I think what is deemed to be “rock ’n’ roll” on the wider spectrum nowadays is far from it, it’s closer to the x-factor or pop rock or something. There’s a lot of faux-epic emotion and quasi-meaningful motivation-poster level depth to the lyric too (Miss Mephisto note: try saying that five times fast) which sits very awkwardly with me. Maybe I’m just not the audience, but “modern rock” – at least the sort that’s selling all the tickets for the most part, is in a pretty dire place. However, that’s only on the surface level, if you dive deeper there’s a wealth of really good stuff, it’s just not getting the exposure it deserves. It’s all about where the money flows. I think our place in all of this is to just provide an antithesis, for all those people out there who still have good taste, and in our own little way try and illuminate some of the more occult aspects of the functioning of the world.”
This question is the pinnacle part of my articles, it is a perspective that I take into high regard when discussing music with musicians, because it’s easy to sell your own music (I mean, it’s your own blood, sweat and tears) but how do you sell the industry you’re in? As an avid rock-music fan, there’s a lot of new music out there; even when you try to narrow the search down through specific sub-categories, there’s still a vast amount to choose from. To you, the reader, Demob Happy is just another candy in the bowl of sweets, they may be a yellow one amongst the bowl of reds, but why should you choose to listen to them above a whole array of other psychedelic bands?
My answer to that is they do offer a lot of originality in realm-of-mainstream music. I try very hard to not be pretentious when it comes to music, because music is very subjective, but I have to agree with Matt and say “Rock’n’Roll” has become muddled within the x-factor culture of pop-rock (and there are a lot more authentic rock bands that deserve a lot more recognition that they are getting, a lotttt more out there). Therefore, when we (the music fans) do find bands that embody a lot of elements that initially attracted us to sweet ol’ rock’n’roll, it is our duty to promote and encourage this behaviour, so rock music does not get lost within the top 40 world.
Do I think Demob Happy is the only band embodying real rock’n’roll in 2019? No
Do I think Demob Happy is doing an excellent job at preserving a precious genre? Yes
Does Demob Happy make stellar garage-rock-psychedelic tunes that are worth checking out? Yes
Miss Mephisto: Lastly, I just want to take a minute to emphasize how fucking fantastic the band is live, the energy you radiate is absolutely magnetic. What is that you all enjoy most about performing? And what do you feel, as a band, brings differently to the live music scene?
Matt: Difficult to say really, depends on the day. I always find the mood of the performance to be based heavily in the context of the day, or the tour, or the crowd or whatever. A difficult day can sometimes lead to the best shows, and an easy happy day can make you complacent and the show goes badly. Whatever I end up channelling though, I always try and do it with honesty, for better or for worse. I’m not interested in lying on the stage, I may as well be in a tribute band or performing a musical about a rock band if I’m gonna get up there with a jazz-hands show-must-go-on mentality, but I always try and make the best of it!
What excited me the most about this band is their clever ability to feed their listeners a nostalgic feeling of 60s rock music, while mixing in melodic and hard-rock touches. Despite the fact that a lot of my questions and curiosities of this band has not been answered, I am satisfied enough to say based on the music alone, Demob Happy is worthy of keeping a close eye on. The band is definitely amongst the group of modern day musicians who are making an effort to preserve the beloved rock-music industry, and to me, that’s enough to get my seal of approval. Be sure to catch them on tour if you are currently residing in the US-of-A
Demob Happy US Headlining Tour – May 2019
- 08/Chicago/Cobra Lounge
- 14/College Park/@milkboyarthouse
- 15/Asbury Park/@thewonderbarofficial
- 21/Los Angeles @rocknightout/@madamesiamla⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
- 11/14/15/18 with @cleopatrickband & @brknlovemusic
- 16/17 with @brknlovemusic
Get your tickets here: https://demob-happy.com/tour/
Until next time Interwebs! 🕸
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