Words by Ali Waite @alister_88
ALI WAITE: It was your first Bristol show in 2 years, how was it for you?
MATT MARCANTONIO: It was amazing, it was a one hell of a show. I've been drier in the bath before.. It was so wet in there!
AW: It was a sweat box, I'm drenched! Aren't those the best ones though?!
MM: Yeah, the last 3 shows have been unreal. London, Brighton and tonight in Bristol have made me sweat more than I have in years. It's been like a detox - people pay hundreds for this shit in a sauna somewhere!
AW: What about The Cribs shows, (where Demob supported), obviously they were bigger venues, so not as hot?!
MM: The bigger venues tend not to get that hot. It's hard to sweat out a 3,000 capacity venue & the stages tend to be bigger as well. Our recent headline sets have been over an hour long, which is the longest we've played by like 20mins-30mins before. We've just done a run of shows with Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes in Europe, the sets were half an hour & we'd come off absolutely dripping in sweat & we were like how the hell are we going to play for like an hour? But, you just find the energy from somewhere & thank God we did a month of shows with Frank. It's all new for us doing sets that length, and we're just getting tighter.
AW: The 'sex grunge' comment from The Guardian, did you welcome that?
MM: For sure man, we've always had a funny relationship with being called 'grunge' because we've never really heard it. I think there are elements of what we do melodically and I guess maybe some of our early photos and images gave people that sort of impression. We've never heard ourselves as grungy.
AW: I agree…
MM: I think what we've come to terms with and we've talked about a lot as a band is that by being labelled grunge, it is just an encompassing term for music that is a bit gritty or dirty.
AW: Definitely, I'd like to say grotty?
MM: Yeah, grotty for sure. Music that has a bit of filth, a bit of rough around the edges. Grunge uses a few major thirds and so do we, but the actual song writing itself and topics make us never feel like we have to associate ourselves with grunge. More rock than anything.
AW: I totally agree. In my opinion, you guys have a similar aesthetic to AC/DC and Queens of the Stone Age; where you have songs which make girls hips move and boys heads nod at the same time, which only a few bands have:
MM: Right, yeah - for sure. I mean that's the ultimate aim isn't it? Like Josh Homme says, to quote the legend himself: 'it has got to be sweet enough for girls and heavy enough for boys' and I totally get that. You know, we like to move and I think a lot of the new songs are more consistent in the groove. The first album, when we performed it on stage, I'd get a little frustrated because I wanted to move and dance a bit. Whereas, with the new record I have found that I can boogie more on stage. I like to dance at shows and we have found recently that a lot of people having been joining in as well.
AW: Definitely band and crowds alike are lost in the moment. So with Holy Doom (their new album), was it recorded in Eastbourne?
MM: Yeah, that's right.
AW: Pretty idiosyncratic place and studio, how did you all find it?
MM: So, Christophe who was the backup guitarist tonight has been our friend, and everything we have ever released he's worked on. We met through university, where we done some really shit recordings at my Mum's house; before we moved down to Brighton. We just borrowed some old mics etc. We basically found out that Chris mixed one of our mutual friend’s songs in my class and it sounded cool. As fate would have it, I asked Chris if he would like to mix one of our songs and he loved it. He just became a firm friend from then and that was 2009-2010. A long time ago now. Then we recorded our first and second EPs with him, the Succubus EP also.
AW: 'Young and Numb' EP as well?
MM: Yeah, he did that as well. When it came to recording 'Dream Soda', Chris was working in house at the studio in Eastbourne and because we wanted to continue working with him, naturally that's where we went. However, this time round (for recording Holy Doom) it was a funny one actually, we kind of made the decision not to go back to Eastbourne - because of the associated memories we had with the place from the first album and obviously since then we had lost a member (Rennie) and it was quite a tough time. We were in the studio for about a month and a half.
AW: Really? You guys are incredibly tight, so I imagine you guys could rattle out material pretty quick.
MM: Well, it was a little bit of inexperience and it did take a long time. Then we went straight back on tour for a month afterwards and then back into the studio after that. We were knackered by the end of that process.
AW: It sounds intense, did you enjoy that intensity?
MM: Yes, I did at the time.. But my body afterwards was nearly crippled. I was so tired and knackered after all of that. For all of us, it was important that it felt like a fresh new thing after all that association (of recording ‘Dream Soda’ there), we were like maybe we won’t record Holy Doom there. Then, the way it worked out was that we started working with a producer called Ian Davenport and we were going to record the drums at another place. Then, it was only like a few days before we started recording, I remember calling Chris and we were talking about the drums (even though he wasn’t involved he was still giving us loads of recording advice.)
