Interview: Drab Majesty

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When reading about Drab Majesty, their story can best be summarized by their bandcamp page. “Since the 2015 release of Drab Majesty’s debut “Careless”, and the release of the acclaimed sophomore album “The Demonstration” the following year, artist Deb Demure and collaborator Mona D. have firmly established themselves amongst the pantheon of dark synth-pop greats, establishing a devoted fan base worldwide with their singular hypnotic sound and mysterious, constantly-evolving presence.  “

They have become a favorite of mine over the last year and I was excited to have the opportunity to sit down and ask Deb a few questions. Check out our interview below:

1. Let's get the typical first interview question out of the way. Drab Majesty started out as a musical project while you were working in the band Marriages.  Can you tell me more about how you got started?

I had been solely a drummer until I started Drab Majesty.  Playing drums in Marriages was a lot of fun but not harmonically fulfilling.  I would watch Emma play finger-style guitar and was very inspired by her technique.  From then on, I kinda started secretly practicing folk finger-style guitar a la John Fahey, Robbie Basho, Nick Drake, Sun Kil Moon in my spare time.  I had been working on an acoustic guitar but one day decided to try my ideas on this Fender Duo Sonic guitar I had been gifted when I was 7 years old and hadn’t touched since.  By then the instrument was vintage status and I had a new found appreciation for its charm.  I plugged it in through an old Yamaha multi efx pedal I had laying around.  Immediately upon transferring my folk ideas into this realm of electrified guitar affected with chorus and delay, I really felt like I had found a voice I was ready to transmute.  I had always had a love for New Wave and Post Punk but never truly considered the mechanics of its sonic aesthetics.  The sound of Drab Majesty has been an excavation into the understanding and reinterpretation of these sounds I’ve grown to love since I was a child.

2. Drab Majesty's musical style has been described as many different genres including post-punk, which seems to have become the catch-all term for alternative music. How would you best describe your sound to someone who hasn't listened to your music before?

Depends on who it is I’m talking to.  If I’m going through, let’s say, Canadian Border Security, I’ll say something like its Rock-ish, New Wave, like Depeche Mode or The Cure.  But that is never how I truly feel.  That is just an attempt to bridge the gap with the familiar so we don’t increase our chances of getting detained for some unknown reason.  If I’m talking to a friend or genuinely curious person then maybe ‘spatial’ and emotive?’ ‘Vibratory?’ I’ve never been keen on stringing genre titles together to more accurately define our sound.  Even though I just mentioned New Wave and Post Punk, I still don’t feel like that is entirely what the musical vision for Drab Majesty encompasses.  It’s a very difficult thing to do.  

3. There's a strong new wave influence in your sound with the use of reverbed guitars, synths and drum machines but there is a more futuristic component to it that feels more ethereal and atmospheric. Did you specifically set out to breathe new life into that style? Or did it fall into place naturally as your sound evolved?

I think my answer to the first question can kinda sum that up.  Believe it or not, I don’t use guitar reverb! All the space and depth you hear in the guitars comes from merging different delays together.  I’m not really a fan of reverb on guitar.  Sometimes a very short reverb.  Definitely find it to be more applicable on vocals and synth.

4. You recently released a new single "Ellipsis" off your upcoming album, Modern Mirror. The lyrics deal with dating in the modern age and the added complexities of technology. Can you tell me more about the writing process for the song? Can we expect a similar sound for the rest of the album?

“Ellipsis” was written during a living stint spent in Athens, GR in the fall of 2017.  I was staying in a flat in Thisseo and had built a makeshift demo studio to derive new ideas for Modern Mirror.  There are other songs that definitely deal with the confusion of the self and the dissociation that can occur from our relationship with our electronic devices.  Musically you can expect a more upbeat energy to this breadth of tracks.  

5. The music video for the song has a VHS/80's look and feel. Can you provide any insight on the concept for it?  It seems to purposely contrast with the subject matter of the song.

Yes, that contrast was definitely conscious in the aesthetic goals.  It was produced by long time collaborator Thomas McMahan and all video effects were done 100 percent analog.

6. Billy Corgan, arguably one of the best songwriters of our generation, praised your song "Cold Souls" on Instagram, which lead to your bands working together in their music video for "Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts)" and touring together for some of their shows this past winter.  It must have been thrilling to gain that sort of acknowledgment from such an accomplished musician. Can you tell me about your experience working with him?  

It certainly was/is.  Billy is a very kind, generous, and supportive person.  Working on the video was a lot of fun and really interesting to watch him in a directorial role.  Touring was also very enjoyable.  He would watch our sound checks every day and their entire crew was extremely accommodating and friendly when they totally didn’t have to be.  He’s since become an ally and a friend and I hope we get to work together again down the line.

7. The visual component of Drab Majesty appears to be just as important as the auditory one. How did you cultivate your personas and live performance aesthetic? I saw you open for The Smashing Pumpkins in December and your live show is an absolutely unique experience.

Our personas are an attempt to remove our daily identities from the live performance.  While we don’t wan’t you to think about who we are as everyday people, we also delight in the liberation of the mask and the removal of identity.  The goal is for us to be immersed in our ritual to create that suspension of disbelief from the audience.  The live experience is very symbiotic in that way.

8. How have audiences responded to your live performance?

For the most part very positively.  I can’t think off the top of my head when we were ever met with some kind of extreme resistance.

9. Your new album, Modern Mirror, is scheduled to be released in July. What else can we expect from Drab Majesty for the rest of 2019?

We’ll be following our release with a full tour of the USA followed by an even longer European run.  Something like 70 shows in all.

10.  Any last comments for our readers?

Just a huge thank you to everyone who has believed in this project and has shown their undying support.  I am so grateful for all of you every day.

Brittany Berliere