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

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Making it as a band in the 21st Century definitely isn’t the easiest thing to do. Just ask Newcastle-born, Brighton-based indie rockers Demob Happy. ​There was over half a decade between their formation in 2008 to the release of their debut album Dream Soda in 2015. But everything they’ve accomplished, from relocating to Brighton, getting signed, releasing records, and touring the UK and Europe, they’ve done so largely off their own backs:

“It’s difficult in somewhere like Newcastle, because of its relative isolation, I think you’re required to take a more DIY approach,” explains frontman Matthew Marcantonio. “Part of that [for us] was moving down to Brighton so we could be somewhere with more infrastructure to help us to get on the ladder. Although I think that’s changing in Newcastle. There are more avenues. The reason why it took so long for us to get that first album out was because we didn’t know a single soul who could help us. We had no contacts, know anyone or anything, and there wasn’t a route into the industry for us so we had to do it that way.”

Doing everything themselves has been both a blessing and a curse for Demob Happy. While it has been difficult at times for them to make inroads into the industry to progress the band, they’ve had plenty of opportunities for learning curves. After all, mistakes can be a good thing as long as you learn from them, and Matthew certainly isn’t the selfish kind to keep trade secrets.

“You’re learning lessons all the time. Even in the last few months, we’ve learnt stuff. It does sort of fool-proof you. We’ve had people contact us on Facebook from bands like, ‘How do you do this? How do you get gigs?’ I’m always happy to impart wisdom because we never had that, instead of [them] learning it the hard way.” Bands helping out other bands get their foot on their ladder is a heart-warming concept, seeing as Demob Happy didn’t have such luxuries when they themselves were starting up. “There’s a balance; you can either learn it the hard way and have your dreams crushed and learn to pick yourself up, or you can have people take the little bit of stress away and you don’t have to make these huge major mistakes. So yeah, I’m always happy to give people little nuggets of wisdom.”

It’s difficult in somewhere like Newcastle, because of its relative isolation, I think you’re required to take a more DIY approach

Because of their DIY approach, it took a little while for things to take off. Their debut album wasn’t released until 2015, over six years since the band formed, but it was worth the wait. Dream Soda focussed a lot on what the band was dealing with at the time, which for Matthew, concerned his feelings on modern life and commercialism. “[I was writing about] the way that I saw the world and the way people are manipulated, the propaganda and the hidden hands that affect and control, the way things operate in the world, the small amount of people who influence the rest of us. It was expressing that and all the different facets of that. It was a very outward album.”

For latest release Holy Doom, however, things got a little more personal. “Holy Doom was very much more inward. Personally and as a band, we went through a lot of changes. I began to realise it was required to look at myself and try and figure out where I was emotionally. Being in a band is a full time thing, and when you’re a DIY band and you’re writing songs, you’re doing artwork, you’re making the videos, you’re contacting people, and really making everything happen, it doesn’t give you a lot of time to look at yourself.”

All of these things apparently took their toll on the band, and there were certainly obstacles which needed to be overcome. “Between [Dream Soda and Holy Doom], there was a lot of balancing I needed to do in my life between the positive aspects and the negative aspects, and trying to not shy away from either of them. At the same time, you wanna be positive and you wanna be happy, but you can’t avoid feeling negative and depressed sometimes. You’ve got to shine a light on those negatives and do the things that you fear. Otherwise you live in a false reality.”

Holy Doom was about embracing life’s difficulties, and rolling with the punches, in an effort to overcome them. It’s an interesting perspective, that accepting the lows in life could be a fairly healthy way to live, but it does make sense. As he describes; “It’s unattainable to be happy all the time. We live in a society where everyone is trying to attain this eternal happiness. Every time you do seek it out, it makes the fear of unhappiness even greater.”

So what makes this self-made psychedelic trio tick, and motivates them to keep going despite the difficulties many face in a dog-eat-dog industry? It appears to be mutual support and love for music. They have such a dedication to their work and their career that has kept them going through thick and thin; “There’s literally nothing else any of us could imagine doing. We didn’t get into this because we wanna be rich, there’s an insatiable desire to play and write. Even on the darkest day, when it seems like all is lost, there’s always gonna be that little spark that’s like, ‘It would be fun to have a rehearsal or a writing session.’ There’s always gonna be that spark, I hope.” It seems that the band are lucky to be such a tight group, who can find support within their own ranks. “If the three of us sit in a room with our instruments, we can always have a good time and have fun. It’s so good to be in a band with people you’ve known for so long. I’ve wanted to do this since I was twelve years old so I’m not gonna let a couple of hiccups stop me now.”

Demob Happy’s greatest piece of advice in all of this is simple. “Positive energy is one hundred times stronger than any negative energy.” A wonderful sentiment, and considering that Demob Happy are fine examples of what can be done when you commit yourself wholly to a project, it’s a beautiful mantra.

Demob Happy play Northumbria Institute, Newcastle on Monday 9th April.


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