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

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According to Mind, one in four people in the UK suffer from mental health problems each year. Yet, aside from a few artists like Kendrick Lamar and Earl Sweatshirt, it’s not often a subject addressed by one of the most popular genres in music today: hip-hop. Against the grain, Ceiling Demons (aka Richmond brothers Psy Ceiling and Dan Demon), have already strived to highlight mental health issues in their music because, as Psy says, “it’s a major thing that happens in life.” They’ve played numerous fundraisers for CALM (the Coalition Against Living Miserably) and their past material has addressed some of the rawest of human emotions, but their new EP, Belly Of The Hopeless, delves even deeper into the psyche.

“It’s quite a desolate tape, with glimmers of hope,” Psy says of the record. That’s not surprising considering the problems the pair were encountering a year ago. “We were at a bit of a loose end,” Dan explains. “We were having some depression issues and our producer [Beat Demon] had gone away, so we didn’t know where we were going as a project,” he continues. “The weight of the world was really weighing down on us.”

It’s more challenging musically than lyrically but I think that’s a good thing. It’s good to challenge your listeners

Belly Of The Hopeless isn’t just a contemplative look into the darkness of the mind, though. Its sheer existence is also testament to the power of friendship, in this case Psy and Dan’s relationship with Durham barely-rap duo Outside Your House. “We first met [vocalist] Tim in 2014,” Psy comments. “We put them on for their first gig, in Richmond on Halloween.” Last summer they met up again with beatmaker Jonathan Swift and a collaboration was in the works. “Johnny was really enthusiastic, and it was nice that someone wanted to reach out and work with us,” says Dan.

Spurred on by Jonathan and Tim, who produced and mastered the EP respectively, Belly Of The Hopeless began to take shape. Jonathan’s influence on the record is particularly noticeable. “He’s a Bristol-born lad and he’s got this trip-hop sound in his blood,” says Dan. “Whereas before we’d just been straight hip-hop beats, this is more experimental.” Opener Stones mixes looped guitar and heavy beats with eerie passages of whispered vocals, Missed The Train is like Tricky at his most abrasive, with layers of guitar squalls and fiercely spat rhymes while the chopped and skewed drum and bass of Open Eyes is reminiscent of Roni Size. “It’s not really a rap song. It’s just singing with this very distorted music going on.” Says Dan, of Will Love Return. “It’s kind of like a drug-induced journey through darkness,” Psy sums up.

“It’s more challenging musically than lyrically but I think that’s a good thing. It’s good to challenge your listeners,” Dan says of the EP. Challenging it may be, but Belly Of The Hopeless is just another step on Ceiling Demons’ journey to make meaningful beats and rhymes that toe the line between the light and darkness.

Ceiling Demons headline The Tanners stage at Evolution Emerging on Saturday 28th May. Belly Of The Hopeless is released on 27th May via Frux Tapes.


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