Interview: Demob Happy
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10 years is a landmark for most bands in the UK’s current music climate, and Newcastle lads Demob Happy kicked down the decade mark with reckless abandon.
Image Credit: Bridie Florence
2018 saw the release of the intricately layered Holy Doom and a roundhouse kick of high octane live shows. Though the semantics of the band name Demob Happy suggest leaving behind a stressful situation, frontman Matthew Marcantonio's ethos is more about "the thing that you’re leaving behind. If you’re happy about leaving something, then that thing must be broken."
The title of the album Holy Doom plays on a clever juxtaposition that permeates the band's thought and society's wider consciousness, “It's wrong to think the only emotion to shoot for and hope to attain in life is unwavering bliss. A lot of our advertising wants us to feel this, and our deeply ingrained attitudes towards how to function every day as a useful member of society only really allow for happiness, but it's just unrealistic, and it would actually be very boring that way.”
The album explores the darker parts of our conscious, accompanied by dirty riffs, all while exploring an internal conflict; this is cleverly summarised in the opener as frontman Matthew Marcantonio taunts, “There’s a liar in your head”. As human beings, Marcantonio believes we have a tendency to be curious about the more morbid and debauched parts of life, despite the typical end goal being happiness, “I think this is what naturally puts us off someone when we see the stereotype of people who appear like they’ve attained permanent joy, probably through a cult. You can see behind their eyes that its a lie because you need the balance. It's why humans have this odd morbid curiosity in us so that we can experience death and despair, but from a safe distance.”
Recently, Demob Happy's influences have been drawn from the troubadours Nick Cave and Patti Smith, who both, in different ways, draw from some of the most ominous parts of human consciousness with beautiful poetic ease; something which Holy Doom explores incisively. Most recently, though, they supported Jack White on his UK tour who took a very different and controversial approach to live performance by completely banning mobile phones at his concerts. Though the band don’t believe that “banning anything is the truest way to get people to learn”, the removal of the audiences virtual world had a positive reaction on the crowd interaction.
“It’s always better to educate and inspire people to figure it out themselves," Marcantonio says. "However in those moments, taking their phones was like punching through all of that tiptoeing around and actually forcing people to witness first hand the damaging nature of phones, and actually feel the difference, and sometimes that’s necessary. (when I say 'damaging', I mean it from a local interpersonal perspective [...] actually being present in the moment and in the room with other people, damaging to your ability to interact and flirt with the endless possibilities of the moment, kind of way).”
Demob Happy's latest single 'Less Is More'
We have also seen some of Britain's best-loved small venues succumb to the pressures of gentrification and the willingness of audiences to spend £80 on arena concerts rather than a handful of smaller gigs. It's another aspect of our society that Marcantonio finds himself and his band forefronting the rebellion against, “I don’t really think we’ll ever be free of gentrification, so it's important to just keep on top of it and try not to be overly sentimental. We don’t require anyone's permission to set up with amps and a drum kit and make noise or to open up new venues. It's an opportunity to always do something new and fresh, and it keeps culture moving. In a way, you have to be thankful for it. A lot of our best art is born of this very rebellion."
While the livelihood of some of our favourite local joints is at stake, one thing for certain is that Demob Happy are exactly in the right place, teetering on the edge of a breakthrough. Speaking about their forthcoming UK tour, the band explains how they "try to bring everyone together for a good time, and its important to us that people leave feeling happy and safe, so we aim for that. But it's our biggest headline tour to date, and they’ll be the busiest shows we've ever done. It's gonna be a nice feeling to have two albums well known by then, and even new stuff is getting recognised."
Matthew Marcantonio and his motley crew recently treated us to ‘Less Is More’, but the single is only a tease for what's to come in 2019, "We're working on a new album, and it's our plan to release at least one a year forever, so inevitably there's a new one coming!”
Demob Happy play their biggest UK headline tour to date starting this February 24th in Manchester. Tickets are on sale here - https://www.demob-happy.com/