AW: That must be great to have a ‘soundboard’ like that?
MM: Exactly and he said he heard some quite bad stuff about the place where we were going to record the drums. That’s when I made the decision on the spot. I was like, right – we’re going to do it in Eastbourne again. I just told the label, you know last time we went way over budget and was a bit of a nightmare - it’s not going to happen this time! So, they were on board and that’s why we went back. We love that studio. It’s really cool.
AW: Well, after hearing the results… Just superb. For me as a lover of the band since the early incarnation, I wouldn’t say I was apprehensive or nervous, I was just a bit on edge. I heard ‘Be Your Man’, ‘Loosen It’ and ‘Fake Satan’ – all brilliant… I was thinking will the rest of the album live up to these tracks and it did.
MM: That’s great, thank you.
AW: So, I saw you at Southsea Festival in the Summer of 2016 in that pretty random bar. Did you find that period in time as a transitional phase for you guys?
MM: For sure man, we hadn’t done that many shows without Rennie (former member) at that point. I think that July 2016 that all went down. Yes, it was a transitional period. It was a tough really because we had management fuck us over. We fired our first manager and then we got new management who then fucked us over really without speaking ill of them I guess. I don’t know why I would endeavour to protect them.
So we had good opportunities by going to SXSW, but nothing really came of it which was deflating. We fired a member and it was a difficult year.
(The legendary music Big Jeff says goodbye. BBC 6 Music roundtable guest and avid music lover.)
Then we did some recording in Ireland which all went pretty bad.
AW: Yes, I remember that time after I spoke to Tom and saw you guys headline Hackney Wonderland in October 2016.
MM: That’s right. The recording didn’t go very well, it was so touch and go with the label; because they had invested a lot into us and it was only when we recorded ‘Dead Dreamers’ with Tom Dalgety we got a lot of momentum. The label knew how good ‘Dead Dreamers’ was, we tried to record the track with someone else and it sounded crap.
AW: Tom Dalgety recorded the Royal Blood first album didn’t he?
MM: That’s right and it was proper touch and go with the label. It was like our one last chance. We wanted an incredible producer and we wanted it to sound big and ‘Dream Dreamers’ came out of it. It sounded incredible and the label were like ‘right, that’s good!” and it showed them that Demob had ambition, that we could be more commercially open. It’s the bottom line that matters. Obviously, we like our label – that stuff would never come first – but we appreciate the label is putting money into us so that we can do what we love doing, you have to respect that. If you can make music that you love, but also that sells a couple of tickets and records, then happy days, that’s the dream. We just showed them with Dead Dreamers that we could do that and for that reason they green lighted the new album. So all of that transpired over that year in 2016, so it was a proper rocky road.
AW: Well, like I said in my previous feature; you guys have grafted for it. Put the work in. From an outsider, it didn’t seem easy. I can understand it was tough times.
MM: Exactly right, it was tough times, but we didn’t give up. I think a lot bands might have folded at that point. So at the start of 2017, once the label had agreed to do another album, we just did what we always do. We went to this little place in Wales, where we write and just lock ourselves away for a couple of weeks.
AW: Led Zeppelin style that is, similar to what they used to do!
MM: Yeah! Just let the magic happen. As soon as me and the lads got back into the room, ideas were happening just thick and fast. It was cathartic. We wrote most of Holy Doom in 2 weeks.
MM: We were originating and demoing 2-3 songs every day and then finishing them and moving on. So intense. We came out off the back of 2 weeks with 30 songs demoed.
AW: That could rival Tamla Motown back in the day!
MM: That just proved to us like, right – it doesn’t matter what we go through we can make it work. We just have to sit in a room. Then ‘Be Your Man’ was on those demos and the label were like: “What the fuck!”
AW: Haha, it is a banger. Doesn’t matter who you are, you can’t deny that’s a great song.
MM: So, we went into Rockfield again with Tom Dalgety did that with and the label were like: “Boom”.
AW: Was that like catalyst would you say?
MM: Yeah pretty much, that was the lead single and that was only track that wasn’t recorded with Chris in Eastbourne.
AW: Interesting, I didn’t realise that.
MM: The label were then fully on board with the new album. So we went back to Wales to tighten up and write a couple more. Then made plans to make the album. We did 10 days in Eastbourne doing the drums and the bass and some of the guitars. Then did some time in Oxford at the producers studio, doing vocals etc. It was so tight man, we finished recording at like 6am on the last morning. I did the vocals for ‘Loosen It’, which was then going to be a fucking single at 6am and then the producer was like: “right that’s it”. In those circumstances, in your head, you are like ‘yeah we could always do a bit more’. The producer was like no that’s it, you’ve done 4 takes now I’m off; because he had to go and in a couple of hours I had to get a plane to L.A.
