Norfolk, Virginia’s Demons combine the angular approach of Metz with the weight of a less metallic but no less bludgeoning Botch, filtering it through a very late 90s/early 2000s lens to create dissonant earworms for fans of pretty much anyone on that Furnace Fest line up people are talking about.
Originally the noisy experimental project of Zach Gehring of Mae, the band has come into their own with new album Privation, out April 30th. The band has taken a more collaborative approach to the new record that they call “more focused” and “more punk-rock”.
We caught up with Gehring to talk about the record, the post-Trump political reality, and Furnace Fest.
2021 is quite the hellscape to release a record into – was there any hesitation in releasing an album that you can’t really promote in the “traditional” ways just yet?
Not really. We have to operate in selective ways. Two of us are married with kids, all four of us are in serious relationships and have full time jobs that keep us pretty busy. Our goals take that into account and we take every effort make sure the dynamic between Demons and our other priorities are balanced.
That being said, we’re definitely bummed we can’t put on a record release show as soon as Privation comes out and we miss playing out for sure! This past year has been unspeakably difficult and our hearts truly go out to those who have been hit really hard by this pandemic.
How does the formation of these songs differ from previous Demons releases?
This was the first truly collective effort.
During the recording of our first LP, Chris Mathews, our guitarist, was still relatively new in the band. In a way, the result of an exciting real time adjustment period. I love the record, but I think we were still figuring out what we wanted to be.
The songs on Privation were all arranged collectively. Chris and I share the lead vocal role more equally. Jonathan (Anderson; bass) wrote a song on this one too, which is rad. He also engineered the record, which is a core part of our creative process. Drew (Orton..drums) consistently writes grooves that become the prime motivator of riff ideas or particular parts.
These dimensions all contributed to what ended up on “Privation.” They are more focused and heavier.
As a band that have been vocal politically in the last year (and beyond), how are you feeling about how things have been going since January 20th?
Trump being out of office is certainly a plus, but ultimately, the racism, misogyny, transphobia, and nationalism is still solidly represented in the GOP. And to be sure, these backward and destructive “isms” are not strictly partisan, and they have more boldly reared their historically rooted head in this previous decade.
The patriarchal white supremacy is painfully evident. It’s more than a political problem.
I do think the Democratic party is less harmful for marginalized communities. The Biden administration is more diverse and less recreationally cruel, which is also very important.
However, the logic is still rooted in neoliberalism. I don’t think we’re having the right conversations yet.
Free health care, and end to gerrymandering and voter suppression, free tuition, housing assistance, labor protection, a living wage, support for our teachers, a focus on environmental protection — these aren’t radical ideas, they are urgent needs.
The left needs to keep serious pressure on the Biden administration, while also keeping in mind the procedural limitations of a dysfunctional Congressional system.
So…you know. ::sighs, shrugs, and anxiety::
So guitars! What were you guys using on the new record as far as guitars/amps/pedals?
Ok! So guitars — Chris and I mainly use Reverend guitars. Specifically, the Flat Rock and Double Agent models. We also used a Fender Telecaster a little bit this time around. Jon primarily uses a Fender P Bass.
Our amps: I use a Marshall 77’ JMP 50 and a Marshall 4×12. Chris uses a JTM 40 clone built by his friend Tim Gault, and an Emperor 4×10 loaded with Weber baritones. John uses an Ampeg SVT.
Our pedals: My set up is fairly minimal. I mainly rely on the 1981 Inventions DRV, Boss DD-500, and a Boss PS-5 Super Shifter. Chris sticks with the Mojo Hand FX Rook, the WayHuge Geisha Drive, WayHuge Swollen Pickle for overdrives, and the EHX Memory Man for delays.
Jon’s pedal board is the most impressive. For Privation he used more fuzzes – WayHuge, JHS, and Fuzzrocious, as well as the ElectroHarmonix Pog and Chase Bliss Mood. His reverb pedals included the JHS Panther Club and Chase Bliss Dark World.
Jon is our best brain when it comes to pedals, he also engineered the record.
Are you much of a gear nerd yourself? Anything you tried recently that you particularly liked?
I’m actually not. I think if I had more disposal income that would be different. I’ve had my JMP 50 since 2008 or so. For Demons, the JMP and my 4×12 cab has been my only rig and I absolutely love it. I’ve played around with pedals a bit. I’m into noise creation which is why I love the combination of the Boss Super Shifter, the DD500, and my tone arm.
A lot of people are getting into digital amps these days, either moving their whole rigs over to Kempers/Axe FX, or using them for fly in gigs while keeping real amps for more regular touring. What are your thoughts?
I’ve used the Kemper once in a live setting when my old band had a reunion show a few years back and I liked it a lot. I also saw Failure recently and I think, at the time, they were using Fractals. Their live sound was incredible. So, for sure, I’m definitely interested in them. For fly in dates especially; but not so much for Demons right now. I really love our current set up.
If someone wanted to learn to play a Demons song, where would you suggest they start? Anything that’s particularly fun or rewarding to play?
Right now I’m having fun playing our songs Ravage and Full Stop, both on Privation.
Ravage is super quick, only a little over a minute long. Chris and I play dissonant duel lines in the beginning that I love.
Full Stop is super riffy and we drop our low E strings to a B. It creates this slightly pitchy tension because our guitars aren’t set up to handle the lower tuning. There’s also a fun groove towards the end of the track.
Anything on the cards this year for Mae in terms of new music?
As of right now, no. Of course, that could change. Mae is gearing up some shows we have this fall with The Julianna Theory. Hopefully the pandemic will be substantially subsided by then. Tickets for those shows are available now.
I see Mae are on Furnace Fest this year – other than “almost literally everyone”, what bands are you looking forward to seeing that you maybe haven’t seen since “the first time”?
It’s so rad to be on that show! I’m looking forward to Hot Water Music, Converge, Poison The Well, Cave In, and my buds in All Get Out. It’ll be so good to see all the bands though, and hang out with friends we’ve had over the years.