INTERVIEW: Demob Happy | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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You think rock’n’roll is dead? Don’t tell that to Demob Happy. The Brighton-by-way-of-Newcastle rock band, who have more than a touch of sleazy psych about them, are on a mission to battle against the boredom of the Ed Sheerans and Sam Smiths of the world. On their quest to combat the “Age of Beige,” they’ve gained an increasingly huge fan base across the country thanks to their creepy single Succubus and some seriously riotous live shows. They’re now gearing up for a UK tour and are releasing their Young & Numb EP on 18th April. Ahead of their gigs at Sunderland’s Independent and Newcastle’s Think Tank in the next two weeks, I talked to drummer and vocalist Thomas Armstrong about their new EP, how they avoided cabin fever in the Welsh countryside and one of their most notorious gigs.

Tell us a bit about Young & Numb. How would you describe the sound you were aiming for on the EP?

The most important thing for us was to capture the raw energy and zeal of us playing live together in a room, warts and all. It’s what getting away to the welsh cottage, out of the reaches of internet and phone connection, and into a creative zone was all about. There’s mistakes in there that we were happy to leave in because it’s human and amongst those little mistakes come moments of magic that you don’t get when layering the instruments one by one.

Who would you say have been the biggest influences on the sound of this record? Who were you listening to most when it came about?

Our sound over all is an amalgam of both our influences and the elements that we individually deem to be sonically pleasing, or displeasing depending on what the song wants. We listen to all sorts of stuff from Hungarian throat singers to The Stooges. Influence is, I think, primarily a subconscious affair and it’s cool to let that stuff come through but it can be limiting to constantly put yourself in someone else’s shoes and say, “what would or wouldn’t this person do here?” That’s not how stuff moves forward.

You said you locked yourself away in a makeshift studio in Wales when recording the EP; what was that experience like?

Pretty special. The idea was to get out there in the middle of nowhere, with enough whisky to see us through, get the mics set up and rolling and see what happened. Being out there is like being outside of time and the feeling of stepping out of your world for this blurry moment and then coming back with something that didn’t exist before is both dazing and awesome.

Any instances of cabin fever while you were out in the Welsh countryside? It can get pretty remote and isolating out there!

We were jamming pretty late and hard most nights and you do feel kind of manic at times but the trick is to channel that into the music in a creative way and not get all “Here’s Johnny!” on each other. Having said that, it would be rad to record in a massive creepy hotel off season.

Pink Floyd engineer Andy Jackson has helped to produce the record; how has it been to have a legend like him working on your debut EP?

Andy worked on Succubus first and we loved what he brought to it so he ended up doing the whole EP. He’s been on mastering duties and he is undeniably a wizard in his ways.

demob happy

“it would be rad to record in a massive creepy hotel off season”

The EP contains your debut single Succubus, which had a really quite harrowing video attached to it. Where did the idea for that come about?

That comes back to channelling those maniacal vibes and representing it visually. When we were writing and recording late at night we’d stick in this dingy red lightbulb. Combined with the drink and the smoke in the room and whatever else you’d feel kind of crazed and that seeps into the music. We made the video with our pal Sam at Old Swiss who also made the video for Young & Numb. We were shooting at about 5am the night before we went on tour, we were delirious and sleepy and just let stuff get weird.

Are you planning for all your videos to be that creepy or are you tempted to mellow out at some point?

It comes down to what the song demands. Music videos can easily misrepresent the song or even overtake it in focus. You can throw money at something but all you really need is a good concept and imagery that is in tune with the music. All our videos have been self-made on a low budget, working closely with friends like Sam and keeping it in the family.

Tell us about your live shows; what can we expect from a Demob Happy gig?

They can get pretty rowdy I guess. We throw a lot out there at the crowd and they tend to give a lot back. We seem to ride this line between delivering the raw energy of our live shows, going ape and getting the music across in a listenable form. Stuff feels on the edge of breaking at the seams but you ride it out to the end.

Apparently you nearly caved in a ceiling at a house-party gig once. How did you manage that?

It was a rammed room on the top floor of a tall city apartments building. From the get-go people just went nuts. We were playing at the edge of room and we were being rocked around looking at each other like, “shit this floor gonna give!” We talked to the dude downstairs afterwards when the fire brigade had cleared everyone off and cordoned the flat off, he said he thought he was gonna die. His ceiling was bowing above him and a massive crack was getting bigger and bigger. Was a good show though.

I bet the owners weren’t too happy about it; apparently you narrowly avoided a £40,000 fine?

Yeah and our gear got locked in there when they boarded up the flat. The guys who lived at the flat were really nice so we were pleased we didn’t all go to jail.

Can we expect any similar antics on the tour?

The tour is gonna be wild. If you’re reading this and you want us to smash your party on a day off or after a show send us a message on Facebook!

Demob Happy play at Sunderland’s Independent on Saturday 4th April and Newcastle’s Think Tank on Wednesday 8th April.

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