AW: Jesus, that is tight. Trying to check in online on your phone while recording!
MM: We finished it and we were all like: “ffffffffuuuuuuuuuuuccccckkkkkkk.” Just completely zonked – right let’s have a beer!
AW: That kind of shows as well, the vocals are very lucid and silver-tongued on that track. Like with Runnin’ Around, it has that ethereal, Doors-esque start and then just slams in with an amazing chorus.
MM: Cheers man, thank you. Well it was a funny one with Runnin’ Around. We knew it would be a bit of a curveball on the album.
AW: It’s my favourite track off the album.
MM: Well there you go. We knew it had such an appeal to it. Like we would play and just be smiling, because it’s just so cheeky.
AW: It is really cheeky.
MM: Who the fuck puts drum solos on one track so freely?!
AW: Haha, I know what you mean. Very good term when you refer to these tracks as ‘curveballs’. For me, ‘Strange Things’ was my favourite track off ‘Dream Soda’ and had that curveball element to it.
MM: We weren’t sure if we were going to get away with Runnin’ Around on the album, but we knew it had such appeal! We knew that on an album you can have a couple of curveballs. ‘Liar In Your Head’ was like a mission statement for the album. We wrote that and we were like ‘yes! This is It’. One of our problems with ‘Dream Soda’ was that it was very all over the place – a bit of everything.
AW: Ok, what like a bit of a patchwork quilt?
MM: Yeah, it was a little bit. We had written it over a few years you know – it represented a few years of development.
AW: ‘Wash it Down’ was re-recorded wasn’t it?
MM: Yeah and we re-recorded ‘Suffer You’ as well. It had a few identities that album. However with this album we wanted to make sure it still had curveball tracks, but ensure 75-80% of the body of work is this vision we have. We had 40 solid demos from Wales. We said to ourselves ‘what album do we want to make here’.
AW: Understandable having a strong 40 song batch like that and then picking ‘the nuggets’ for the album:
MM: Exactly, we thought we could make a couple of different albums here. There were tracks like ‘Loosen It’, and bigger, grandeur, psychey type tracks like ‘Liar In Your Head’ and maybe ‘Gods I’ve Seen’ were like the backbone down the middle. Then you’ve tracks like ‘Holy Doom’ which is really chilled and when we first wrote it we called it ‘Hip Hop Beatles’.
AW: Also, ‘Fresh Outta Luck’ has a slightly Graham Coxon vibe to it?
MM: Exactly man, sort of got that type of Blur thing on the go. We were like, can we come back, after being seen as a heavy band and do this thing we want to do when there are lighter moments on the album? But we said to ourselves that if we want to do it, then let’s do it. Any naysayers can just listen to someone else. Fuck it, let’s put ‘Fresh Outta Luck’ and ‘Holy Doom’ on there, let’s put something cheeky on there like ‘Runnin’ Around’.
AW: I can definitely hear that on the album and that honesty transpires.
MM: You can’t worry too much about what people think like that. You’ve got to write good stuff and be aware of its quality. But you can’t worry. That’s the funny thing with Fresh Outta Luck, we were umming and ahhing about what tracks to put on and the producer was like: ‘That has been in my head like solidly since I heard it.’ It just burrows into your brain.
AW: Complete earworm for sure.
MM: We weren’t sure how people were going to receive the track, but when we put out a bunch of posts asking people if what they wanted to hear, that song came up more than anything else and that really surprised us. I wasn’t expecting that. We hoped it would resonate with people the way it intended to. It’s a little bit of anthem for Millennials.
AW: Yeah, I know exactly what you mean.
MM: It has that bittersweet nature to it. A happy melody, but the message is like ‘well…we’re all a bit fucked’. Although, I don’t entirely agree with that sense of like ‘we’re fucked and it’s all everybody else’s fault. I’m of the opinion that if you have problems, then you sort them out yourself. You don’t really need to rely on anybody else. So don’t really believe in that ‘you’re fucked’ attitude per say, however that song just represented a side that was a bit tongue in cheek. A little bit like ‘Fresh Outta Luck’. So we put it on and knew it would close the album the well.
AW: Like you mentioned earlier, it’s another curveball on the album and I remember listening to this thinking: I love this and wasn’t expecting it.
MM: Well that’s it man, as long as you give the listener enough bang on the album for your buck and enough groove, then people will be happy and you get away with doing more off kilter tunes, which I think is important when it comes to the album to make a more complete sphere.