An Interview With: Demob Happy

Posted: Friday 8 February 2019

Demob Happy are the Newcastle born, Brighton based noisemakers that are making blues-rock cool again. Back with new single, ‘Less Is More’ and a bunch of live dates to go with it, we thought we’d catch up with frontman Matthew Marcantonio to discuss the new material and learning from Jack White.

It’s been about a year now since you first released Holy Doom, how’s the year been for you? Any highlights?

It’s been busy! I feel like I haven’t stopped really, but I feel we’ve done a lot of good touring off the back of it and I think that was the biggest change for us. We were graciously given a lot of really good support slots by bands who we’re now friends with and who liked the record so much, they chose to bring us out. I think the quality of the album spoke to a lot of bands and then they gave us the supports, like Frank Carter, Nothing But Thieves and Jack White.

Yeah, it’s been pretty good for you hasn’t it!

The reactions from people as well have been good on that album, so yeah, it’s nice!

Why did you decide to release the deluxe edition at the end of 2018?

When we did the show on the headline tour in London, on the Holy Doom tour, we recorded the sound and we thought it had captured a little moment in time for us. It was one of the best shows we’ve ever done I think and we had the foresight to record it and it all just came out well really. We’d been asked by a lot of people to put some live stuff up, so it just made sense, we thought the recordings were good enough to put up and we wanted to give a little something more to that album before we moved on.

Speaking of moving on and new music, you’ve just released a new single, ‘Less Is More’, what can you tell us about it? Is the first taste of a new album?

Well, it’s the first single, although we aren’t officially talking about any wider album just yet. We’re just releasing the single for now. We co-produced it with Dom Craik from Nothing But Thieves, which was cool. We got to know him well when we were on tour and he heard the demo of the track and was like, “I wanna work on that”, and we’d heard some stuff that he’d worked on anyway and thought it was great.

Do you think it’s a nice, easy transition from the album, or do you think fans will be surprised with where you’re heading now?

I don’t think so. We feel like we’re just getting better all the time and distilling our ideas into shorter… maybe not shorter… but just bringing all the ideas together in songs. When we first started as a band 10 years ago, we were writing 10-minute prog opuses, so the process since then has always been like, “Right, let’s try and write a five minute song, let’s try and write a three minute song” and refine it a bit. We did that quite fiercely with this one, to its benefit I think and it all kinda makes sense with the lyrics and everything. I’m happy with it, I think people will like it, I hope they do! There’s nothing in there that’s going to put a bad taste in their mouth, put it that way.

You’ve mentioned about working with Dom from Nothing But Thieves, but with the whole writing process for the single and whatever’s coming next, are you following the same tactics as before, or trying new things?

I think the writing’s the same old, really, we have a formula and we don’t really f**k with it to be honest. It’s good for me and the guys to get a bit of headspace. There’s this place we always go to in Wales and it’s remote, there’s no phone signal and it just puts the mind at rest, takes you out of your comfort zone a little bit, which I think can be really good. There’s no heating and it’s five miles to the nearest shop, so it might sound full of struggles, but for us it works and we always seem to get good stuff when we do that. That’s the process that we’ve done on the first two albums and it’s the process we’ve done with the new track, so nothing’s changing yet.

Will your fans be hearing the single and maybe some even newer songs live on the tour?

We’ll play the new one definitely and we want to try out a few of the other new ones actually. I think it’s the right time to do it. If they’re as good as we think they are, then by the end of the tracks, even though they’re brand new, I think we’ll have people enjoying them.

You touched upon the huge support slots you’ve done over the past year, with Jack White and Nothing But Thieves. When you’re on tour, do you watch their performances and learn from them? Do you ever take bits from their sets and adjust your own, or are you quite happy just doing your own thing?

We definitely watch and they watch us as well! It’s quite nice on tour, it never really feels like you’re getting sick of it. I always come away from the tours with an even greater appreciation for the band’s music, it gets stuck in your head, everyone walks around singing each other’s songs, it’s quite nice.

We’ve definitely learned stuff, like watching the way that Jack White pulled songs from his whole career, just off the top of his head, that was quite amazing. I can never remember anything from our first album, unless we’ve rehearsed it I’m absolutely buggered, so maybe he’s just got a better memory than me, but that was cool. Watching the way that Frank Carter interacts with the crowd was very inspiring and really just the tightness and musicianship of Nothing But Thieves was inspiring as well, so I definitely think we’ve learnt a thing or two.

Also, just being out on the road for that long teaches you how to play a show every night. We’ve done all this touring and been the warm-up band every night and I think we’ve perfected the art of coming to a stage and having a thousand, or five thousand people, not know who you are and then they leave going, “Oh, those guys were pretty good”, which is better than what you hear about a lot of support bands and people going, “For f**k’s sake I wish they’d just get off the stage”. That’s what you don’t want.

We think you’ve done alright so far.

So do we. It’s difficult to tell. There’s always one guy, sat at the back with a beer and a beard and he’s just grumbling and you can always see that face, that face always lights up brightest for me, I can always see that guy. I always think, “Right, he’s the target, we’ve got to get to the end of the set and get something out of him” and if I can do that, then we’ve succeeded.

A little nod of appreciation is all you need.

That’s all you can hope for!

You’ve already been booked in for some amazing festivals this summer, but what would be your dream festival to play or headline?

There’s a brilliant festival that I went to as a punter the year before last called Desert Daze in Joshua Tree, California. It’s one of the best line-ups you’ll see, Tame Impala headlined it last year and there’s just so many great alt and psych bands and it’s not that big. I always try and put people onto that festival because it’s incredible.

That sounds pretty ideal to be honest.

It’s nuts, would highly recommend it.

Now, you’re originally from Newcastle but you moved to Brighton a few years ago, what influenced that move? That’s quite far to go.

Yeah it is quite far. You realise how far it is when you drive up and we don’t get up as much as we want. We grew up in Newcastle and we lived our whole lives there and like anybody, you want to move, it was the equivalent of going to university. We moved down to Brighton in order to get away from the places that we’ve become familiar with, it’s the same old story, really. We figured that Brighton was probably the nicest place for us to move to, simply because London’s too expensive and we’d had friends who had moved down there and had a lot of good things to say about it.

I think the music scene has improved a lot in Newcastle since we left, I don’t know if that’s got anything to do with us leaving. There was always a lot of metal bands – not that I’ve got anything against metal bands – but when you’re playing blues, prog-rock, which we were at the time, it doesn’t really work on a line-up.

Do you think you’d be where you are now, if you hadn’t made the move?

I don’t think so. Well, it’s difficult to say really. We live in the age of the internet, so you can still be heard, but it’s mostly about making little connections on the ground level. Meeting people in bands and deciding to work together or go on tours, I think that’s the thing that you miss out on if you feel a bit isolated from the particular scene that you want to be on.

Finally then, if I spoke to you in a year, what do you hope to have achieved?

Definitely hope to have a new album out. Have done all the touring that we have planned successfully, plus more. I mean, we want to be releasing a new album every year at the minimum really, so if you were to speak to me in a year maybe we’d be talking about the brand new single that we would have just put out from the new album. That’s what I want. Album four, we’ll be talking about album four.

Okay, we’ll put it in the diary and see where we’re at.

Sounds good!

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